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The Speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” by Martin Luther King, Jr: Rhetorical Analysis

Introduction

Martin Luther King, Jr in his speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” argued that US foreign policy was hypocritical when compared to the inequality present in the United States. He spoke at Riverside Church in New York City, a venue that had a history of hosting progressive speakers and thinkers. The speech was given to a large, mixed audience of primarily civil rights activists. In order to convince his audience that the civil rights movement in the United States should oppose the Vietnam War, the speaker appealed to their ethos, pathos, and logos.

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Ethos

Ethos, the appeal to the legitimacy and authority of the speaker, is used throughout the speech. Martin Luther King, Jr indicates that he is seen as a figure of authority by the civil rights movement. He states, “Many people have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns, this query has often loomed large and loud: “Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?” “Why are you joining the voices of dissent?”(King). Later, he mentions, “I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision.” (King). These statements serve to communicate to the audience that the speaker is someone of authority and should be listened to.

Pathos

The author is using pathos as one of his central rhetorical strategies. Pathos is a method applied to represent an appeal to feelings and emotions in a speech and other various kinds of writing. Martin Luther King notes that “we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools” (King). This part of the speech is evoking violent images of death that would affect the emotions of the audience. It also reminds people of inequality through images of everyday life in the United States.

Logos

Lastly, Martin Luther King uses logos in his famous speech. Logos appeals to reasoning and argumentation by applying statistics, factual evidence, and data. The speaker comments, that “they wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children” (King). The author here is using statistics to present the horrifying picture of the Vietnam War. He is using vivid language to describe the casualties; however, they are also supported by evidence, as he is using precise numbers in this part of the speech. Moreover, Martin Luther King states that “after the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva Agreement” (King). He is using historical facts to create a parallel between the current situation and the past.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Martin Luther King, Jr uses ethos, pathos, and logos, among other rhetorical devices, to support his argument that American policy in Vietnam was inconsistent with its treatment of African-Americans in the United States. He applies ethos to establish credibility, pathos to appeal to emotions, and logos to support his claims with hard evidence. Overall, the effective use of various rhetorical strategies is what makes the speech so valuable.

Work Cited

King, Martin Luther Jr. “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” Church Meeting, 1967, Riverside Church, New York City. Public Speech.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, May 4). The Speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” by Martin Luther King, Jr: Rhetorical Analysis. https://studycorgi.com/the-speech-beyond-vietnam-a-time-to-break-silence-by-martin-luther-king-jr-rhetorical-analysis/

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StudyCorgi. "The Speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” by Martin Luther King, Jr: Rhetorical Analysis." May 4, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-speech-beyond-vietnam-a-time-to-break-silence-by-martin-luther-king-jr-rhetorical-analysis/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "The Speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” by Martin Luther King, Jr: Rhetorical Analysis." May 4, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-speech-beyond-vietnam-a-time-to-break-silence-by-martin-luther-king-jr-rhetorical-analysis/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'The Speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” by Martin Luther King, Jr: Rhetorical Analysis'. 4 May.

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