Martin Luther King Speech Thesis Statement

A Dream of Racial Progress

Hey, Shmoopers: you better get to know this speech. Not because you're getting tested on it, or because you want to throw around kick-butt quotes at a party, or even because you want to expand your mind. When it comes to "I Have A Dream, " we get even more fundamental than that.

You better get to know this speech because you're a person with a heart. (Any people without hearts, you can go on your merry way.)

And, as a person with a heart, you're super invested in everything that MLK has to say in "I Have A Dream."

You want proof? No problem. In the beginning, MLK references the Emancipation Proclamation, which ended slavery. You read that right: hundreds of shameful, brutal years of slavery ended with one incredibly important stack of paper. That better get your heart beatboxing.

After setting the stage with this reference, MLK discusses the problem of the day: racial discrimination. And we're not even talking about the massive amounts of racial discrimination that still plagues the U.S. of A. We're talking about an even worse chapter (ugh, history is depressing) that included rampant segregation, Jim Crow laws, and most of white America doing its best to pretend that nothing bad was going on. ("Persecution towards the Black community? I don't know anything about that.")

At this point, your heart should be thumping with anger.

But then, MLK starts riffing (we mean really riffing) on his "dream," a vision of the future of American race relations. The speech fast-forwards from the past to the present to the future. In MLK's dream scenario, racism would not prevent African Americans from holding jobs, exercising their rights as citizens, or pursuing the American Dream. Kids wouldn't be held back from opportunity based on their skin color. Descendants of slave owners and descendants of slaves could put their differences aside.

And that, folks, is why "I Have A Dream" is so momentous. Because MLK guides your little blood-filled human heart on a journey from historical relief to then-present day righteous rage to a feeling of hope, possibility, and the potential goodness of humankind. You'll walk away from this speech on wobbly legs, tears in your eyes, and your heart filled.

  1. How would you summarize MLK's overall dream?
  2. Using evidence from the text, would you describe MLK's vision as primarily optimistic or pessimistic?
  3. Why might references to the Emancipation Proclamation be located at the beginning of the speech, playing the role of kick-off?
  4. Does the speech envision a future without racism in general, or just without discrimination/segregation specifically?
  5. What steps still have to be taken for MLK's dream to be realized in America?

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" leaves the door open for a continual journey of racial progress—it doesn't cap things off with 1963.

"I Have a Dream" portrays racial equality as a fulfillment of the promises of America's Founding Fathers and documents.


One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. (3.4)

This is the thesis of the speech, guys. MLK is drawing attention to the overall problem of racial discrimination and then declaring the purpose of the March on Washington. It's an argument followed by the reason the argument matters. (Follow that formula and you'll go far, young padawans.)

This is also classic example of "raising awareness" and trying to "start a dialogue"—pointing out what the problem is and saying, essentially: "Um, why is this still a problem, guys?"

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check. (4.5)

Instead of being included in that whole "all men are created equal" thing from the Declaration of Independence, African Americans got a raw deal. There's no going "whoops, our bad" when it comes to slavery and discrimination. King believes the Revolution was not only a promise but a "sacred obligation" enshrined in the early texts of American history.

And you do not go back on your sacred obligations and get away with it.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. (11.1-2)

One of the pillars of the speech is its universality. It was message to all people, everywhere. MLK wanted all races to be able to share the dream—not just the white, straight dudes that the OG American Dream referred to.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. (15.1)

The idea of meritocracy is an old-school American value going back to Benjamin Franklin. The "dream" here is for character (read: hard work) to determine success. And you should know that there's still a lot of argument over whether America is a true meritocracy in reality. Minorities face more of an uphill climb to success because of things like institutional racism.

Yeah. Other than the 100-meter dash, it's pretty hard to locate a total meritocracy anywhere.

And if America is to be a great nation, this [dream] must become true. (20.1)

This is where the speech gets touchy. In the early '60s, at the height of the Cold War saying America was not already the G.O.A.T. could get you in trouble. The FBI even investigated Martin Luther King, Jr., paranoid that he was involved with Communists. (Source)

What defines an excellent leader? Is Leadership someone that can think creatively or can solve problems? Is a leader someone that knows what it takes to be a leader and to lead a group, or is it someone that sets goals for themselves and/or for the group. You could ponder these questions for a very long time but there is no true definition for leader or leadership. But you can look at people and decide if they are a good leader, by what outcomes they arrive at, the way they inspire people, and the qualities that they poses. All of these aspects are in one of the greatest leaders of all times and that would be, Dr. Martin Luther KingJr. This man is one to be admired and sought to be like.

