Visual “Sparkline” Analysis of “I Have a Dream” (Duarte)
Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech resonated with young and old, black and white, men and women. King was, of course, revered as the moral leader of the civil rights movement, but he was also an incomparable orator who mastered the use of reference (both political and cultural), metaphor, repetition, and visual language.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the speech which originally took place on August 28th, 1963, Nancy Duarte took the time to dissect these oratorial techniques through a sparkline visualization of the transcript of “I Have a Dream.”
Duarte explains the analysis of the speech and what, exactly makes it so powerful by translating speech tactics and audience reactions into a visual language:
We’ve analyzed Dr. King’s speech to uncover what makes it so powerful, and visualized it in the interactive widget below.
The analysis has the following insights into the structure:
Contour: King’s speech structurally moves between what is and what could be rapidly, which is an appropriate pace for the heightened energy of the gathering.
Dramatic Pauses: The transcript has a line break each time King pauses. The speech looks like poetry. As you listen, breathe for a second or two at the end of each line.
The transcript is color-coded so you can see the actual words Dr. King said, and hear them in his own voice.
Blue Text = Repetition: King uses repetition often. Throughout the speech, he repeats word sequences to create emphasis. Toward the end, he repeats, “I have a dream” several times, like the refrain of a hymn.
Greet Text = Metaphor/Visual Imagery: King masterfully uses descriptive language to create images in the mind. His words paint scenes in the mind of the audience.
Orange Text = Familiar Songs, Scripture and Literature: King establishes common ground by referencing many hymns and scriptures familiar to the audience. He even rephrases a small sequence from Shakespeare: “This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn…”
Pink Text = Political References: King pulls lines from political resources like the Declaration of Independence, Emancipation Proclamation, Constitution and Gettysburg address, making it clear that the promises to him in those documents have been broken.