28 August 2013

Half of Martin Luther King's most famous speech used imagery

People who've been on my courses or read my books will know that I'm a keen advocate of using different types of imagery to get messages across effectively.

They've probably also heard me say that my favourite speech (of my lifetime, at least) was Martin Luther King's "I have a dream", delivered 50 years ago today.

I knew that he'd used a lot of powerful imagery but,  until today, I hadn't realised just how much of it there was. Nor was all of it biblical or religious: one of the most impressive sequences came early in the speech when he used what, at first sight, might have seemed like a rather unpromising extended banking metaphor (from para 6 below).

So I've lifted from the text all those passages featuring imagery - which make up almost exactly 50% of the speech - all of which appear in sequence below.

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This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.

It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.

One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check.
When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
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, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.
We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.
So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.

This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.

Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.

Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual

This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.

The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice… Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.

Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.

No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality.

You have been the veterans of creative suffering.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

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