[I took the photo above from Britannica's website.]
If you're reading this not too long after I post it and you live in the United States, you've probably recently had a Monday different from your usual work or school. Either you got the day off or you participated in activities designed to further the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Each year before our school's official MLK-Day programming, I like to show my students Reverend King's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. I've linked my copy, on which I've used the comment feature to highlight some of the rhetorical devices he uses. If you haven't read this particular speech, I encourage you to take the time to read it and appreciate how he put words together to guide people to his beliefs.
Clearly Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared messages that our country needed (and still needs) to hear. My point in this post is that had he not been a master orator, few would have listened. When students wonder why schools require so many English classes, here's one answer I could give them: it doesn't matter how great your thinking is if you can't express your ideas in ways that make others listen. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Black man in a racist country, yet he got people to listen because he used language so beautifully and powerfully.
Like art students who copy famous painters' brush strokes, we can all learn from reading and trying to use the techniques of the masters. For full disclosure, I thought about trying to use some of the same devices MLK uses in the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in this post, but I fell short. It's not easy to do what he did. As I read his speech every year in January, maybe I'll attempt a lookalike version next year around this time.
I'd love for people to use the comments below to add links to (or names of) your favorite MLK speeches and/or other speeches you've found compelling. I hope you'll consider identifying what aspects of the speech captivate your attention, focus your thinking, and please your senses. I send bonus love and respect to those who use respect and love the use of chiasmus in their comments. (I tried.)