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Public Rhetoric on the 50th Anniversary of “I Have a Dream”

August 28, 2013

Today marked the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march that ended with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. In Washington, the anniversary was celebrated with a day-long event, including speeches from people who were at the original march, all living former presidents able to attend (both Bushes cited health reasons for missing the event), members of the King family, and President Obama.

It’s an interesting event for rhetoricians, one that we wanted to make a brief comment on. “I Have a Dream” is one of the most famous pieces of public rhetoric ever, at least for Americans, and it seems fair to say that the original 1963 march is remembered more for King’s words than the march itself. As such, many of the speakers today referenced the speech, an interesting bit of speaking about speeches. Many echoed or at least referenced King’s famous language.

It’s also interesting that we have an African-American president for the occasion, a strong symbol of the progress we’ve made towards racial equality, and a symbol that many present remarked on while simultaneously pointing to the work that still needs to be done.

You can watch a video or read the transcript of Obama’s speech if you click here, and every major news outlet has sections of their websites devoted to the anniversary event. It’s rare that we see a bit of rhetoric getting so much solemn attention, so we’re stoked. What do you guys think?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Doug Cloud permalink*
    September 3, 2013 1:38 pm

    I think what’s cool about this is that it’s basically a “rhetorical holiday.” I ran into Alexis and was trying to think of other rhetorical holidays. Thanksgiving is a good one–it often calls for speeches before dinner, at least in my family.

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