Monday, July 4, 2011

The Power of Speeches

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Speeches have the power to change the way an audience feels about a certain topic. It is through the effective use of rhetoric that this is achieved. If a speech achieves this, the speech can be considered as successful. Therefore the quote is only relevant for successful speeches. Successful speeches also have to be relevant to its audience and appropriate to its contexts. Abraham Lincolns Gettysburg Address and Martin Luther King Jnr. I Have a Dream are two examples of successful speeches because both are relevant to their audience in both language and content and appropriate to its context. Rhetoric devices employed by both Lincoln and King strengthen their respective arguements. Lincolns speech used rhetoric device such as inclusiveness, Christian undertone and repetion. On the other hand, King gives allusions to past influential figures, metaphors, anaphora and Christian undertone.

The brutality and huge human sacrifice of the Gettysburg Battle that preceded his speech and the Civil War overall, the mood of the American people would have been pessimistic. Therefore Lincolns speech is successful as it was appropriate for its audience and context as it would have boosted moral and optimism of the American citizens, showed that the sacrifice of the soldiers were of a worthy cause and educate American citizens on the need to fight for liberty.

A successful rhetoric device employed by Lincoln is the use of inclusiveness. Phrase such as fellow countrymen and it is altogether fitting we do this, shows unity through its inclusiveness. Through this Lincoln had created a patriotic link between himself and his audience and this has urged the audience to strive and co-operate together with Lincoln for a common purpose.

Another rhetoric device is that Lincoln has given a religious undertone to the speech. That this nation under God shall ahve a new birth of freedom. This is appropriate to the audience and the context as the 1800s were a tune were Christian influence of society was significat. Therefore by refering to God, Lincoln suggested he was fighting for something virtuos and therefore convice the Christian audience that they must actively take part and therefore would glorify the name of God.

Lincoln has repeated keywords to emphasize key ideas. An example is the word dedicate which has been used throughout the speech in different contexts. Lincoln refers to America's founding fathers as who were dedicated to the proposition all men are created equal. We have to dedicate a portion of that field refering to the land which soldiers died on. He also states to the audience, dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus for so nobly advanced. The effect of the repetition of the word dedicated emphasises that American society was dedicated as a democratic society and that Americans must be dedicated to uphold these values by fighting for liberty.

Martin Luther King in his, 'I Have a Dream' speech of 1963 hoped to address the racial injustice and discrimination that African Americans faced and through his speech try to remove these barriers to create a equal and just society. There was considered to be hugely successful and is one of the most influential and famous speeches of history due to the suitability to its context and due to the its almost literary rhetoric techniques, it was able to influence the minds and perceptions of many types of people.

King strenghtens his arguement by giving allusions to Lincolns Gettysburg address by starting his speech, Five score years ago, and indirectly refers to Lincoln as a great American, By providing an allusion towards Lincoln, King showed respect to Lincolns achievements towards black rights and in turn strengthened his own arguemnet as it provided a link to an influential individual that every American, regardless of their race, can relate to.

Kings speech also shows allusions to Indian, non-violent, activist Mohatma Ghandi when King streesses for the need of peaceful protests, We must not let our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Although the huge direct audience of 50 000 gathered were mainly supporters who had suffered the inequality and discrimination, the event was one of the most peaceful protests in the Civil Rights Movement. It would have been highly feasible that the crowd may have turned to vent their feelings by using violence due to the nature of the time. However King had effectively influenced that violence would not solve the problem, and therefore the moment was peaceful.

King used a rich tapestry of metaphor, giving his speech an almost literary quality. King refers to the life of the Negro as crippled by the manacles of segregation, and refers to the terrible situation as quicksands of injustice and a bank of justice that is bankrupt. King therefore dramatised the idea of mistreatment of blacks. Metaphors show the negative connotation of the inequality and therefore made American citizens aware and realise the problems and discrimination African Americans faced and that is was the incorrect thing to do.


Anaphora of 'I have a dream' is the principle rhetoric device of Kings speech and binds his speech together. During this, King shows his dreams of scenarios of an equal, racially accepting America would be like with descriptions such as walk together as sisters and brothers. Through this King presented a Utopian image of a racial free America and through his repetion of dream, King revived the hopes and aspirations of pessimistic African Americans and raised their confidence of their belief for a discrimantion free future. Therefore, King would have impacted and changed the outlook of American Americans.

King was a Christian minister and like Lincoln, he delivered his address in the rhetoric style of a sermon, King suggested that when racial barriers are destructed, the glory of God shall be revealed and all fresh shall see it together. This suggested that a racial diverse and accepting America would be a society that would be morally virtuos and correct and futher convince skeptical Americans that equality is the way to go, especially as it is endorsed by the teachings of God.

The rhetoric techniques employed by King and Lincoln have changed the beliefs and impacted their direct and indirect audiences. Lincolns Gettysburg Address convinced through its techniques pessimistic American citizens to continue the struggle and fight for democratic values and liberty despite difficult circumstances. Kings speech influenced Black Americans of the time the importance of non-violent methods of resistance for their desire for racial equality. King also were able to boost their hopes in such a difficult time for them. Kings speech also further educated all Americans that a society of racial equality is need because it is correct and morally virtuous. America today is a multi cultural and racially equal and democratic society, who have been aided by the power of King and Lincolns speeches. King and Lincolns speeches are therfore relevant to the quote



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