Before You Read
Literary devices can be used in speeches to convey a specific meaning or emotion. Some of these literary devices are listed below.
epiphora (as called epistrophe)
|the repetition of a word or words at the end of a phrase, clause, or sentence1|
Apology to Australia's Indigenous Peoples [excerpt]
by The Hon Kevin Rudd
For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.
To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.
And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.
|the repetition of a word or words at the beginning of a phrase, clause, or sentence|
Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death [excerpt]
by Patrick Henry
I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
|the placement of opposing ideas or qualities near each other to emphasize one or both of them through contrast|
Quit India [excerpt]
by Mahatma Gandhi
Ours is not a drive for power, but purely a non-violent fight for India’s independence. In a violent struggle, a successful general has been often known to effect a military coup and to set up a dictatorship. But under the Congress scheme of things, essentially non-violent as it is, there can be no room for dictatorship. A non-violent soldier of freedom will covet nothing for himself, he fights only for the freedom of his country. The Congress is unconcerned as to who will rule, when freedom is attained. The power, when it comes, will belong to the people of India, and it will be for them to decide to whom it placed in the entrusted.
|the use of one thing to represent another|
Inaugural Address [excerpt]
by John F. Kennedy
And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved
|the attitude of the author towards a topic|
Abolition Speech [excerpt]
By William Wilberforce
As soon as ever I had arrived thus far in my investigation of the slave trade, I confess to you sir, so enormous so dreadful, so irremediable did its wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for the abolition. A trade founded in iniquity, and carried on as this was, must be abolished, let the policy be what it might,—let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest till I had effected its abolition.
Discuss these questions with your class.
- Have you heard or read any of these literary devices in English before?
- Are any of these devices used in your native language?
President Abraham Lincoln gave the speech below to honor soldiers who died fighting in the American Civil War of the 1860s.
by President Abraham Lincoln
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. “But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us,that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
After You Read
Abraham Lincoln's use of epistrophe and anaphora add emphasis and rhythm to his speech. Circle the use of epistrophe and anaphora in the speech. Then, answer the questions below.
by President Abraham Lincoln
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. “But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
1. Why would Lincoln use anaphora to draw emphasis to the words or phrases that he did?
2. Why would Lincoln use epistrophe to draw emphasis to the words or phrases that he did?
3. Lincoln uses anaphora and epistrophe in groups of three. The rule of three states that things presented in groups of three are more interesting. How did using groups of three add power to Lincoln's speech?
Before You Read
The speech below was given by President Ronald Reagan on Jun 12, 1987, at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. After World War II, Germany was split by the Allied forces into different parts led by different countries of the Allied forces; the western side of Germany was run by the United States of America, United Kingdom, and France, while the eastern side of Germany was run by the Soviet Union (USSR).1
The city of Berlin was also divided into West and East. In the 1960s, the Soviet Union built a wall around West Berlin2 to stop people from East Berlin from leaving through West Berlin.3 In 1987 when this speech was given, the Berlin Wall still surrounded West Berlin and split the East from the West.
When the speech was given, Mikail Gorbachev was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1985-1991). Mikhail Gorbachev is known for lessening tensions between the USSR and the United States and for helping to end the Cold War3, the rivalry between the USSR and Western democracies.
The Berlin Wall
Remarks at the Brandenburg Gate [excerpt]
by President Ronald Reagan
Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe. From the Baltic South, those barriers cut across Germany in a gash of barbed wire, concrete, dog runs, and guard towers. Farther south, there may be no visible, no obvious wall. But there remain armed guards and checkpoints all the same -- still a restriction on the right to travel, still an instrument to impose upon ordinary men and women the will of a totalitarian state.
Yet, it is here in Berlin where the wall emerges most clearly; here, cutting across your city, where the news photo and the television screen have imprinted this brutal division of a continent upon the mind of the world.
Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German separated from his fellow men.
Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar.
President Von Weizsäcker has said, "The German question is open as long as the Brandenburg Gate is closed." Well today -- today I say: As long as this gate is closed, as long as this scar of a wall is permitted to stand, it is not the German question alone that remains open, but the question of freedom for all mankind.
And now -- now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the importance of freedom. We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness. Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate with greater freedom from state control.
Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty -- the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.
There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.
General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate.
Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate.
Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
After You Read
Discuss these questions as a class.
- What was this speech about?
- Who gave the speech?
- Who was the audience of this speech?
- What was the purpose of this speech?
- What was juxtaposed in this speech?
- How did that juxtaposition resonate or connect with the audience?
Discuss the following questions with a partner.
- What could the wall symbolize?
- What could the gate symbolize?
- What would tearing the wall down symbolize?
- How is this speech made more powerful or impactful by using symbols?
Think of things that could symbolize the ideas below. List the possible symbols for each on the lines below.
Remarks at the 2020 Democratic National Convention [excerpt]
by Michelle Obama
Empathy: that’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. The ability to walk in someone else’s shoes; the recognition that someone else’s experience has value, too. Most of us practice this without a second thought. If we see someone suffering or struggling, we don’t stand in judgment. We reach out because, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” It is not a hard concept to grasp. It’s what we teach our children.
And like so many of you, Barack and I have tried our best to instill in our girls a strong moral foundation to carry forward the values that our parents and grandparents poured into us. But right now, kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another. They’re looking around wondering if we’ve been lying to them this whole time about who we are and what we truly value.
They see people shouting in grocery stores, unwilling to wear a mask to keep us all safe. They see people calling the police on folks minding their own business just because of the color of their skin. They see an entitlement that says only certain people belong here, that greed is good, and winning is everything because as long as you come out on top, it doesn’t matter what happens to everyone else. And they see what happens when that lack of empathy is ginned up into outright disdain.
They see our leaders labeling fellow citizens enemies of the state while emboldening torch-bearing white supremacists. They watch in horror as children are torn from their families and thrown into cages, and pepper spray and rubber bullets are used on peaceful protestors for a photo-op.
Sadly, this is the America that is on display for the next generation. A nation that’s underperforming not simply on matters of policy but on matters of character. And that’s not just disappointing; it’s downright infuriating, because I know the goodness and the grace that is out there in households and neighborhoods all across this nation.
And I know that regardless of our race, age, religion, or politics, when we close out the noise and the fear and truly open our hearts, we know that what’s going on in this country is just not right. This is not who we want to be.
So what do we do now? What’s our strategy? Over the past four years, a lot of people have asked me, “When others are going so low, does going high still really work?” My answer: going high is the only thing that works, because when we go low, when we use those same tactics of degrading and dehumanizing others, we just become part of the ugly noise that’s drowning out everything else. We degrade ourselves. We degrade the very causes for which we fight.
But let’s be clear: going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty. Going high means taking the harder path. It means scraping and clawing our way to that mountain top. Going high means standing fierce against hatred while remembering that we are one nation under God, and if we want to survive, we’ve got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences.
And going high means unlocking the shackles of lies and mistrust with the only thing that can truly set us free: the cold hard truth. ...
After You Read
Answer the following questions on the lines below.
What is the topic of this part of Michelle Obama's speech?
Write about how you felt while reading the excerpt from this speech.
What do you think Michelle Obama felt about the topics she discusses in this part of the speech? What is her tone?
What words or phrases let you know what Michelle Obama's attitude toward the topic was?
How did her use of tone affect your reaction to the topic(s)?