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What Made Dr. King, Jr. a Great Speaker?

As we celebrate the birthday of noted Civil Rights leader—Dr. Martin Luther King in January, 2012—it is fitting we look at the speaking techniques that made him one of the greatest speakers of all time.

Because these tend to overlap, I'll focus on two (2) inter-related elements:

1. powerful use of metaphor
2. eloquent language

Regarding the use of metaphor, the American Civil Rights Movement was subtlety cast in the context of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt led by the prophet Moses.

Thus, Dr. King was subtlety cast as the "black Moses," evident in this seemingly (prophetic) last speech before his death:

"God has allowed me to go up to the mountaintop. I may not get there with you, but I promise you that we, as a people, will get to the promise land."

Dr. King not only uses compelling metaphor but also uses eloquent language. Eloquent language was often used in his 1963 iconic "I Have A Dream" speech:

* "From the mountain of despair, we shall hew out a stone of hope."
* "Now is the time to rise from the desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice."
* "Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred."
* "With this faith, we shall be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood."

So, to draft compelling speeches, use the two powerful techniques used by Dr. King: powerful metaphor and eloquent language.

More on the other speaking techniques of Dr. King later.