Monday, May 27, 2013

A Compelling Call

Rhetoric is the art of discourse that attempts to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. Though widely used in Western culture, the best known definition of rhetoric comes from Aristotle, who considers it a counterpart of both logic and politics, and calls it "the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion."  Using Aristotle's three persuasive audience appeals of logos, pathos, and ethos rhetoric as heuristics for understanding, Elder Dallin H. Oaks calls for unity in protecting religious freedom. 

Elder Oaks establishes  ethos, or his authority as the keynote speaker in the beginning of his speech given at Chapman University School of Law on February 4, 2011.  Being a former Justice of the Utah Supreme Court as well as a current apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides validity among both political and various religious leaders to call for religions’ former respected position in our nation.

By relying on common values to unify his audience, Oaks allows them to see how their shared fundamental values are greater than their differences in religious doctrine. 
He refers to our country’s charitable generosity that is initiated by religion.  He explains how the peace in our country is based on each citizen’s willingness to adhere to an absolute moral law originated within the realm of religion.

Oaks continues his argument with reference to how our country’s founding fathers gave religious freedom top priority in the First Amendment.  This strikes a patriotic chord with both civic and religious citizens.  Using rhetoric to combine religious principles with human worth and dignity serves to unite the group in a common purpose.  Elder Oak’s example of how Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation which was delivered under religious freedom’s umbrella and is based on religious values, promoted great progress in our country.  Elder Oaks stirs up emotion (pathos) by bringing attention to the commonalities of our Country’s first political leaders and their efforts to retain a democratic government.

Elder Oaks concludes by providing logical evidence (logos) that the moral fiber on which our country was built is weakened if a majority of citizens believe that religion contributes no unique value to society. He calls for political and religious leaders to unite.

By using the ancient Greek rhetoric tools of ethos, pathos, logos at the right or opportune moment (Kairos), Elder Dallin H. Oaks' speech is a compelling call.


  1. What a powerful speech! I read it last summer for my American Heritage class and have reviewed it since. I like how you summarized it and highlighted the rhetoric he used. You did a great job!

    1. Thank you Kimara. It is a great speech.

  2. You really got into the topic of rhetoric! Good for you for finding and applying these terms.