Few people are fearless speakers. As students, we generally feel the rumble of butterflies in our stomachs, but the most we have to lose is a good grade.
For Emma Goldman, the stakes were considerably higher. She had the daunting
task of speaking to secure her own freedom when she was placed on trial for obstructing the draft in 1917. The country was awash in patriotism, and she was prosecuted as an enemy of the state. When preparing her speech, she realized that a seated jury would be a microcosm of the country's national spirit. Jurors may have had children or loved ones committed or lost to the Great War. Her position, though heartfelt and eloquently expressed, with an attempt to express her own patriotism, was subversive and threatening to the population.
Although many of her words may have angered the jurors, Goldman made the key points of every topic that she discussed very clear and easy to understand. She was able to talk about her stances, and use powerful language and various sources to help the jury understand why she held certain ideals. When describing her opposition to war, Goldman stated that "all wars are wars among thieves who are too cowardly to fight and who therefore induce the young manhood of the world to do the fighting for them." Also, Goldman goes to great lengths to clearly depict the fact that she was not acting in a violent manner. She used imagery, such as the officers who went to arrest her finding "Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman, in their separate offices quietly seated at their desks, wielding not the gun or the bomb or the club or the sword, but only such a simple and insignificant thing as a pen." Goldman also makes it very clear why she does not believe that the war should continue. She claims that it is "not a war for democracy. If it were a war for the purpose of making democracy safe for the world, we would say that democracy must first be safe for America before it can be safe for the world." By repeating this idea throughout her speech, Goldman emphasizes why
she behaved in the manner that she did. She also explains that "the war going on in the world is for the further enslavement of the people." Goldman works to point out that "the fight began in Australia and conscription was there defeated by the brave and determined and courageous position of the Australian people." She wants the jury to understand that her battles are not as radical as they may seem. As it turns out, the same war, so to speak, against conscription has been fought and won in countries all over the globe. She also goes to great lengths to depict the fact that what she was doing was not technically a crime. She even takes the time to reinforce the judge's words, when she says "now then you have already been told and I am sure you will be charged by His Honor that the indictment against us is, having conspired and having used overt acts to carry out the conspiracy to induce men of conscriptable age not to register. That is the indictment and you cannot and you may not render a verdict for anything else. " She works hard to make sure that the jury doesn't use its previous bias against anarchism to indict her. Because Goldman is able to explain her topics with such detail, and powerfully reinforces each concept into her audience's head, her speech effectively relates the main ideas that she wanted to express.
Goldman's strongest attribute is her ability to make the jury feel like pardoning her will be another giant step towards liberty and justice for all in America. At first, Goldman paints the picture of the government trying to make her and her partner "stay in the Tombs instead of enjoying [their] liberty." This is essentially an attempt by Goldman to make the jury feel like the litigation against her is very undemocratic. She compares herself to Jesus, playing on her audience's religious side, and relates that her she refuses to "cast the stone at at the 'political criminal'"...
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