18 January 2010

Martin Luther King Day - and a reminder of how to use rhetoric to convey passion

Today is Martin Luther King Day in the USA.

But regardless of where we happen to live, it's a good excuse for spending a few minutes (and it only lasts 11 minutes) watching his 'I have a dream' speech.

When talking about the use of contrasts and three-part lists, I'm often asked whether the use of such rhetorical techniques will somehow diminish the sincerity and passion of a speaker using them to get his or her point across.

The most vivid way to answer to the question is to play a clip of Martin Luther King using them (as he did with great frequency) and to ask people to reflect on whether, now they can see what he's doing, it makes him sound any less sincere or passionate?

One such example is the last few lines of his 'I have a dream' speech, which concludes with two three-part lists, the first made up of three contrasts and a second one of three repeated phrases - in both of which, the third item is longer than each of the first two:

We will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children,
black men and white men
Jews and gentiles
Protestants and Catholics
will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old negro spiritual
"free at last,
"free at last,
"thank God Almighty, we're free at last"

For more on rhetorical techniques, see HERE or type 'rhetoric', 'contrast', 'three-part list', etc. into the search box at the top of the page.

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