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The world has had a number of great orators. From the time of Winston Churchill to Martin Luther King Jnr. to President Obama, a number of individuals have left an indelible mark in the field of public speaking. Public speaking is an art. It requires more than having the right content for delivery, but mastering how best to deliver it to the right audience, in the correct manner that befits the situation at hand. Good public speaking and particularly giving a speech requires a lot of preparation and research. It calls for the orator to go out of his or her way to analyze the audience, the speaking situation, the subject, and the topic (Metcalfe 82). This essay analyzes Al Gore’s Noble Peace Prize acceptance speech with emphasis on the rhetorical techniques used in the speech, as well as analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of his argument.
Al Gore is a name that is mentioned almost synonymously with environmental activism. Al Gore has served in different capacities of the U.S. government. Gore is the former vice president and was on the race for a presidential bid in 2000. In addition, Al Gore has been a best-seller author with famous publications such as The Assault on Reason published in 2007, Earth in Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit published in 2000, as well as An Inconvenient Truth: the Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do about It, published in 2006. Al Gore is also known for his groundbreaking An Inconvenient Truth, which won him an Academy Award for best documentary in 2007 (Ramage, Bean and Johnson 592). If the above publications and other unpublished lectures in climate forums are anything to go by, there is no doubt that Al Gore is a credible authority in matters of climate crisis management, and no wonder, his efforts and spirit captured the attention of the Nobel Prize committee who awarded him the Peace Prize in conjunction with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007.
Al Gore’s Noble Peace Prize Acceptance speech was delivered on 10th December 2007, in Oslo, Norway. Gore, together with the UN IPCC won the prize for their work in raising awareness of and combating global warming. The first part of this essay will outline Gore’s central argument and main ideas, and later on, the essay will analyze the rhetorical techniques that he uses in his speech. The Nobel Lecture, as his acceptance speech is briefly, known has a number of ideas that he puts across. Nevertheless, Gore’s principal argument is to convince people that climate change is caused by human activities; and therefore, human beings should act swiftly to curb the menace (Ramage, Bean and Johnson 592).
Al Gore starts of his speech by hinting that he has a purpose. Nonetheless, he does not disclose his purpose immediately. He only states that he prays that whatever he is feeling in his heart will be communicated with enough clarity to those who hear in a manner that will arouse a desire to act. Therefore, his main argument is that people should wake up and do something concerning global warming. Gore states that the fight against climate change is a fight between life and death. He alludes to the fact that scientists have laid the two options: that of life and death, and, therefore, it remains to be seen what choice human beings will take (Ramage, Bean and Johnson 592). By alluding to the opinion made by scientists, Gore makes his speech only a means of making their opinions known. In order to paint the gravity of global warming, Gore offers moving statistics and evidence to show that it is a reality, hence, convincing the would-be ‘Thomas’, who may still consider the matter a myth.
After putting across his first, main idea that global warming and climate change are real and that scientists have long before warned humanity about it, Gore goers on to his second main idea of his speech. In this case, he unveils that people ought to act swiftly in order to mobilize human civilization with the urgency and resolution only second to that witnessed when nations prepare for a war. Gore, thus, compares the fight against global warming and climate change to a country prepared for a battlefield. This helps to capture the seriousness of the matter and the need to take action swiftly. Gore wants people to see the need to urgently fix the problem of global warming. He motivates his audience to make a bold step towards change by being hopeful that his speech will arouse a sense of courage, hope, as well as readiness for people to engage in the fight between life and death (Ramage, Bean and Johnson 593).
Another idea that Gore puts across in his speech is that he argues against those people who prefer to leave the battle against global warming to what he calls ‘the invisible hand’. He unveils these are as the market forces or the concerted efforts of individuals and private entities. Although Gore acknowledges that such efforts are important, he warns that their impact would be ‘too little, too late’. As such, Gore makes the fight against global warming a war that everyone should partake. He tastes that the world would be making a great mistake by leaving the fight against global warming and climate change to individuals. This is because the matter is a global catastrophe that is threatening to destroy humanity and planet earth. Therefore, everybody should make it his or her duty to do everything within their capacity to curb the menace (Ramage, Bean and Johnson 595).
