It’s one of the most famous speeches — arguably the most famous speech — of all time. At the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told the world, “I have a dream.” Though those words continue to ring out through the American consciousness, the power and talent behind the entire speech deserve recognition. Firstly, there are the diverse sources he pulls into the speech. “Weaving in references to the country’s Founding Fathers and the Bible, King used universal themes to depict the struggles of African Americans, before closing with an improvised riff on his dreams of equality,” the History Channel explains. “The eloquent speech was immediately recognized as a highlight of the successful protest, and has endured as one of the signature moments of the civil rights movement.”
But it goes beyond that — technically, it’s a genius work of rhetoric. This video breaks down the skills, from anaphora to contrasting tones, to show why this speech is so powerful. You can see the whole thing here:
The heart of the speech is its message, its purpose — one that was imperative for America to hear at the time and is imperative for America to be reminded of today. But the way that Martin Luther King Jr. was able to share that message — that is what elevated this speech to its iconic level.