Nobel Peace Prize winner, renowned scholar, and author of over fifty books, Elie Wiesel is a name with worldwide recognition. In addition to his literary and scholarly accomplishments, Wiesel is also recognized as an eminent champion and defender of human rights for both the work he has done in the field, as well as his own status as a Holocaust survivor (“Elie Wiesel”). Wiesel believes indifference, or the lack of sympathy towards others, as being the devastating culprit in dividing humanity. In this rhetorical analysis of Wiesel’s speech “The Perils of Indifference” I will explain how Wiesel uses the concepts of ethos, logos, pathos, and other rhetorical devices to make this a powerful and timeless speech in hopes to eliminate indifference in the next millennium to come.
Elie Wiesel delivered his speech, The Perils of Indifference, on April 22, 1999, at the White House as a part of the Millennium Lecture Series, hosted by President and First Lady Clinton. In his speech, Wiesel expounds on the meanings and repercussions of human indifference. He uses his own personal story as a holocaust survivor to expose this. The purpose of this speech is to encourage people everywhere to abandon indifference in the face of crisis, now and forever. Wiesel seeks to accomplish this goal by expressing his own, distinct definition of indifference as being “more dangerous than anger and hatred... not only a sin, it is a punishment.” He constructs his definition around some of the most tragic results of indifference over the past century, including his own as a Holocaust survivor, by sharing his experience as a Nazi internment camp prisoner, and the ways it has affected his life.
Ethos is a tool of rhetoric used to help give a piece of literature it’s credibility. Experience can be a major part in determining ethos, which is exactly how Wiesel accomplished his own credibility in this speech. It was 1944, when 15 year-old Wiesel,
Cited: “Elie Wiesel.” Elie Wiesel Foundation. The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. Web Eun-Kyung, Kim. " 'This time [Kosovo] the world was not silent, ' notes Wiesel. Jerusalem Post, The (Israel). 14 Apr. 1999. NewsBank - Archives. Web. Schleier, Curt. “Why Elie Wiesel Can Never Forget.” Biography Magazine, September (1999): 68. Academic Search Premier. Web.