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Communication professor available to discuss MLK’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech

By Sarah Mansell
336.758.5237
January 13, 2004

What is remarkable about Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech is not the advance text, but the fact that King departed from the Kennedy administration-approved text and continued extemporaneously, says a Wake Forest University associate professor of communication.

“If you listen to the speech carefully, you hear him pause in mid-sentence and redirect the speech,” says Margaret Zulick, an expert in public discourse and rhetoric. “At that point, the speech is a sequence of riffs, some of which he had used very similarly elsewhere. But, these are precisely the parts of the speech everyone remembers now.”

Zulick uses the King speech in her Wake Forest upper-level communication classes and asks students to follow King’s use of metaphors and repetitive phrases. She says the speech endures as an example of great American oratory because it expressed something previously unexpressed about the myth of America.

“The ‘I Have a Dream’ speech joins a mere handful of documents we turn to as the canon of the American ideal and how we see history moving toward it. Every moment of sublime oratory in the speech is there in part because of a powerful rhetorical strategy,” says Zulick.

To arrange an interview with Zulick, contact Sarah Mansell at manselss@wfu.edu or 336-758-4393.


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