While his oratory skills are legendary, how did King establish credibility with this particular audience? By invoking Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, he reminds the audience of its history and the promises still to be realized. He also discusses how the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence address the rights of every American,
not just certain segments of the population. By doing so, he unites his audience with a common cause that reflects on every citizen. From the standpoint of establishing character, it is clear that he is passionate about the subject and pulls the audience in with both the poetry and practical approach of his words. He gains their respect by addressing the reasonable points of his argument and reminding them that change must be found on “the high plane of dignity and discipline.”
The speech is very charismatic, evident by the way in which the audience responds to King’s words. Eye to eye with the audience, his command is powerful. it is indeed like a minister speaking to his congregation. As the speech progresses with greater energy and rhythm, the audience is engaged in an almost shared religious experience.
King appeals to the audience both emotionally and intellectually. He tells them that the struggle for equality involves everyone. By reminding his audience that we are all bound together and referencing various parts of the country, he strengthens his argument. When he says “We cannot walk alone,” King is reinforcing a sense of community and faith in the goodness of Man. Therefore, he makes those that disagree seem divisive and beholden to the past.
I believe his main point involves taking the lessons–and promises–of the past and using them to build a future that has no regard for the color of one’s skin.