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Martin Luther King, Jr. "I Have a Dream"


Martin Luther King, Jr.

"I Have a Dream"

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proc 727w221h lamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquillity in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.


There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. *We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: "For Whites Only."* We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

In order for a text to be considered a text in its proper sense it has to have texture, it has to be interpreted by the reader in a certain way wanted by the writer which means in fact that it has to have cohesive relationships within and between the sentences. The same goes for any other form of discourse such as speeches for example.

Not only is Martin Luther King Jr's speech full of sheer passion and stamina it is also a rich source of cohesive devises which I will analyse with the same amount of passion. It was delivered on 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. therefore in a very delicate political and social context. Speaking in the name of civil rights and injustice Martin Luther King Jr had to deliver a powerful massage, something that would shake the very core of human needs: freedom and equality. That is why cohesion is one of the elements that most define his speech as it gives it unity and clarity. There are certain formal links which I will look at in order to determine the level of cohesion in this discourse: verb form, conjunctions and adverbials, parallelism, referring expressions, repetition and lexical chains.

The second paragraph provides us with the first cohesive devise which is an elegant repetition of the Emancipation Proclamation. Referring to it by momentous decree, a great beacon light of hope, a joyous daybreak the speechmaker avoids seeming too pretentious and instead enriches his uttering with expressivity and eloquence. This paragraph also contains an endophoric relation that is an anaphoric one marked by it from "It came as a joyous daybreak" referring to the same Emancipation Proclamation.

The next paragraph in structured in a series of parallelisms and repetitions. One hundred years later and the Negro are the elements that are repeated in every of the four sentences and there is a stylist effect attached to them. These words produce emphasis, amplification and give the audience an emotional reaction. It is not by chance that the orator chose the Negro as an element of repetition because there is a very sensitive tie which connects the audience with this word. Also there is a grammatical pattern which is repeated within the paragraph. This parallelism creates symmetry in the sentences and adds force to the utterances of the orator. Another cohesive devise that should be mentioned here is a co-referential chain which links: segregation, discrimination, manacles, poverty, exile. This lexical chain has the effect of picturing the situation in which was found the Negro community all around the United Stated.

The fragment "But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation" is marked by three types of cohesive devices. Firstly there is the presence of an adversative conjunction "but" which ties the sentence with a previous one and gives linearity to the ideas uttered. Then there is the repetition of we refuse to believe which emphasises a very strong conviction and opposition. The last is the parallelism based on a grammatical pattern: noun+verb+direct object. Nonetheless, there are two more conjunctions in the paragraph that contains the fragment mentioned above which are considered as well cohesive devises. Even though they are of two types that is an additive and and a causal so they are linked together at the beginning of the sentence.

It is obvious that the speechmaker makes use of repetition as a favourite rhetorical figure and cohesive link as the next paragraph contains as well a repetition. This time the word repeated is now without any doubt used in order to make clear the necessity of acting not waiting, of getting to a point when the injustice should not be tolerated anymore. Together with this repetition comes a parallelism which the orator uses for symmetry in his utterances and for a particular rhetorical purpose. It gives a comfortable flow to the speech for the orator and a very positive answer coming from the part of the audience. "This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off" contains a cohesive device called a referring expression. Between the pronoun this and the element that refers to, in this case the word now there is an anaphoric relation because the pronoun in discussion looks back in the text for its interpretation. Nevertheless in this particular case I believe we can suggest as well an exophoric relationship because this is no time may very well be interpreted in an extra linguistic context.

The verb form used in the paragraph highlights in the same manner the fact that the discourse is a cohesive one. The present tense from the first sentence limits the choice of the verb in the next and the repetition of infinitive forms of other verbs may be considered as a cohesive link as well: to remind, to engage, to take, to make justice, to rise, to lift. These infinitives bind together the idea of action that Martin Luther King Jr. wants to send and together with the present tense of the verbs that are situated at the beginning of the sentences they form a grammatical pattern. Moreover the infinitives represent a lexical chain which relates to the same main focus which is action.

The fallowing paragraph is marked by the presence of the future tense of the verbs. As in the previous case the presence of the future form of the verb in the first sentence will immediately force the next sentences to have a future meaning to. In this way cohesion is preserved and clarity is maintained. With the same purpose of linearity the orator uses conjunctions such as but and and. The first is a causal and the second an additive. The pronoun this from the second sentence is a referring expression and it has to be interpreted from the point of view of a cataphoric relation as it refers to summer which is a posteriori mentioned.

The second to last paragraph of the discourse though it has beautiful concepts of non-violence and civil disobedience by rejecting violence it contains only a few cohesive links such as the adversative conjunction but, the repetition again and again which suggests frustration due to delay and another repetition, this time of a modal expression we must which again suggests action.

Finally the last paragraph is a powerful opposition that stands against cruelty, discrimination and hatred. For this the orator uses a haunting repetition we cannot be satisfied which is also cohesive device frequently found in this discourse. Along with this formal link there is a parallelism as the repetition is found at the beginning of each sentence. The rhythm of this last section of the speech analysed is quite intense and empowering.

As I have shown the speech I have a dream delivered memorably by Martin Luther King Jr presents an important number of cohesive devices which makes the hearer or the reader perceive a continuity of meaning and sense the information was conveyed with clarity.

Ioana Musca


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