Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered what I think was the single most important speech in the 20th Century. Despite countless threats against himself and the Civil Rights movement, he led Americans to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC in 1963. His speech remains as powerful today as it was that day.
Your assignment is to watch the speech.
Remember, this recording may be older than your parents. It’s not a great video. Try to concentrate on
- Dr. King’s voice
- the words he uses
- the cadence (rhythm) of his words
- the sources of his content
- the reaction of the audience.
Here’s a link to a slide show of my analysis of Dr. King’s speech. We will be referring to his speech over the course of the semester.
Dr. King used many rhetorical devices.
Repeated phrases build up emotion in the audience. I Have a Dream was actually not the title of the speech he planned to give, but because of his repetition of the phrase, it has become the common name for it.
Here is a list of rhetorical devices. Can you identify any more that he used?
Dr. King truly understood his audience. These people had come from all over the United States to hear him speak.
How did Dr. King use the four rhetorical devices?
Kairos Speech Analysis
I have often heard of the first three types of rhetorical devices.
Logos – the logical reasons for taking action.
Pathos – the emotional response to motivate people to act
Ethos – the moral explanation for taking (or not taking) action
Now I’ve learned about a new one: Kairos.
Kairos is a new one for me, but I really like it. Kairos is defined by this site as devices that “are dependent on the idea that the time has come for a particular idea or action. The very timeliness of the idea is part of the argument.”
Since public speaking is persuasion, adding an element of timeliness to the art of rhetoric makes sense to me. Many decisions must be made in the context of the time – historical, personal, or chronological.
When you are writing a speech – whether by hand, on a computer, or just an outline, using rhetorical devices that support your goal of your speech is smart. However, those are often important as you frame the speech – the narrative or the reasons for giving the speech – they are often not actively included during the writing process. Those are the final touches. To start, you need to know a few simple things:
What are you talking about? Who are you talking to? What do you want them to do when you’re done talking?
Back to Dr. King
Can you identify how he used Logos, Pathos, Ethos and Kairos in his speech?