Identify these 6 rhetorical strategies in these 3 speeches from The Great Debaters



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Identify these 6 rhetorical strategies in these 3 speeches from The Great Debaters:

Rhetorical Question Aphorism from Famous Person Repetition or Anaphora



Use Opponent’s Words Against Him Vivid Anecdote (tale) Analogy



DEBATE 1

Samantha Booke: Resolved: Negroes should be admitted to state universities. My partner and I will prove that blocking a Negro’s admission to a state university is not only wrong, it is absurd. 1) The Negro people are not just a color in the American fabric. They are the thread that holds it all together. Consider the legal and historical record: May 13th, 1865, Sergeant Crocker, a Negro, is the last soldier to die in the civil war. 1918, the first U.S. soldiers decorated for bravery in France are Negroes Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts. 1920, The New York Times announces that the "n" in "Negro" would hereafter be capitalized.

Oklahoma City College Debater: Force upon the South what they are not ready for would result in nothing but more racial hatred. 2) Dr. W. E. B. Dubois, perhaps the most eminent Negro scholar in America, comments, "It's a silly waste of money, time, and temper, to try and propel a powerful majority to do what they are determined not to do.”

Henry Lowe: My opponent so conveniently chose to ignore the fact that W. E. B. Dubois is the first Negro to receive a Ph.D. from a white college called Harvard.

Oklahoma City College Debater: Dr. Dubois adds, "It is impossible" --  impossible! -- "for a Negro to receive a proper education at a white college.”

Henry Lowe: The most eminent Negro scholar in America is the product of an Ivy League education. You see, Dubois knows all too well the white man's resistance to change; but that's no reason to keep a black man out of any college. 3) If someone didn't force upon the South something it wasn't ready for, I'd still be in chains, and Miss Booke here would be running from ol’ master.

Oklahoma City College Debater: I do admit it. It is true: Far too many whites are afflicted with the disease of racial hatred. And because of racism, it would be impossible for a Negro to be happy at a Southern white college today. And if someone is unhappy, it is impossible to see how they could receive a proper education. Yes, a time will come when Negroes and whites will walk on the same campus, and we will share the same classrooms; but, sadly, that day is not today.

Samantha Booke: As long as schools are segregated, Negroes will receive an education that is both separate and unequal. By Oklahoma's own reckoning, the state is currently spending five times more for the education of a white child than it is spending to educate a colored child. That means better text books for that [white] child than for that [Negro] child. Oh, I say that's a shame. But my opponent says today is not the day for whites and coloreds to go to the same college, to share the same campus, to walk in the same classroom. Well, 4) would you kindly tell me when is that day going to come? Is it going to come tomorrow? Is it going to come next week? In a hundred years? Never?! No, the time for justice, the time for freedom, and the time for equality, is always -- is always -- right now!

DEBATE 2

James Farmer, Jr: Resolved: Civil disobedience is a moral weapon in the fight for justice. 5) But how can disobedience ever be moral? Well I guess that depends on one's definition of the word. 6) In 1919, in India, ten thousand people gathered in Amritsar to protest the tyranny of British rule. General Reginald Dyer trapped them in a courtyard and ordered his troops to fire into the crowd for ten minutes. Three hundred seventy-nine died -- men, women, children, shot down in cold blood. Dyer said he had taught them "a moral lesson." Gandhi and his followers responded not with violence, but with an organized campaign of noncooperation. Government buildings were occupied. Streets were blocked with people who refused to rise, even when beaten by police. Gandhi was arrested. But the British were soon forced to release him. He called it a "moral victory." The definition of moral: Dyer's "lesson" or Gandhi's victory. You choose.

First Harvard Debater: From 1914 to 1918, for every single minute the world was at war, four men laid down their lives. Just think of it: 7) Two hundred and forty brave young men were hurled into eternity every hour, of every day, of every night, for four long years. Thirty-five thousand hours; eight million, two hundred and eighty-one thousand casualties. Two hundred and forty. Two hundred and forty. Two hundred and forty. Here was a slaughter immeasurably greater than what happened at Amritsar. Can there be anything moral about it? Nothing -- except that it stopped Germany from enslaving all of Europe. Civil disobedience isn't moral because it's nonviolent. Fighting for your country with violence can be deeply moral, demanding the greatest sacrifice of all: life itself. Nonviolence is the mask civil disobedience wears to conceal its true face: anarchy.  

Samantha Booke: Gandhi believes one must always act with love and respect for one's opponents -- even if they are Harvard debaters. Gandhi also believes that law breakers must accept the legal consequences for their actions. Does that sound like anarchy? Civil disobedience is not something for us to fear. It is, after all, an American concept. You see, Gandhi draws his inspiration not from a Hindu scripture, but from Henry David Thoreau, who, I believe, graduated from Harvard and lived by a pond not too far from here.

Second Harvard Debater: My opponent is right about one thing: Thoreau was a Harvard grad; and, like many of us, a bit self-righteous. Thoreau once said, 8) "Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one." Thoreau the idealist could never know that Adolf Hitler would agree with his words. The beauty and the burden of democracy is this: No idea prevails without the support of the majority. The People decide the moral issues of the day, not "a majority of one."

Samantha Booke: Majorities do not decide what is right or wrong. Your conscience does. 9) So why should a citizen surrender his or her conscience to a legislature? For we must never, ever kneel down before the tyranny of a majority.

Second Harvard Debater: You can't decide which laws to obey and which to ignore. If we could, I'd never stop for a red light. 10) My father is one of those men that stands between us and chaos: a police officer. I remember the day his partner, his best friend, was gunned down in the line of duty. Most vividly of all, I remember the expression on my dad's face. Nothing that erodes the rule of law can be moral, no matter what name we give it.

James Farmer, Jr: 11) In Texas, they lynch Negroes. My teammates and I saw a man strung up by his neck and set on fire. We drove through a lynch mob, pressed our faces against the floorboard. I looked at my teammates. I saw the fear in their eyes; and worse -- the shame. 12) What was this Negro’s crime that he should be hung, without trial, in a dark forest filled with fog? Was he a thief? Was he a killer? Or just a Negro? Was he a sharecropper? A preacher? Were his children waiting up for him? And who were we to just lie there and do nothing? No matter what he did, the mob was the criminal. But the law did nothing -- just left us wondering why. 13) My opponent says, "Nothing that erodes the rule of law can be moral." But there is no rule of law in the Jim Crow South, not when Negroes are denied housing, turned away from schools, hospitals -- and not when we are lynched. 14) Saint Augustine said, "An unjust law is no law at all," which means I have a right, even a duty, to resist -- with violence or civil disobedience. You should pray I choose the latter.



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