We will watch the opening 3 minutes of this RSA Animate featuring Steven Pinker, a brilliant man with truly remarkable hair. In this video, Pinker explains why we rarely use direct language with each other, and why indirect language may be safer.In the remaining minutes of the video (which we will not watch), Pinker explains how three basic human relationships dictate our interactions:
Dominance: one person is more powerful than the other. A pecking order is established.
Communality: the people are part of a community (such as a group of friends or a family).
Reciprocity: the people are engaged in a business transaction.
What does this have to do with our discussions to date? Think back to our examination of the First Lady’s speech. Being the First Lady, she is certainly at the top of the pecking order. Yet, her husband’s position can only be maintained through some kind of reciprocity: she and her husband need to convince the American public that their votes will be “well spent”. Of course, if Pinker is right, openly admitting to this reciprocal arrangement would be counter-productive. Instead, Obama attempts to establish communal connections with the audience by relying on similar experiences.
Your Task for Today
I’d like you to write a one page persuasive speech. Here are the basic guidelines:
Regardless of the topic you choose, your speech must be structured around one of the three relationships listed above (Dominance, Communality, or Reciprocity). This relationship must be clearly reflected in the way you address your audience; this will be particularly reflected in the tone you choose.
- In the tradition of Noah S. Sweat, Jr. (remember the whiskey?), redefine a term so that it suits your argument (distinctio).
- Include one example of anaphora.
- include one rhetorical question
As you plan your speech, it might be helpful to think of the entire scenario. Are you a student trying to convince school administration to change the a particular policy? Are you a business owner who is lecturing employees about a problem that just won’t go away?