Martin Luther King also known as MLK was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in the year of 1929. He was brought up in a religious home, his father was a pastor. Martin followed in his dad’s footsteps and was ordained and became a minister of a Baptist church in the city Montgomery, Alabama. Montgomery was a place of great racism in the South. Dr. King saw this racism and felt something needed to be done. As for him being the newly elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). He felt he needed to do something, so in 1955, December 1, when Rosa Parks didn’t give up her seat on the bus for a white passenger and was arrested. Martin made the decision to organize a boycott against the bus transportation . This is were the great leadership that Martin Luther King Jr. started.

The leadership that King shows is, not to be afraid of anything, to stand up for your people/group, to stand up for the right of your people/group, and lastly to fight with nonviolence for your people. King took action against segregation from that day, to his death. By taking action I mean that he formed many organizations one of which was Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which allowed him to pursue other civil rights activities. This grew to be nationwide and allowed Martin L. King to help his people through his leadership skills.

Martin set goals for himself and for his people. The goals he set for himself was that ” I will not rest until all black men, women, children are free of segregation”. Which meant he would not rest until all his people were free and would do anything to help them have there freedom. The goals he set for his people were of independence, desegregation, and to have their freedom. By setting these goals it shows that King is a great leader. I feel you have to set goals to accomplish your task. By him setting these goals everyone is on the same track, and the people are looking to achieve the same goals and dreams. Which he showed his dreams when he gave the speech at Washington “The I Have a Dream” speech.

Martin Luther King shows great leadership by his demonstrations of non-violence acts all of his organizations all the speeches he gave and all the letters he wrote. Through this it shows he is a man of intelligence, determination, also integrity.

I say intelligence because in his demonstrations, if he would of fought back he and many others would have been killed or seriously injured and it would be his fault and he would of let his people down. So by using his brain he was able to show that the use of violence would result in violence. Not the fact that the demonstration was about the Civil Rights and the desegregation of Blacks. He also showed his intelligence by the letters and the speeches he wrote. The one that was the most inspirational was the “I Have a Dream” speech. This speech touched so many people. It changed the way many people thought about blacks. With the words of Martin Luther King he helped to get desegregation in the Southern states of Mississippi, Alabama, Carolina, Georgia etc just throw his leadership skills and his motivational words that ring till this day.

King showed his determination through getting thrown in jail, being hit with sticks, fists, and being called a “Niger”. All of which hurt him but he would not let that stop him from getting his people free. He did not want to show he was scared of the white community he wanted to show his people no fear. So he faced these obstacles head on and didn’t back down. He showed his dedication and determination to achieve his goals and the goals of his people and to show no fear, and to make his people feel no fear in the whit community. By this Blacks became unafraid of white and helped them get there desegregation.

Martin showed his integrity by taking responsibility for his actions, shown by him going to jail and by him being beat up or even killed. This man inspires confidence in others because he can be trusted to do what he says he will do. King says he will fight until freedom rings that means that he will fight till freedom rings, in which he did. He showed the most integrity when he was killed. He showed that he would give is life to have desegregation and to have his people have their freedom from all whites.

Martin Luther King showed different types of leadership through his preaching, his “I Have a Dream” speech, boycotts, his marches, and his death. All of these demonstrations show that he is the greatest leader of all time. He changed America, he changed segregation, he changed the way people think of people. All of his great qualities came in handy for him to be this great leader. To be remembered as a great man and leader ever to live and die doing what he believed in, and what he thought was right.

King was a great leader. He is a man that will never be forgotten. This is because of all the good things that he has done for America and and the Black population. Know one will ever for get this man because of his hard work, determination, loyalty to his people, is loyalty to his work, the trust people shared in him, How intelligent he was to make the right decision on his movements and speeches. Martin Luther King is a very inspiring individual, a man that will show you what is right and how it is going to be when all is over. He is the kind of man that will show you his dreams, and show you how he is feeling. But When it comes down to everything he is on top. He hits every aspect of a not good but great leader. Your forever Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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