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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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When giving a speech, it is important to be able to grasp the audience's attention from the very beginning to the end, and there are many ways to do so. In his speech called, “Lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” Cesar Chavez uses rhetorical devices such as allusions, parallelism, and charged language to get his point across and persuade the audience on the topic of not using pesticides on crops.


First, Chavez uses allusions to appeal to ethics and let the audience know that he has experience on the subject.  For example, when describing what the cause of pesticides can do, Chavez says, “These poisons cause cancer, DNA mutation, and horrible birth defects” (32). This statement suggests that Chavez has done his research and is knowledgeable on the topic. Later in the speech, Chavez states, “During my first fast in 1968, Dr. King reminded me that our struggle was his struggle too” (22). When referencing Dr. King, Chavez earns credibility because King was known as a trustworthy and reliable source.


Furthermore, the speaker uses parallelism to persuades his listeners through logical explanation. For instance, during the middle of his speech, Chavez says, “The prestigious National Academy of Sciences recently concluded an exhaustive five-year study which determined that pesticides do not improve profits and do not produce more crops” (29). Using the company and explaining the research they did gives him leverage on the subject because he gave an academy name that holds high status. Chavez then goes on to another real life example, saying,  “The pesticides soak the fields, drift with the wind, pollute the water, and are eaten by unwitting consumers” (31). Referencing what happens with the pesticides makes the listeners think about the situation from a different perspective and persuades them to take action against it.


Finally, Chavez uses charged language to appeal to the emotions of the audience and make them feel for the topic he is talking about. For example, he says, “These poisons are designed to kill, and pose a very real threat to consumers and farm workers alike” (32). In other words, stating that people can die from consumption along with working with the crops lets the audience know they could be in danger as well and that they should help put a stop to using pesticides. Later on in the speech, Chavez states, “So many babies are born without limbs and vital organs” (42). When using this type of word choice, Chavez refers to little children because he wants the people to think about what it's like without limbs, or having their own child go through that experience.


In conclusion, in order to keep the audience listening and engaged about the harm that pesticides cause, Chavez needed to make his speech relatable to the audience and get them to think about the situation. To achieve this, the speaker used rhetorical devices such as allusions, parallelism, and charged language which made the listeners go further into their thoughts and persuade them that pesticides are harmful to the workers and the children. There are many rhetorical devices one can use to grasp the listeners attention, and Chavez used these three to do just that.






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