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The Power of Persuasion in Speeches of Pericles and Sanders

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The power of persuasion is a daunting thing. Everyday we are exposed to persuasive materials such as commercials, magazines, and billboards. Moreover, for centuries, political figures have been shaping the mind of the public into seeing things through their eyes. Nonetheless, It doesn’t have to be negative persuasion. A lot of political speeches are meant to promote patriotism as well as unity. Two very powerful political speakers, Pericles and Bernie Sanders, inhibit this quality.

Pericles and Sanders both promote the idea of unity by trying to unite their nations through the agreement of common ideas. Sanders, being a liberal politician, had an audience that was composed of very conservative college students whose views on rights are parallel with the Bible. In the very beginning of his speech, he addresses his “vision” in respect to every religion; “I am far, far from being a perfect human being, but I am motivated by a vision, which exists in all of the great religions, in Christianity, in Judaism, in Islam and Buddhism, and other religions.” (Sanders 2015) Making this statement puts Sanders on the same level as his audience. In order to stay on the level with his listeners, Sanders included many different Bible verses to appeal to his spectators. One verse that was quoted was directly backing up his “vision” that he had stated before. “And that vision is so beautifully and clearly stated in Matthew 7:12, and it states, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them to do to you, for this sums up the war and the prophets.” (Sanders 2015) Pericles promoted this idea of unity in his speech as well, but for a different reason. While Sanders is trying to win over a specific group of people, Pericles is trying to unite a nation under the idea that the war effort is the greatest sacrifice one could ever make. “Indeed if I have dwelt at some length upon the character of our country, it has been to show that our stake in the struggle is not the same as theirs who have no such blessings to lose, and also that the eulogy of the men over whom I am now speaking might be by definite proofs established.” (Thucydides, Ancient Rhetoric pg. 4) Throughout his speech, he alludes many times to the sacrifices that citizens have made for the good of the country, and how much he appreciates their valor. He uses this idea of not dying in vain to unite his country and ultimately instill complete patriotism in his citizens.

Patriotism is an important topic when speaking to a country. Citizens want to know that an important political leader, such as Sanders and Pericles, are devoted to leading their country in a way that will best represent their values. Sanders demonstrates this idea by alluding to the idea “that the United States of America, our great country, [is] a country which all of us love.” (Sanders 2015) A huge part of patriotism also falls back on the idea of unity, which was previously stated. Sanders ties the two together by insinuating that our country would function best if we could all communicate our morals and find a common ground. “But it is harder, but not less important, for us to try and communicate with those who do not agree with us on every issue. And it is important to see where if possible, and I do believe it is possible, we can find common ground.” (Sanders 2015) Finding a common ground is most helpful, especially in times of elections. Election season is when we disagree the most. Debates happen, citizens are affiliated with different parties, and we all vote for different candidates that we think would best lead our country. By finding a middle ground, we will unite under a common idea, and therefore display patriotism regarding our country’s beliefs. Pericles, even more so, promotes the idea of patriotism. The scenarios the speakers are voicing are different, but the idea remains constant. In the speech written by Pericles, he instills the idea of patriotism being a collective effort, and he insinuates that the men of their country should devote their lives to that idea. Pericles makes it known that sacrificing one’s life for the good of their country is the biggest honor, and it will outweigh any previous wrongdoings. “For there is justice in the claim that steadfastness in his country’s battles should be a cloak to cover a man’s other imperfections; since the good action has blotted out the bad, and his merit as a citizen more than outweighed his demerits as an individual.” (Thucydides, Ancient Rhetoric, pg. 5) This statement conveys patriotism when Pericles alludes to the fact that, once you partake in the war, and exhibit your willingness to sacrifice your life you are no longer an individual, but are a part of the collective society and have leveled up to a citizen.

The art of conveying the themes of unity and patriotism is very intricate. One can say it takes a profound writer and speaker to carry out the essence of rhetoric. Both Pericles and Sanders make use of pathos, logos, and ethos to appeal to their audiences and demonstrate their views of unity and patriotism. Bernie Sanders emotionally connects to his audience through logos by inserting statistics about American poverty, and the effects it has on children. He writes, “The United States of America has the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on Earth. How can we? I want you to go into your hearts, how can we talk about morality, about justice, when we turn our backs on the children of our country?… In my view, there is no justice, and morality suffers when in our wealthy country, millions of children go to bed hungry. That is not morality and that is not in my view … what America should be about.” (Sanders 2015) By inserting the statistics about childhood poverty, he connects to his audience on a poignant level. Pericles uses similar rhetoric tactics to emotionally appeal to his audience. He makes use of pathos when he speaks directly to the families of the men who sacrificed themselves for the good of their country. “Comfort, therefore not condolence, is what I have to offer to the parents of the dead who may be here. Numberless are the chances to which, as they know, the life of man is subject, but fortunate indeed are they who draw their lot a death so glorious as that which has caused your mourning, and the whom life has been so exactly measured as to terminate in the happiness in which it has been passed.” (Thucydides, Ancient Rhetoric, pg. 7) In this statement, Pericles is reassuring the families who have lost a son, husband, or grandson’s that they did not die in vain, but rather for the well being of their beloved country. By using pathos, Pericles makes his eulogy more personable, and emotionally appealing to his audience.

Political rhetoric is a difficult thing to dictate. It takes a powerful speaker to properly convey their ideas to the audience. Whether is be an ancient or modern politician, they all use pathos, ethos, and logos to get their values across. Bernie Sanders and Pericles had very similar tactics to portray the concept of unity and patriotism within their respective countries.

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