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October 18, 2013

What makes Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream speech' so good?

I teach public speaking occasionally. Writing and speaking are parallel, but distinct skills and practices.

Some people are naturally better, or just find these two areas of expression easier than others.

But writing and speaking are both...

...skills anyone can learn, or at least polish.

Even if speaking or writing comes naturally, any of us can learn, and I would certainly encourage learning from those masters of these crafts in our own times.

Martin Luther King, of course, has been dead for many years, but his 'I have a dream' speech is still heard and studied.

It's powerful in many ways, but take a look at this study of the use of metaphors in this speech - http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/08/28/nancy-duarte-mlk-speech/.

Metaphors and imagery are powerful, and tried and true, strategies for engaging and memorable storytelling, but look at what King does in what is now a well-known speech.

The irony, as those who are familiar with this speech might know, the most widely known part of this particular speech was not part of King's written and prepared speech.

Martin Luther King departed from his speech and moved into a pace and topic he knew well. Not everyone can do this, and those who can, can only do so through long and steady practice.

My point here is that writing and speaking, perhaps like all skills, get better as we use them. Learn from the best, in fact learn from everyone!

Send us any links or other resources that you think any teachers, students or even just normal people might find interesting or useful. Let us all know about words that make you crazy, aspects of language and expression you find challenging, and be sure to let us know what it is about English and language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, USA and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle, WA, USA).

Posted by mmorf at October 18, 2013 07:10 PM


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