On April 3, 1 968, he delivered what would be his final speech, lye Been to the Mountaintop, in Memphis, Tennessee, at the Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters). Addressing a crowd Of civil rights supporters, King’s focus for that night was on “the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers” (King 3). He called for unity, as well as nonviolent boycotts and economic action, all while challenging the United States government to live up to its so- called ideals.
Through strong repetition, rhetorical appeals, analogies and advertorial comparisons, and rhetorical questions (in varying order), King effectively wins the hearts of his audience and inspires their determination to conquer the injustices in yet another city. In the beginning of his speech, King immediately develops his ethos by personally than king the audience for being present during a storm warning and letting them know that they, like him, are simply determined to “go on anyhow. He humbly accepts the microphone after hearing from his close friend, explaining that he is not quite sure who that wonderful introduction was supposed to be for. With these words, he has obtained even more credibility than he had previously by appealing to the audience on a personal level. He has opened up the floor to emotionally connect with his listeners. King arrives at his main points in the speech through repetition for effect, specifically anaphora’s and apostrophes. He begins by suggesting a situation wherein God asks him which age of history he would like to live in.
King then describes nine different eras he would choose, each one beginning with the words “l would” (anaphora) and ending with the phrase “But wouldn’t stop there” (apostrophe). This adds rhythm to the speech, while also emphasizing King’s willingness to keep moving on, a feeling he hoped would also be instilled in his listeners. To top it off, King says that even after living in all those eras, he would still ask God to live in the second half of the twentieth century, because despite how troublesome and messed up the nation was, he still believed that God was doing some of his best work during this period, and Americans were responding.
He dramatists his point here through a metaphor, saying that “only when it is dark enough can you see the stars” (King 2). In the darkest of nights is when one can see the stars, just as only in the darkest of times will one begin to see the light?the beginning of people trying to make a change. Here, he strengthens the pathos of his audience by providing a feeling of hope, and possibly a newfound determination to start another fight for justice. As the speech continues, King maintains an emphasis on the importance of unifying the black community so that they can effectively march again for the sanitation workers in Memphis.
He first refers to this necessity by using another anaphora, the phrase ‘hue are,” consecutively to explain what the immunity of civil rights supporters should be determined to gain for the suffering children of God. For the audience, “we are” appealed to their pathos, implying a sense of togetherness ?it simply stated that they (“we”) as a whole were standing side by side for a common cause, which was a comfort to them. King then switches over to developing the content, or logos, of his speech to bolster his reasoning for staying together.
He recalls the past, beginning with a comparison to the Pharaohs court in Ancient Egypt. He explains to his audience that when the Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period f slavery, all he had to do was keep the slaves fighting among themselves. But when the slaves came together, that was the beginning of getting out of slavery. Thus, the civil rights community must stay unified in order to achieve what they want. Still in the past, King next reminds his audience of their success in Birmingham, Alabama.
Through these remarks, King restores their faith, telling them that they had done it once, so there was no reason why they couldn’t successfully protest again. To explain his intentions for how they should go about protesting this time, King first deems it necessary to reassure his audience of their First Amendment privileges that they should receive for living in the united States. To do so, he uses the rhetorical device of repetition for the third time by saying that “Somewhere [he] read” about certain freedoms that all citizens should be granted?multiple indirect references to the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
At the end, he says, ‘Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right” (King 4), brilliantly adding an anticlines that further embellishes the rhythmic manner of his speech. He is simply appealing to logos again in this instance; by recalling words from one of the most important documents in the country’s history, he is providing factual justification for the nonviolent protests he is about to ask them to take part in. King also continues to elaborate on the logos of his speech by jumping into one of the first ways the civil rights community can begin a nonviolent protest?economic withdrawal.
He strategically illustrates to them that the black society in America is collectively richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine, in order to further instill in them the confidence hat withdrawing their economic support from some Of these massive industries that are provoking unfair treatment might truly make a difference. Once having listed all of the opportunities for practical action, King calls for his audience to develop a kind of “dangerous unselfishness” to support the sanitation workers who have been receiving unfair treatment.
He does so by utilizing a strong analogy between the parable of Jesus and the Good Samaritan and the moral obligation they have to support these workers. In the parable, a priest and a Levity pass by a poor man in need of help on the did of the road from Jerusalem to Jericho and fail to show any compassion towards him. They are only focused on the question, “What will happen to me if I help this man? ” Then, a man of a different race comes by and does in fact provide first aid for him.
This man, Jesus said, was the good man because he had the capacity to turn the question around, asking “If I do not help this man, what will happen to him? ” By use of rhetorical questioning King challenges his supporters to ask not what will happen to them if they help the sanitation workers, but ask, “If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, hat will happen to them? ” King demonstrates intellectual insight on history straight from the Bible, which allows him to establish additional credibility with his audience.
He has once again appealed to the pathos of his audience as well because he has proposed to them a question worthy of contemplation. As he begins to conclude his speech, King again reflects on his personal history and then transitions into yet another anaphora. He recalls the time he was stabbed during a book signing in New York City and the fact that if he would have done so much as sneezed, he would have died. This leads him onto his final anaphora?he repeats the phrase “If I had sneezed” seven times, each followed by a highlight in his life that he would have never gotten to experience.
He is providing his audience with the realization that there will come a time when he will not be present amongst all who are fighting for civil rights. However, if he had sneezed, he would have never been around to experience all the wonderful nonviolent protests the black community had successfully carried out over the past few years. He never would have been able to see how far they had come, and he never would have “been to the mountaintop,” the metaphorical civil rights mountain that they had been struggling to climb for many years.
He leaves his audience with reassurance that he has looked over the mountain, and he has seen the Promised Land. He has faith that one day soon, they will win their fight for civil rights, for integrated schools, for no more discrimination. The audience now has the hope and the determination to reach the top of that mountain. Throughout this final speech, Martin Luther King, Jar. Inspired the hearts of his civil rights supporters with convincing rhetoric.