Martin Luther King, the American Dream, and Vietnam

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This essay explores the rhetorical complexity of Martin Luther King’s dual role as political and moral leader, particularly during his last years when he was attacked for his opposition to the Vietnam war. By (1) discussing and developing the theoretical value and critical possibilities associated with the term “rhetorical trajectories,” (2) tracing the trajectories present in King’s rhetoric in order to set the context for a speech he gave in 1967 at Riverside Church., and (3) analyzing the text of that speech, the essay offers insight into King’s rhetorical impact, and, as a result, into the possibilities and limitations for combining pragmatic and moralistic discourse in American society.


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