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Spencer Mabrito Reflection 2 – MLK & Declaration of Independence

What is the primary theme of the speech? Explain this by comparing how Dr. King's speech makes analogies to the
tyranny outlined in the Declaration.
Martin Luther King's noted “I Have a Dream” speech describes a century of tortuously slow social
change starting with the signature of the Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation, designed to usher in a
grand change in social mindset, did indeed start something, but the public attitude toward African Americans
progressed little. The general theme of the writing, however, is not only the injustices acted out, but that now is
the best time to really do something about it.
After many years of the dragging feet of social change and rising tensions, the African American was
still “an exile in his own land”, just like the colonists felt alienated and oppressed by their mother country. The
British crown “endeavoured to prevent the population of these States” by making naturalization difficult.
Similarly, African Americans were allowed to live within the USA but rarely became citizens of the same degree
as whites. Just as African Americans were supposedly released from bondage in the 1860s, the colonists were
supposedly a free people, though after some time they realized that their freedom wasn't even skin-deep, but
merely a numbing ointment like Icy Hot. It soothes the pain but starts to burn after a while. In both cases, a
people are determined to live their lives in harmony and equality but largely lack formal capability to do so,
despite their declared freedom. The charters which created the colonies were like the defaulted promissory note
Dr. King describes – appearing to be candy and rainbows, but really just a pair of those handcuffs with fluffy
stuff on them so they don't hurt as bad and a piece of licorice to keep the mouth occupied.

How does Dr. King delineate “us” from “them?” That is, who does he put in each of these categories?
For Dr. King, “us” refers to mainly African Americans, but also in part to all American citizens who
support Negros' right to citizenship. “Them” refers to any other person who does not hold all Homo sapiens
sapiens to be on equal footing. It's a pretty clear distinction – either you are a prejudiced jerk (really) or you
actually care about your fellow human beings. It's important to note that “they” are not just white people, but all
people of all races and backgrounds who maintain racist attitudes. And “us” is not just African Americans, but
any progressive thinking citizen of the world. I believe Dr. King would also categorize those who claim to
support equality but do so with violence as part of the “them”, as passive resistance was essential to Dr. King's
strategy.

What quote does Dr. King use from the Declaration of Independence? Why do you think he uses that quote?
King dreamed that America would someday fulfill it's most basic creed, as first written in the
Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” He uses
this quote firstly because it is primary to American thought (or should be), and because every citizen of this
country is familiar with those words. Indeed, the phrase is extremely well-known and recognizable. It is a
Spencer Mabrito Reflection 2 – MLK & Declaration of Independence

powerful expression of Dr. King's own outlook and philosophy, and no new phrase or idea was needed to express
it. Using this quote gives the listener the understanding that Dr. King's ideas are not radical, but central to the
formation of this country and it's basic ideas of natural rights and equality.

What quote of Dr. King comes from the Gettysburg Address? Why do you think he uses that quote? What is the
significance of where King gave his speech in relation to the quote?
King begins his speech with a reference to the first lines of the Gettysburg Address (but not a verbatim
quote): “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation
Proclamation.” This wise choice of a reference is appropriate because of the similarities between the Gettysburg
Address and the I Have a Dream speech, not to mention the connection between Dr. King and Abe Lincoln. The
Gettysburg Address references the American Revolution and expresses discontent with the lack of social justice
and equality in the country, despite nearly a century of time to get things in order in America. King's speech is
like a doctor's check-up. Last time we spoke, you had signed the Emancipation Proclamation about 9 months
prior, so how's that leg doing? Unfortunately, the femur of racial harmony is still fractured and brittle. Dr. King
aims to reinvigorate the American appetite for liberty by reminding us not only of the Declaration of
Independence of 1776 (itself referenced in the Gettysburg Address) but of the Gettysburg Address, all of which
support the notion that racial inequality is counter to the original envisioning of this county.

Where in America did Dr. King say harbored the greatest levels of injustice towards Africa Americans?
Dr. King does not call out any particular state, but instead notes the injustices perpetuated in the South in
general, in states like Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. The Southeastern United States has, of course, long
harbored racist ideologies and even legalities. I feel too much credit is given to the Northern states, which may
not have been explicitly racist, but largely didn't do much to stop it. King does not limit his call for social change
to these Southern regions of the country, but only allows his shout to fade at the edges of the planet.

What do you think is the greatest contribution to American society Dr. King’s speech has served?
Despite his speech being centered around African American rights, all Americans have come to truly
believe in Dr. King's words (I hope/expect so at least). He provided a mantra that every American can chant in
difficult and pressing times. We all have dreams (probably not this noble, but hey we're trying), and we all want
to have a good time. The greatest contribution of Dr. King's speech is the fact that I and most other Americans
can today look at all other individuals, American or foreign, pale or dark, and be reminded that we all share the
same basic dream of happiness and liberty, that none of us want to be repressed, and that we all have power as
free-willed human beings to create a just nation.