Name: Zhi Chen
Course: WRT 102
Instructor: Karlianne Seri
Throughout American history, America has always been a place for people who seek for opportunities. In the modern world, people with different ethnic backgrounds are joining the big family. However, most people do not know the responsibilities that come along when they become an American citizen. Theodore Roosevelt gave the speech “The Duties of American Citizenship” in Buffalo, New York, 1883, to persuade and encourage the citizens of America to fulfill their duties as being an American citizen. In the speech. Theodore Roosevelt criticizes those who are not participating actively in politics and those who intentionally avoids to engage in their civil duties. Theodore Roosevelt delivered his speech in a coherent and thorough manner in order to achieve his purpose. He was able to persuade the audience and encourage them to engage in politics through the use of appeal to emotions, logical reasoning, and credibility.
Throughout the speech, Roosevelt employed the use of logical phrases. The objectives that he wanted to approach is to trigger his audience to think logically on what he said and draw a conclusion that would agree on his ideas. One example of appeal to logic in the speech is “Nothing worth gaining is gained without any effort.” This is a very obvious quote to make people agree on because everyone knows that you would not do a good job on any particular field if you do not put in enough effort. Not only did the simplicity make this quote powerful, the placement of this phrase in the speech also has a dramatic impact on the effectiveness of the speech. The follow up statement, “If freedom is worth having, if the right of self-government is valuable right……then one and the other must be retained exactly as our forefathers acquire them”, describes how one could not gain freedom without putting in any effort. By introducing a more general statement before stating a more specific statement, audience is able to make parallel connections with the previous statement. Therefore, it is more likely for the audience to agree on his idea of citizens should engage actively in politics in order to deserve the rights they currently have. Moreover, this follow up quote also appeals to logic. Comparing to the previous phrase, this phrase carries out a similar meaning. By assuming on the fact that everyone wants freedom and equality, Roosevelt took a step further and relates to the early Americans who fought the revolutionary war. As an audience, they would go through the process of self-reflection and question themselves. Then, they would most likely draw a conclusion of I should put in effort in order to earn the rights and privileges they have. The use of logical thinking is essential because the audience would reflect on what was been told and make their own conclusion. This is process is extremely significant because no one’s words are more trustworthy than their own thoughts.
Aside from using quotes are generally targeting the appeal to logic, Roosevelt also focused on increasing the credibility of his work to make his words more reliable to the audience. He strengthened his speech by using the fame of respected people and delivering his own personal opinions. One example quote that incorporates the element of the appeal to credibility is “If freedom is worth having, if the right of self-government is valuable right……then one and the other must be retained exactly as our forefathers acquire them.” Not only did this quote triggers logical deductions to the audience, it also increases Roosevelt’s credibility of his work. By mentioning the honored American revolutionists, Roosevelt made his words more reliable by referring his ideas to another a group of people, who the general public usually trust. In addition to borrowing others’ credibility, Roosevelt amplified his own credibility by expressing his own opinions on the topic. For instance, he said “I do wish that more of our good citizens would go into politics……do it in the same spirit with which their fathers went into the Federal armies.” In this quote, he combined the both his opinion and those who are trustworthy, which in this case are the founding fathers. By inserting his own opinion in the speech, the audience is able to hear personal opinions from the speaker rather than speaking in a third person point of view. It increases his credibility as a speaker because by judging on his personal beliefs, the audience would have a better understanding of his personality, which would let them have a closer relationship with the speaker. Moreover, Roosevelt shows the capability of understanding what he is arguing about by giving out his own thoughts. Not only did those quotes strengthen his credibility, his identity at that time period also had a major impact on his reliability. At 1883, Theodore Roosevelt is still an assemblyman in New York. However, he was known for fighting against corruption in politics. The fact that he gave this speech in Buffalo, New York is also a factor to his success because local audience already have a positive image of him fighting against the corruption. When Roosevelt combines multiple statements that express his own feeling and relating to credible people, his speech would become trustworthy to the public.
Roosevelt was also aware of human nature that people would be more likely to resonate with the topic or even act on impulse if the speaker was able manipulate their feelings. The emotion that Roosevelt primarily focused on is the sense of guilt and patriotism. In multiple parts of the speech, he emphasizes the excuses that most Americans are using to avoid any active engagement in politics. One example in the speech that described appeal to emotion is “The people who say that they have not time to attend to politics are simply saying that they are unfit to live in a free community.” In this quote, Roosevelt purposely points out the major excuse that people use when they were being criticized by the in-activeness in politics. Majority of the people claim that they are too busy to engage in political events. However, Roosevelt directly criticized those people to provoke a sense of guilt in the audience’s mind. After the audience reflect on their past actions, they will most likely feel ashamed of their behavior and become easier to convince. However, I do believe that this phrase might have some negative impact because the phrase is overly straightforward and can be criticized to use scare-tactic fallacy. Since people have different personalities, some of people might be easy to convince by direct criticism, but some people might be very stubborn and develop a reverse psychology in their mind. As a result, the quote becomes very ineffective to those people. Also, when he provokes guilt through criticism, some people are convinced not because they went through introspection, but they are driven purely by their emotions. As a result, this statement becomes a fallacy for some audience. In addition to guilt, Roosevelt provoked patriotism in the audience which would develop an inner pride. For example, it states “In a free republic the ideal citizen must be one willing and able to take arms for the defense of the flag.” The flag is generally being a symbol for the country. By describing the action of defending the flag, all the patriots would feel emotionally attached to his follow up arguments. Moreover, by provoking the sense of pride in the audiences’ mind, it is more likely for them to resonate with Roosevelt’s arguments.
Another factor that makes his argument tremendously persuasive is through the use of analogies. Throughout the speech, he makes a parallel connection of the country to smaller groups such as an organization or a family. By using analogies, audience can have a better connection with the topics that Roosevelt is discussing about. In the beginning of the speech, he compared the role of a citizen in the country to the role of father in a family. Roosevelt stated that,” No man can be a good citizen who is not a good husband and a good father…… no amount of attention to civil duties will save a nation if the domestic life is undermined.” In this particular set of sentences, he is comparing a person’s role in the family in transition to the role of a person in a country. By making a proper transition from a smaller community to a larger community, audience could make parallel connections between these two ideas, and understand the fact that everyone has certain obligations to fulfill and contributions to make as long as they belong to a community. Not only did the aspect of logical analogies make his claim more persuasive, the mix use of appeal to emotion in this quote also amplifies his argument. By praising the responsibilities that most people were able to fulfill in their domestic life, Roosevelt was able to make them feel proud of what they have already accomplished. Based on that prerequisite, Roosevelt extended the idea of fulfilling duties in a domestic perspective to the national perspective. Since most audience are pleased with the previous statements, they will most likely agree on his following statements.
The speech, “Duties of American citizenship”, is a tremendously persuasive speech because it integrated all aspects of rhetorical elements. Most people now are unaware of their responsibilities as an American citizens and this does not only include immigrants, but also those who were born in the United States. If the speech were to give in the modern world, I believe his ideas will be spread widely across the country through the use of modern day technologies. In the present day, there are multiple methods, primarily the social media, for information to spread which will most likely to have more people listen to his ideas. Most people in the current generation is slowly losing the interests in politics and this speech could definitely be one of the tool that alarms people the obligations that they have to carry out.