Kennedy’s speech was made almost immediately after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. Even though Kennedy was aware that the pronouncement of Dr. King’s death could have sparked an outright war, he delivered the speech in its merits actually did more than calmed the masses.
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In terms of structure, Kennedy begins with a somber mood that expresses concern and sympathy for the masses who would mourn the death of Dr. King. It is significant because how people were to listen to what he had to say afterwards depended on the first few words he was to utter. Secondly, Kennedy ensured he kept the speech brief and centered on the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr. and on what his death meant to the black community and to the larger public.
There are significant points highlighted by Kennedy that could have immensely comforted and inspired the masses to calm. Kennedy’s speech was direct in confronting the issue of Dr. King’s demise. He made the announcement preceded with words that set the mood by proclaiming that he bore bad news. Kennedy was quick to follow the announcement with an illustrious reform career path that Dr. King had left behind.
It is interesting and almost funny how Kennedy appealed to the black community by empathizing with them and urging them not to go into the streets and advance a racial war. He said that he too fell a victim of white brutality in that he lost a relative to a white murderer just like the black people lost Dr. King to a white assassin. Kennedy draws the crowd very shrewdly to the matters for which they should be giving attention. He talks about the real enemy who was assailing and disparaging their lives and that is poverty and discrimination. Kennedy’s speech is quick to point out that that was not a black people’s problem but that it was every poor man’s problem regardless of their race.
Kennedy reminded people who gathered to listen to him that Dr. Martin Luther King was fighting for those same rights, freedoms and values for which he knew he would face retaliatory attacks. Kennedy thoughtfully and powerfully communicated the need for forgiveness and reconciliation by evoking a powerful poem delivered in the middle of the speech about God’s ultimate gift of forgiveness and grace. Kennedy essentially invited people to live above strife and consider the more superior and civilized way of resolving conflict without engaging in fist fights.
Kennedy reiterated the reality of the bad times the American people lived in. He reminded them that violence was a problem that did not have to stagnate their lives if they chose differently. He literary took the focus from the problem and placed the ability to solve these problems on the people themselves by showing how great their potential to create solutions was above the existing predicaments.
Another thing that stands out in Kennedy’s speech is his call for unity and shunning away division. Kennedy was very categorical in his call for unity and peace. He believed that if people come together, they could achieve almost anything. Kennedy drew people to the faith that the majority of blacks and whites actually wanted peace and that the violence and discrimination were carried out by a few. In so doing, Kennedy undermined the vice of violence and simultaneously promoted the faith and hope of the many for resolution to achieve justice, development and equality.
Finally, Kennedy drew people to the creed of human civility when he spoke of the Greek’s determination to create the best out of themselves and to better the lives of those around them. In so doing, Kennedy acknowledged the need to continue advancing what Martin Luther King had fought for in regards to race, creed or religious affiliation.