Throughout the course of history, there have been copious amounts of famous speeches, given by many different people. From political figures to sports players, these people have provided deep thoughts and great insights about who they are and the world we live in today. Speeches also play an important and powerful role in both persuading and convincing large groups of people. Adolf Hitler, for example, somehow managed to persuade much of Germany to follow his beliefs, and actually convinced them to perform unspeakable actions towards his enemies. Even today, there are political figures around the world who utilize the power of speech to induce people into supporting their party in elections. Although powerful, constructing an effective and persuasive speech can prove to be difficult. To form a powerful oration, the speaker must consider what diction they will use, the organization of their speech, and the rhetorical devices they will implement. Specifically, Lou Gehrig’s Farewell speech, Mark Twain’s speech to Ms. Tewksbury’s School for Girls, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and finally Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech, are all excellent examples of using effective diction and rhetorical devices. Each oration was brilliantly constructed to persuade each of their audiences, and they each share similarities as well as differences.
Being a sports enthusiast, one paticular memorable speech comes to my mind. Lou Gehrig’s Farewell speech, on July 4th, 1939, to more than 62,000 fans at New York City’s Yankee Stadium, has become a cornerstone in the history of baseball in America. Lou Gehrig, one of the most under-rated sports players of all time, exhibits a great speech. Gehrig heavily utilized ethos to “argue” his point, and it was this rhetorical appeal that allowed him to establish himself as a humble and thankful man who considered himself nothing but lucky to have been given the opportunities he had in life. Gehrig knew that this speech was very important and it was necessary that he establish an ethos that would be taken more seriously than just simply a baseball player. So throughout his speech, Gehrig carefully used different grammatical techniques to establish himself as a reliable and effective orator. For instance, he poses questions and then answers them with the same phrase: “Sure, I’m lucky.” Later on in his speech, he notes specific people and moments in his life where he has felt extremely blessed and he follows them all with the phrase “That’s something.” The repetition of these phrases allows Gehrig to emphasize how truly fortunate he has been in his life in a rhetorically effective way. The entirety of Gehrig’s speech also demonstrates parallel structure. In the second part of the speech, Gehrig describes those individuals that he had grown to know professionally throughout his career and then gives them a name at the end of the sentence. In the last part of the speech, he does the reverse and names the people that he has grown with personally at the beginning of the sentence and then goes on to describe how they have impacted his life in the latter part of the sentence. By doing this, Gehrig could get his points across in a very concise, yet impactful way that allowed his audience to trust his word and his ability as a orator.
Next, in Mark Twain’s speech to Ms. Tewksbury’s School for Girls, Twain used humor to express his message throughout the speech. For example, this humor is used when Mark Twain states that the girls “don’t smoke – that is, don’t smoke to excess,” “don’t drink... to excess.” and “don't marry... to excess.” Like Lou Gehrig's Farewell speech, Twain is using repetition to convey his message, however, Twain uses humor to back up the repetition in his speech. The repetitive advice to not do something in excess creates trust amidst the listeners so that the audience feels like they can relate to Mark Twain. This repetition also assists the...
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