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The Master Orator

By kellyfadams Apr 15, 2014 816 Words
The Master Orator
On May 14, 1994 Nelson Mandela stood before an audience of international dignitaries having endured decades of fighting against apartheid and 22 years in prison. His country itself had suffered for more than 150 years under the strictures of apartheid. His speeches in the past had influenced the hearts of millions of fellow South Africans, but today his speech would signify a new era and a new page in the history of South Africa. Every word and sentence were carefully chosen in order to serve a specific purpose and address different audiences both within South Africa and the rest of the world. The purpose of his speech was not simply to address the nation as its new president and offer gratitude to those who put him there; it was also to make a statement that South Africa will undergo immense changes and unify to show the world the nation’s capabilities. Throughout the speech, Mandela very deliberately used pathos in order to draw out many different emotions and encourage the nation to feel unified and prepared to make the necessary changes to overcome apartheid, along with other elements such as repetition, metaphors and biblical allusions. The rhetorical style most prevalent is pathos. It is evident throughout and emphasized even more by the format Mandela chose to speak in. He began by acknowledging that the victory was the nation’s as well as his own (ethos), and rejoiced with his fellow South Africans, giving them a sense of assurance, pride, and hope. He then referred to the nation’s troublesome past to remind all of the “extraordinary human disaster” (Mandela) they had endured. Hearing these words, everyone knew that they applied as much to his time in prison as they did to their suffering under apartheid. He then went on to say that out of this experience there “must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud.” (Mandela) The birth would be painful, yet the child would be extraordinary. The entire world would now look upon this event as a triumph of the human spirit. Mandela used a more emphatic tone for the next portion of the speech to inform South Africans of things to come and the challenges they would face. The evocative word choice helped arouse the passion of the people, “the pain we all carried as we saw our country tear itself apart in a terrible conflict… spurned, outlawed and isolated by the peoples of the world.” (Mandela) All who had lived through the period of apartheid would immediately identify with this intense feeling of agony and isolation. Further, the fact that it was then a thing of the past would generate an enormous feeling of relief, a burden lifted from the nation’s shoulders. One simple yet powerful word used in his speech was the word “today”. After his salutation, it was his very first word. By using a term indicative of now, the present, he set the mood for his speech and created a sense of urgency. “Today” signified the end of apartheid, the beginning of democracy, and the necessity to solidify these changes. Also notable is his utilization and repetition of the word “we”. With the prevalence of politically influential figures in the audience, as well as his own political status, he used “we” as a means to speak for the South African people, as well as a way to identify with them. Towards the end, he stated “Never, never and never again…” (Mandela), referencing the reoccurrence of apartheid. This repetition of the word “never” helps form serious emphasis on the fact that apartheid would no longer be a part of their newly formed and improved nation. In this new nation there would be, “work, bread, water and salt for all.” (Mandela) This metaphor informed the South African people that their basic sustenance for both the body and the soul would be provided. This is further substantiated in the next line when he talked about how now that the shackles of apartheid had been removed it freed the body, mind, and soul to grow to their full potential. Mandela also used biblical allusion, representing himself as the patriarch of his new country when he repeated the phrase, “Let there be.” (Mandela) Through these words he was paralleling the creation of his new country with the creation of the earth in Genesis. Nelson Mandela’s skillful use of rhetorical devices such as pathos, selective repetition, metaphors and biblical allusion allowed him to connect with all members of his audience in an effective, authoritative, yet empathetic way. The people loved him because he was one of them. The dignitaries respected him because he was one of them.

Works Cited
“The Life& Times of Nelson Mandela”. Nelson Mandela Foundation. N.p.n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014 Mandela, Nelson. “Inaugural Speech, Pretoria.” University of Pennsylvania –African Studies Center. N.p. n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014

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