As mentioned earlier, the art of public speaking entails more than merely having what to say in front of an audience. It encompasses the use of rhetoric techniques. These are strategies of persuasion and include three types of appeal: ethos, pathos, and logos. These three appeals were first articulated by the Greek philosopher Aristotle in his book, The Rhetoric. Ethos, pathos and logos still continue to guide communicators today (Parry-Giles and Hogan 432). Al Gore’s Noble Lecture no doubt uses these rhetoric techniques in persuading his audience and the entire world at large to act to curb the menace of global warming and climate change.
Ethos, or speaker credibility, is the sense of competence and character a speaker conveys. Logos, or logical appeals, is the systematic way the speaker structures the argument and the way he or she uses reasoning to build it and support his or her claims with evidence. Pathos, or emotional appeals, refers to attempts to stimulate particular feelings in the audience. The principal question that begs reply is how Al Gore uses these rhetorical techniques in his Noble Lecture. Gore’s speech uses ethos in a number of ways. The pillars of ethos are credibility, character and competence (Sellnow 381). One of the major things that render Gore credible to deliver this speech is the fact that it comes six weeks after being announced the winner of the Noble Peace Prize for his efforts to educate the world on global warming and climate change.
A speaker’s credibility is a reserve of the audience. It can vary over the course of speech, enabling people to build ethos. Messages about credibility are sent before the speaker begins to speak, giving rise to initial credibility. In the case of Gore’s lecture, the audience has initial credibility of the speaker because Gore is a respected authority in the field of climate crisis management if his track record on efforts to curb global warming and climate change are anything to go by (Ramage, Bean and Johnson 592). In addition, Gore creates derived credibility in the course of his speech through his association with the war on global warming and climate change. In his speech, he cites how his father had a personal relationship with Cordell Hull, considered as the Father of the United Nations. By citing Hull, Gore’s audience is able to associate him with attaining peace in the world, in his case, through educating the masses on global warming and its detrimental effects.
Apart from ethos, Gore also uses logos in his speech. This technique is mainly concerned with how the speaker uses reasoning and evidence in his speech (Sellnow 382). Strong evidence is important in any speech, but particularly persuasive speeches like Gore’s. Evidence enhances credibility. Gore uses evidence by citing the impacts of climate change. He says that millions have been displaced by massive flooding in different countries, and tens of thousands lost their lives. Gore also uses qualified impartial sources in persuading his audience. For instance, he cites scientists, experts, and institutions such as the U.S. Navy researchers. He also uses new evidence by citing that as he spoke, the earth would dumb 70 million tons of global warming-pollution. New evidence gets listeners to rethink the issue and shows that the speaker has done thorough research (Sellnow 383).
The last rhetoric technique used in Nobel Lecture is pathos. Pathos involves a wide variety of emotional appeals – to positive emotions such as love, pride, compassion, and reverence, as well as to negative emotions such as fear, anger, jealousy, shame and guilt (Metcalfe 83). Gore shapes his content to generate emotional appeals by using startling statistics. Gore cites various relevant evidences from experts in the field of global warming and climate change. For instance, he gives the statistics of the number of people who have being affected by climate change in different parts of the world.
In conclusion, Gore’s speech is strong in the fact that he is a credible source in the choice of topic. His track record on matters of environmental activism makes the audience establish credibility with his words. Nevertheless, one weakness of his arguments is that he has overused evidence. He cites too many sources in his argument ranging from poets, playwrights, scientists and experts (Ramage, Bean and Johnson 594). This excess use of evidence may end up confusing the audience. Although the ethos and logos are fully developed in his speech, his attempt to use evidence to evoke emotions in his audience is somehow wanting. It tends to render the speech more technical, hence, a reserve of linguistic technocrats. This beats the logic of his argument since it meant to persuade all people to wage war against global warming and climate change.
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