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Greek philosopher Plato once said, “Rhetoric is the art of ruling the minds of men.” Likewise, Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice uses rhetoric at the September 11, 2001 Commission to dispel any rumors regarding the Bush administration’s complacency towards recent terrorist attacks. By using stylistic choices such as diction, organization, and content, Rice explains the harsh attacks that have been directed at the United States and the efforts prevent them from happening again.
In her speech, Condoleezza Rice uses strong diction to not only point out the severity of the terrorist attacks, but also to bring hope to the Commission as they move forward. When speaking of attacks that happened prior to September 11, Rice states that, “These and other atrocities were part of a sustained, systematic, campaign to spread devastation and chaos and to murder innocent Americans.” The Former Secretary of State utilizes pathos by using harsh diction such as “devastation,” chaos,” and “murder innocent Americans,” showing the violent and treacherous nature of terrorist attacks. She also uses words such as “vicious,” “catastrophic,” “decapitate,” “destroy,” and “break the spirit of America” to describe her thoughts and feelings during the bombings. Rice’s harsh diction sets the tone as to how detrimental the attacks were. She also proves to the Commission that the Bush administration understands the severity of the terrorist attacks, and reassures that there is no sense of complacency towards this great American tragedy.
Not only does Dr. Rice use harsh diction, but she also uses encouraging diction in the latter half of her speech to show how the future of the United States will be more positive. When speaking of the future of the United States, Rice explains, “Now we have an opportunity and obligation to move forward together.” In comparison to her earlier remarks, Condoleezza Rice is speaking optimistically about the United States. She wants to shift gears from all of the terrible things that have happened and speak about the positivity that can be accomplished through these tragedies. Diction such as “opportunity,” “obligation,” and “together” gives a sense of unity as Rice convinces the Commission that it is possible for the country to recover from this unspeakable tragedy. She also uses a favorable, happy diction when speaking of George Bush. She asserts, “President Bush is leading the country during this time of crisis and change. He has unified and streamlined our efforts to secure the American homeland … he has done this in a way that is consistent with protecting America’s cherished civil liberties and with preserving our character as a free and open society.” Rice speaks highly of Bush to show that he is the one responsible for helping the country move forward after the 9/11 attacks. She wants the Commission to see that Bush is responding to the situation in a way that benefits the United States instead of sitting back and doing nothing. The former Secretary of State first uses the phrase “crisis and change” to reiterate the the Bush administration’s awareness of these severe attacks. She also uses favorable diction such as “unified,” “secure the American homeland,” “protecting America’s cherished civil liberties,” and “free and open society,” to persuade the Commission of George Bush and his administration’s great efforts to move forward from the terrorist attacks of 9/11 through pathos. Rice’s use of pathos throughout her speech by using harsh and encouraging diction is incredibly persuasive as she sways the Commission to think positively of the Bush administration and their efforts to respond correctly to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Along with diction, Rice establishes ethos by referring to notable people who are working to prevent future terrorist attacks. Rice first mentions that she and George Bush were briefed by George Tenet, former Director of Central Intelligence, and member’s of Sandy Berger’s NSC [National Security Council] staff concerning al-Qaida and counterterrorism. When discussing the Bush administration’s attitude towards al-Qaida, Rice states that, “President Bush understood the threat, and he understood its importance.” She also mentions senior national security officials who approved the former President’s new plans and strategies. Additionally, former Chief of Staff Andy Card and former National Coordinator for Security Dick Clarke took part in making sure that the Bush administration took proper action towards al-Quida. The people that are mentioned in Rice’s speech are prominent figures, well known in the government setting. Rice uses them and the work that they are doing to prove to the Commission that the Bush administration is operating on getting the issues of recent terrorist attacks fixed.
Lastly, Condoleezza Rice organizes her speech with logos to give concise information regarding recent terrorist attacks. First, she gives background to prior terrorist attacks that have occurred towards the United States. Rice states that, “The terrorist threat to our nation did not emerge on September 11, 2001.” She then continues to list a number of hijackings and bombings that involved the United States and terrorists. She names them all in order:
“The attack on Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983; the hijacking of the Achille Lauro in 1985; the rise of al-Qaida and the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993; the attacks on American installations in Saudi Arabia in 1995 and 1996; the East Africa [embassy] bombings of 1998; the attack on the USS Cole in 2000 …,” (1).
She also mentions, “the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 and continued German harassment of American shipping,” (2). Condoleezza Rice starts out with the history of these attacks to not only make her speech flow logically, but also to show that what happened on September 11, 2001 is not something new to the United States. Stating prior attacks gives Rice’s audience a better understanding of what the United States has previously dealt with, giving reassurance to the fact that the recent attacks will be handled as they have been previously.
Rice then uses logos to outline the Bush administration’s understanding towards the severity of the terrorist attacks and the actions that were taken to prevent future tragedies from happening. When discussing briefings during George Bush’s time as President-elect, Rice states that, “Because of these briefings and because we had watched the rise of al-Qaeda over many years, we understood that the network posed a serious threat to the United States.” The former Secretary of State also mentions that “our goal was to ensure continuity of operations while we developed new policies,” indicating that George Bush and his administration were already prepared to respond to and prepare for terrorist attacks before Bush even became President. Rice also presents the Commission with documents to help further their work. She first begins with the National Security Presidential Directive, a highly classified document which was presented with declassified portions. These portions outline the responsibilities of Cabinet secretaries, department heads, and the Secretary of Defense. Specifically, the portions outline commands such as, “the Secretary of State [must] work with other countries to end all sanctuaries given to al-Qaida,” and “the secretaries of the Treasury and State [must] work with foreign governments to seize or freeze assets and holding of al-Qaeda’s and its benefactors.” Rice also presents multiple fronts which “detect, protect against, and disrupt andy terrorist pans or operations that might lead to an attack.” The fronts discuss urgent security advisories among different department heads and the FBI’s use of warnings and increased security. Finally, the former Secretary of State closes out her speech by explaining the actions that are being taken by the Bush administration in order to handle the recent terrorist attacks. Rice further explains the mindset of the President and his team, going into detail on how they want to battle against al-Qaida and other terrorists. She states that, “In the aftermath of September the 11th, those were the right choices for America to make — the only choices that can ensure the safety of our nation for decades to come.” This statement powerfully ends Rice’s speech as she imperatively defends the decisions made by the Bush administration. Her use of logos as a basis of organization allows her speech to flow smoothly, therefore convincing the Commission that work is being done to prevent future attacks.
Diction, content, and organization are how Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice proves the hardwork and dedication of the Bush administration to the 9/11 Commission.
Through logos, ethos, and pathos, Rice is able to reach out to her audience and explain all the things being done to help the United States move forward. By emotionally connecting through severity and encouragement, using political figure to back her work, and logically showing the progression of the Bush administration and their efforts to move forward, Rice, in a sense, rules the mind of the Commission with her great use of rhetoric, dispelling any rumors of complacency and instead showing that progress is being made.
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