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Yahya Barry

Dr. Rosenberg

RCL 137--004


Rhetorical Analysis Paper

It goes without saying that one of the greatest weapons in democracy is in the very

preamble of our constitution, “we the people.” Over the years we the people have formed many

public protests in the hopes of preventing unnecessary violence. On August 28th, 1963 Dr. Martin

Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech to more than 200,000 people during the illustrious March on

Washington. It was a speech in which Dr. King effectively inspired fellow African Americans

and persuades congress to act on racial segregation. On March 24th, 2018 during the march for

our lives protests, a phrase that was said fifty-five years ago was once again uttered to the crowd.

In the words of her heroic grandfather, nine-year-old Yolanda King addressed the crowd of

800,000 with, “I have a dream that enough is enough. And that this should be a gun-free world,

period.” In the wake of school shootings in Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook

preceding, the time finally came for a march on gun control. Both the march for our lives

movement and Dr. Kings “I have a dream speech” incorporate rhetorical appeals,

commonplaces, and ideologies to make strides to a more peaceful world.

Dr. King uses ethos throughout his famous, I Have a Dream Speech, by using historical

American figures, to establish credibility. “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose

symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous

decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in
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the flames of withering injustice” (King). This passage in Dr. King’s speech showcases a

President we associate with the highest respect, fighting for equality. In another passage Dr.

King states, “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” (King). Dr. King alludes to our founding fathers as the

architects of the republic. The point of the statement was to remind the crowd that our

declaration states that all men are equal.

The impact of pathos throughout Dr. King’s speech takes the audience through a journey

of the harsh reality. “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” (King). Dr. King uses profound rhetoric in this passage such as: quicksands,

racial injustice, and God’s children. King was truly gifted in his execution of his speeches, and

how he ignited his passion to his audience. Later in the speech Dr. King claims, “There will be

neither rest nor tranquility 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" (King). Again, his wordplay conveys pathos by inspiring the crowd to work

tirelessly until they have fair rights.

Logos is used to reiterate the gravity of the situation that Black Americans faced. The

impact of logos makes many African Americans support the message. “I have a dream that one

day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with
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the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black

boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and

brothers” (King). King uses logic to tell his audience a nation united is better than one that is not.

“I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some

of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where

your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by

the winds of police brutality” (King). In this passage Dr. King address his majority African

American crowd to remain patient over a failed system. Ultimately, Dr. King’s overall argument

is that black people should be given the equal rights and respect, stated in the constitution.

The infamous I have a dream speech delivered at the March on Washington, informed my

first civic artifact the March for our lives movement. Survivors of the parkland school shooting

made the artifact to stop the commonplace of mass shootings in America. The US has had 57

times as many school shootings as the other major industrialized nations combined (CNN).

Additionally these shootings can happen anywhere at any time. Gun control is one part of the

problem, but another is the low morality in the perpetrators of these attacks. The perpetrators are

indeed victims themselves, and feel like no one is listening. In today’s age of social media,

bullying is unparalleled compared to older generations. The signs are always there we just need

to get better at intervening before they use violence as a last resort.

The protests are even more significant because of the relevancy of the issue. The only

time we ever see debates about gun control is after mass shootings until the media moves on. It is

unacceptable that every few months there has to be a new “parkland” to spark the news cycle on
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gun control. March for our lives made sure the topic is still relevant. Another commonplace

tackled by the movement was the sentiment of being too young to know better. A tragedy like

that leaves many with emotional trauma, and it takes a while to fully process. Therefore, I admire

the bravery in the student activists, who are kids that are in my age group.

Gun control is a politically charged topic, it definitely has two ideologies from the liberal

and conservative point of view. Not to say that conservatives do not want to stop school

shootings, but they believe the second amendment protects their right to carry guns. Most argue

that guns are how they protect themselves. They deflect the issue by bringing up mental health

which is a whole other discussion on its own. It is a conflict between two commonplaces of

freedom and safety, because where conservatives believe having guns exercises their freedom

liberals believe gun control is crucial in order to be safe. There is a conflict because the two

groups value the commonplaces of freedom and protection differently.

The ways in which both forms of protest unfolded was truly remarkable. The numbers

behind the march on Washington consisted of 300,000 participants whereas the march for our

lives movement had 800,000 participants. The discrepancy shows the difference between a time

where few engaged in civic activism to present day where it is more common to protest. The

speech Martin Luther King delivered on Washington is one of the greatest speeches in American

history. His powerful credible, emotional, and logical appeal resonated tremendously to his

crowd not only in Washington, but throughout the nation. The speech was a catalyst in the civil

rights act of 1964 which answered Dr. King’s call to action. Years later a different resistance in

the form of the march for our lives movement is seeking great feats like the civil rights win
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in ’64. The march for our lives movement caused many to participate in public advancement and

strived to tackle a prevalent debate in American society. The unpopular opinion being the second

amendment has shown more of a negative effect on our nation than it has been positive. The

President has already responded as well, by laying out a series of bills in regards to gun control.

Albeit those reforms that have been suggested are a bit controversial, they are baby steps to

ensuring a safer America for all.

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Works Cited

King, Martin L., Jr. "I Have a Dream." Speech. Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D. C. 28

Aug. 1963.

Grabow, Chip, and Lisa Rose. “The US Has Had 57 Times as Many School Shootings as

the Other Major Industrialized Nations Combined.” CNN, Cable News Network, 21 May 2018,