By Marion S. Trikosko [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
This week we invite you to share your thoughts about:
- Martin Luther King Jr’s. use of rhetoric
- Examples of communication that you find persuasive
- Contexts in which you think a knowledge of rhetoric would be useful.
Martin Luther King Jr’s use of rhetoric
Martin Luther King’s use of rhetoric is inspirational. In his letter from Birmingham Jail, he writes well, speaking to those who essentially oppose his way of thinking to feel empathy. The language he uses makes it difficult for the reader to avoid seeing similarities between themselves and the African-American people. He is persuasive, as he articulates his passion for the cause of equality. The use of rhetoric in this letter allows King to evaluate his target audience without isolating himself from it. It also permits the possible African-American readers to find a template for rebuilding their own Raison d’être. The same can be said for his ‘I have a dream’ speech. However, the difference here is that his passion is heard in his inflections and the tone of his voice – they build momentum in his listeners. Plus, he uses repetition well, stating over and over the phrase “I have a dream”, which still resonates today, as it implies that dreams are attainable.
Examples of communication that you find persuasive
I suppose that I find speakers or writers that choose a subject that I am passionate about persuasive. Speakers that have affected me this way have been Julia Gillard (in her 2012 misogyny speech), Bob Brown (when he spoke of saving the Tarkine at last year’s Melbourne Writers’ Festival), John Pilger (a journalist who advocates regularly for human rights). I follow writers like David Marr, Slavoj Žižek, Anne Summers, Antony Loewenstein – too numerous to mention here!
However, all of these examples are preaching to the converted, aren’t they? So, for someone to persuade me to a different way of thinking… I would have to say that a lot of philosophers accomplish this task. I am fascinated by others’ philosophies on life, love, emotions, politics, interacting with people… I don’t always agree with all philosophers, but they are persuasive to many in some way or another.
People that have completely persuaded me to think differently are A.C. Grayling, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Lawrence Krauss. All four are known for being atheists. As a person who grew up with a strong religious upbringing, it wasn’t easy for me to dismiss these origins. Upon reading their books and watching them speak, I have definitely been persuaded to alter my ethos and now consider myself to be an atheist also.
Contexts in which you think a knowledge of rhetoric would be useful
Politics and public speaking – definitely! Areas considered to be surrounded with controversy and differing opinions. The art of persuasion in this instance would go a long way to sway another’s way of thinking to align with yours. A good example would be a political debate between two leaders. Each is trying to win over the public to vote for them. A heavy use of rhetoric would be useful in such a controversial situation – one in which the listener has to decide in favour of one of two opposing parties.