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Rhetorical Analysis of Robert Kennedy's Speech on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Speech Analysis Group Project

Paul Keller

on 16 October 2012

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Transcript of Rhetorical Analysis of Robert Kennedy's Speech on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Remarks on the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Robert F. Kennedy Paragraph 1; The word "all" is frequently repeated. This mirrors the purpose of the Civil Rights movement. It also helps to remove the Political furor around Kennedy's position. Saying "Will you lower those signs, please" is effectively a symbol, for the signs represent political motivation; Kennedy asks that they be put away. Ladies and Gentlemen,

I'm only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening, because I have some -- some very sad news for all of you -- Could you lower those signs, please? -- I have some very sad news for all of you, and, I think, sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world; and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee. Paragraph 2: Use of the words "love" and "Justice" "Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort." Effects of Language: "...I have some very sad news for all of you--Could you lower those signs, please?--I have some very sad news for all of you, and, I think, sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world..." "...and people who love peace around the world..."

Kennedy addresses peace-lovers; it is wonderful to love peace; ergo, the audience should pay attention to what he is saying, and be in his camp. Paragraph 3 "We" is again used to unify the audience, and establish that one should support Kennedy's venture “For those of you who are black … you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.” "Hatred" is used because it is a more familiar, more primitive word than "animosity", "contempt", or the like. Because everyone has heard this word, it is more likely to win over the audience. Acknowledgment of emotions Paragraph 4 Acknowledging feelings “For those of you who are black and are tempted to … be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed” JFK Assassination The words "hatred" and "mistrust" Understating the JFK assassination “but he was killed by a white man.” Paragraph 5 Repetition Paragraph 6 "But we have to make an effort in the United States. We have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond, or go beyond these rather difficult times." Calming effect Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God. Encourages looking forward Paragraph 8 This illustrates that overcoming prejudice will not be easy, but is possible Audience's religious beliefs “So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King” Mentioning his family first Future goals through pathos Paragraph 7 "“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.” “but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love -- a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.” Repetition the words "understanding" and "compassion" Strong Positive Words, Strong Negative Words Paragraph 10 Stretching the truth “But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.” Paragraph 9 Parallelism Positive words “We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We've had difficult times in the past, but we -- and we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it's not the end of disorder.” Repetition; "We"

Establishes hope and ability to overcome difficulties at hand.

Establishes realism; no, the end of prejudice is not here.

Gives Ethos 3:13 Until 3:41. Slow and separated helps the purpose. What would fast and conjoined do? Delivery of this section References the Greeks

---> Adds Ethos

Valid? Paragraph 11 "...Let's dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us...say a prayer for our country..."
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