19 March 2008

When Rhetoric is a Good Thing

The word "rhetoric" has many definitions. To some, perhaps mainly in the media, it means "the undue use of exaggeration or display; bombast." To me, it means "(in classical oratory) the art of influencing the thought and conduct of an audience."

We've seen a lot of speeches this campaign, and we're still months away from the conventions. After yesterday, two of those speeches stand out as truly important works that will be discussed long after all the ballots are counted and a new President is named. One is from a Democrat, the other, a Republican. Both were examples of my preferred definition of rhetoric, and both were made in response to that more common definition of rhetoric. Both had to do with issues that have been used to divide Americans in a political context, and both were appeals to America's sense of unity and both invoked the rhetoric of America's founding fathers in an attempt to remind Americans that we're supposed to be above all this.

I've always been fascinated by rhetoric - I've even had the chance to write some speeches for politicians and business executives (though clearly not on the level we see in these two works). I think I'll ask the @Campaign2008 followers to compare the speeches and tell me why they preferred one or the other. I'll figure out a way to post the responses. Feel free to follow there and respond, or just leave a comment here.

The transcript of Governor Romney's speech is here and Senator Obama's speech is here.

If you have some time, you could watch each:

Which one was more important to you? Why?

1 comment:

Mick said...

Obama's speech was way more important than Romney's because it deals with an issue that is more pertinent in our time. I won't deny that religious intolerance exists and that Mormons in particular are at the receiving end of such intolerance, but I think racism is more prevalent in our society.