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'I Have a Dream' speech remembered for use of 'sacred touchstones'

Updated Aug. 27, 2013 at 4:37 PM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech has had a lasting impact because of the rhetorical and literary devices within it, analysts say.

The speech, delivered 50 years ago on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, reaches into both the intellect and emotions of Americans, ABC News reported Tuesday.

Rosalind Kennerson-Bay, a communications lecturer at Baylor University, said the speech was "a masterpiece of rhetoric."

"He had a masterful way of tugging at the head as well as the heart of those who wouldn't have been able to receive his messages," she said.

King made use of quotes from patriotic documents, the Bible and even rhyme to get his ideas across, Kennerson-Bay and other experts said.

In doing so, the civil rights leader appealed "to the most sacred touchstones" in the United States, said Keith Miller, an associate professor of English at Arizona State University.

He also drew from the book of Exodus in the Bible to argue against segregation and "elevate the American civil rights movement" to parallel the Israelites escape from Egypt, Miller added.

King's use of repetition and rhythm made the speech easier for him and the audience to remember, Miller added.

"The speech is powerful, first off, because of how relevant many of the issues that Dr. King brought attention to are still relevant today," said Taj Frazier, an associate professor of communications at the University of Southern California.

"It wasn't simply about being recognized as humans," Frazier said, "but being treated as humans."

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