Speeches have helped to shape ideology and social values throughout American history. The ability to speak in front of a crowd and motivate change has given energy to movements and gatherings. From Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr.; American social reformers have used speeches to make drastic changes society. Spoken word has always been an important aspect of cultures around the world.
In America, spoken word can exist as a form of poetry. This form of public speaking has been around for a very long time. The ancient Greeks and Romans used the spoken word as a form of artistic expression.
The spoken word can also relate to acting. In Old England, actors and playwrights such as William Shakespeare were producing plays for public entertainment. America, much like England, has a modern version of the Globe Theater which hosted many Shakespeare plays, called Broadway Theater. The term “spoken word” can refer to speeches. Speeches aide in the persuasion of people. Speech “..
.is the ability to find anything available by means of persuasion” (Influence). Speeches by leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., and United States President, Abraham Lincoln help to rally support and start large political, social, or religious movements.
The two main types of speeches include informative, and persuasive speeches. Informative speeches often explain and deliver straightforward information about a certain subject or issue. These speeches often come from intelligent people who have been schooled on the subject. Informative speeches take a neutral or unbiased stance and tell all parts of a subject. The other category of speeches involves persuasive speech. The person writing or giving a persuasive speech takes an extremely bias stance on the subject or issue.
A clergyman once said “There are three things to aim at in public speaking: first, to get into your subject, then to get your subject into yourself, and lastly, to get your subject into the heart of your audience” (Influence). Persuasive speeches aid in the swaying of a crowd’s opinions. Politicians and advocates for issues usually give persuasive speeches to aide campaigns.A person can write a speech by just using personal experiences and simple facts, but a memorable speech usually contains rhetorical and literary devices.
“… your speech can be focused, clear, and concise and still lack vitality” (Speech). The most common rhetorical devices include repetitions and metaphors.
These two devices help to add flavor to the famous speeches by Martin Luther King Jr., and President Abraham Lincoln. Repetition promotes the repeating of a word or phrase to adds emphasis and makes the phrase memorable. As exemplified in Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, King repeats his “I have a dream” (I) theme before each sentence. This imprinted his famous dream into the minds of all Americans. Abraham Lincoln uses repetition in his Gettysburg Address. He focused this speech toward the American people and the Civil War effort for peace. Allusions reference passed events without exactly mentioning the event.
Allusions compare events and sometimes give writing a dark tone. Both of these devices together create memorable and effective speeches.Racial inequality and hate ravaged the Unites States of America in the late 1950s. Despite all of the hate African Americans experienced, the 1950s and 1960s hold one of the greatest examples of strength in numbers; the civil rights movement. “Through nonviolent protest, the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s broke the pattern of public facilities’ being segregated by ‘race’ in the South and achieved the most important breakthrough in equal-rights legislation for African Americans since the Reconstruction period (1865-77)” (American). The civil rights movement stemmed from the century-long institution of slavery. Even though slaves were emancipated after the civil war, Africans still faced harsh racial oppression.
This racism persisted and sparked a series of mini protests such as the sit-ins at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, the incident with Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat for a white passenger on a public bus, and the Montgomery bus boycott. The largest demonstration, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, surprised the nation. This rally of Americans achieved the largest number of people at a single rally the the capital had ever seen. Martin Luther King Jr.
gave his famous I Have a Dream speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. King delivered one of the greatest speeches in American history in front of about 250,000 people. People from every socioeconomic group and every ethnic background came to this march and rallied support for equal rights for all Americans. King’s use of repetition and alliteration branded a dream in every Americans mind and a driving force of equality for decades to come.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s speech created a tidal wave throughout not only America, but the world. The influential nature of the speech helps it still tugs on the heart strings of people when listening to his dream of a nation free of racial oppression.
“He equated the civil rights movement with the highest and noblest ideals of the American tradition, allowing many to see for the first time the importance and urgency of racial equality” (King). One year after King gave his speech, the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 guaranteed equal rights for all American citizens. This ended the segregation of schools and other public resources. Dr.
King’s speech has been used in many contexts. His speeches have been used to influence protests in regards to gender inequality. Gender inequality plagues American women in the workplace.
Women make lower wages than men while having the same qualifications. King’s speech has been quoted in many marches and rallies to push equality for all genders. His speech has been taught to and studied by school children for decades and has influenced many people to fight for change.The chaos caused by the end of World War I sparked the flame that ignited World War II.
World War II, initially fought by the Allied and Axis powers, blanketed the continent of Europe with turmoil. The Axis powers included Germany, Japan, and Italy. The Allied powers initially included Great Britain, China, and the Soviet Union. The United States did not enter the war until a devastating homeland attack by Japan. The war destroyed many families and more than 50 million lives were lost (World). The war closed in on 1945 and all of the Axis powers had surrendered except Japan. Japanese troops continued to ravage China. To end the war, the United States dropped the first ever atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The story “That Day at Hiroshima” showed the horrors and after effects of the atomic bomb. This piece of literature focused toward the American people and drew sympathy for the residents of Hiroshima, Japan. This tragic story of the Hiroshima bombing displays a perfect example of how spoken word and stories influence the reader and can cause outrage or provide a remedy to the ails of a nation.
The spoken word has even shaped American conflicts. The American Civil War waged on from 1861 to 1865. This war claimed more lives than any other conflict ever fought on American soil. “While the revolution of 1776-1783 created the United States, the Civil War of 1861-1865 determines what kind of nation it would be. The war resolved two fundamental questions left unresolved by the revolution: whether the United States was to be a dissolvable confederation of sovereign states or an indivisible nation with a sovereign national government; and whether this nation, born of a declaration that all men were created with an equal right to liberty, would continue to exist as the largest slaveholding country in the world” (Defining). The North’s campaign to restore the Union morphed into a “.
” (Defining) strategy where the Northern troops destroyed the entire infrastructure of the South and end slavery. The battle at Gettysburg showed the new strategy that ended countless lives. The Gettysburg battlefield, now dedicated to the Union soldiers for a cemetery (Gettysburg), became the final resting place for thousands of American soldiers. This dedication ceremony held the delivering of the Gettysburg Address. This speech had been given by President Abraham Lincoln. He spoke of reuniting the Union under a single government. With multiple records of this speech, everyone in the broken nation heard it. This speech brought together the nation and helped to remedy war tensions.
All of these speeches have been written to capture the ears and hearts of the general public. These speeches have been written to persuade oceans of people to think or act a certain way while calling for change in different ways. Speeches by public figures usually have the same purpose of changing a particular issue. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that “Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel” (Speech).Spoken word and speeches have accomplished many things throughout the history of America and the world.
Speeches have helped to soothe the aches war. Speeches helped to end some racial and social inequality and oppression of the mid 1900s. The impactful nature of speech has made it a necessary resource in a changing world. Speeches have and will continue to change the world.