Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sarah Palin and the Art of Rhetoric

Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin showed off her own keen oratorical skills this evening at the G.O.P. convention. Like Democrat President Clinton, she demonstrated that Republicans also know the value of a well-timed turn of phrase, working in a nice chiasmus -- an artful use of interlocking word order -- into tonight's acceptance speech: "In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change."

The presidential election season is always a wonderful opportunity to examine the speeches of politicians and how they use language artfully to persuade and sway the electorate. A great place to start is Silva Rhetoricae, a site dedicated to the study of Classical and Renaissance rhetoric. There's also a much briefer, but still useful Glossary of Rhetorical Terms maintained by the University of Kentucky Classic Department.

Those of you who are reading and studying great Classical authors, speakers and poets may want to consider how the figures of speech used by the likes of Caesar, Cicero and Vergil are imitated by modern politicians and activists to evoke emotional responses and persuade people to action.