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Governmental Power: Luther’s Speech Essay


Governmental power is an authority bestowed to an individual or a group of people to implement policies and control the use of public resources. Governmental power is often misused thus leading to political injustices. In Dr. Martin Luther’s speech, ‘I Have a Dream,’ generations are motivated to come to terms with racism and other injustices (McKay 162). The power that ruled America suppressed the minority despite the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 that all slaves had the freedom to enjoy America’s citizenship. At the time of Luther’s speech, a century had elapsed after the proclamation, yet Negros continued suffering injustices (Sweetman 293). This occurrence shows how those with governmental authority can propagate injustices. This discussion explores Luther’s speech and illustrates how power can be exercised by those in authority, with the major argument being racism.

Power as a Tool of Governmental Authority

Luther’s speech is enriched with metaphors that shaped the message of deliverance from racism into reality. It portrays governmental power as one of the ways through which the majority (the Whites) ruled unjustly over the minority (the Negros). A few powerful people suppressed the freedom of others. Because of this phenomenon, Dr. Luther, mobilized the government officials to implement the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act for the Negros (Mantler 70). This scenario is a good indication of how society alienated its citizens through the color of their skin.

The governmental power during the slavery period in America was threatened by the perceived racism, social, economic, and political forces against the Negro society (Ling 48), which calls for dialogue among the ruling parties to bridge the rift created by the differences among their subjects or citizens. Societal powers characterized America’s situation during Luther’s time (Foss 34). The society was segregated by the racial preferences of the ruling authority. It was filled will prejudice that impaired the economic development of the country since there was limited freedom to work. In fact, racial discrimination was at its peak during Luther’s time to the extent that Negros were not permitted to sit in the front seats on buses. The Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott was put forward by Luther to draw the attention of society to eliminate the misuse of power.

The Responsibilities Accompanying Power

Power comes with the responsibility of ensuring equity, justice, and freedom to all subjects. The accountability of leaders in their decision-making processes affects the outcome of their leadership. Sharing of the available resource should be done with objectivity, transparency, and without favor and preferences that tend to divide the society into ethnic and racial groups. During Luther’s speech, he says, “But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of

discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity” (King Jr.). It is evident that there was a lack of accountability in the society as indicated by a few citizens who prospered while the majority lived in poverty and alienation (King Jr.). In conclusion, the divisive societal power can be terminated if the society could “be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice” (King Jr.). This transformation is only possible if the government uses its power to ensure freedom and equality.

Works Cited

Foss, Sonja K. Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice. 5th ed., Waveland Press, 2017.

King Jr., Martin Luther. “I Have a Dream.” Lincoln Memorial, 28 August 1963, Washington DC. Keynote Address.

Ling, Peter J. Martin Luther King, Jr. Routledge, 2015.

Mantler, Gordon K. Power to the Poor: Black-Brown Coalition and the Fight for Economic Justice, 1960-1974. UNC Press Books, 2013.

McKay, David. American Politics and Society. 9th ed., John Wiley & Sons, 2017.

Sweetman, Joseph, et al. “‘I Have a Dream’: A Typology of Social Change Goals.” Journal of Social and Political Psychology, vol. 1, no. 1, 2013, pp. 293-320.

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IvyPanda. "Governmental Power: Luther’s Speech." October 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/governmental-power-luthers-speech/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Governmental Power: Luther’s Speech." October 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/governmental-power-luthers-speech/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Governmental Power: Luther’s Speech'. 12 October.

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