In the beginning of his speech Martin Luther King references Abraham Lincoln and his emancipation proclamation speech. Lincoln was the president of the United States during the Civil War and he lead a great civil rights movement during that time. By referencing this speech, King using one of the greatest presidents in the history of the United States to give weight to his speech and in a way, give him credibility with the audience. This example works very well in my opinion. It adds a significant backing to what he is about to say during the rest of his speech.
King also quotes the Declaration of Independence’s “Life. liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. He is also using this to help with the foundation of his speech. This, too, works very well. It is a document written and signed by our forefathers guaranteeing these rights to everybody, regardless of race or gender.
After referencing these two things he then says that “America has defaulted on this promise”, basically saying that what these great men fought for isn’t happening.