The Rhetoric of Pathos in the Writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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The Rhetoric of Pathos in the Writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"I have a dream," says Dr. Samuel Proctor, Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor Emeritus of Rutgers University. "All the little children--you hear everywhere you go: 'I have a dream.' All the little children repeating that speech. It's become like the 'Star Spangled Banner' or the 'Pledge of Allegiance.' It's entered our culture." And so it has: "I have a dream" has become one of the most memorable phrases of the twentieth century. Of all the many speeches delivered at the Lincoln Memorial on that hot, steamy day of August 28, 1963, no other remarks have had such an impact as those of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His words reflected then, and continue to do so now, the …show more content…

When white ministers protested the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's decision to pursue "non-violent" but "direct action" in Birmingham in April 1963, Dr. King, in his written response, drew widely upon Biblical, theological, and historical references in the development of his defense. Always believing that the fundamental justification for "direct action" was to be found in Christian scripture, Dr. King cites both Old Testament and New Testament references supporting his claim that "there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience" ("Letter," 294). He notes, "It was seen sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar because a higher moral law was involved. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks, before submitting to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire" (294). In defense of the charges that SCLC protests "precipitate violence," Dr. King asks, "Isn't this like condemning Jesus because His unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to His will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion?" (295-296)

While his most memorable address is punctuated with such poignant themes

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