In an essay, you will analyze the rhetorical situation for Robert F. Kennedy, “Remarks on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.” in terms of audience and occasion constraints and resources.
Read and listen to Robert F. Kennedy's “Remarks on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Links to an external site.),” delivered on April 4, 1968. Listen to the audio; do not just watch the short video excerpt. Consider, also, Kennedy's adaptation to the occasion. In an essay of 400–600 words, discuss the following things:
demographics, culture, and psychology: Consult at least one outside source (in addition to your textbook) to determine who his audience was on that day and then use your critical thinking skills to determine what the demographics, cultures, and psychologies would likely be.
Referring to the speech text and your textbook, explain how demographics would influence Kennedy's rhetorical choices.
Referring to the speech text and your textbook, explain how culture would influence Kennedy's rhetorical choices. In particular, explain how he adapted to cultural diversity.
Referring to the speech text and your textbook, explain how audience psychology would influence Kennedy's rhetorical choices. In particular, explain his efforts at identification (with specific reference to the text of the speech).
Referring to the concepts of "illusion of life,""“virtual time," and “incongruent messages” in the Chuang & Hart additional reading, how does Kennedy manage time as a constraint and a resource in his speech?
How would you assess Kennedy's ethos in this speech?
Use at least two scholarly sources (the Chuang and Hart article counts as one of the two) to support your argument.
In addition, you can use news magazines, such as Time or Newsweek, and newspaper articles for background and historical information. Sources that originate on the Internet are not acceptable. (This means that, if you have a source that was originally published in print but is available online, it is okay to use that source). Remember to take advantage of the Penn State University Libraries search engines. In particular, you may find the New York Times Historical and the ProQuest search engines helpful for this and many of your other assignments.
All papers should be Word-processed and cited in the style you are most familiar with (such as APA, MLA, or Chicago). Your paper should be approximately 400–600 words, or up to two double-spaced pages, in Times New Roman with 12-point font and indented paragraphs. Include a word count in your submission.
All papers must be free from typographical and spelling mistakes. Errors of grammar, syntax, and composition affect the assignment grade.
Robert F. Kennedy’s speech was delivered in 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King. Kennedy’s rhetoric choices were influenced by three main factors, demography, psychology, and culture. The speech’s main occasion was in Indianapolis inside a ghetto, and the audience was diverse, with a mixture of races. The audience consisted of the white people of more than one thousand population, and black people (Buck, 2020). Kennedy being a white man speaking to an audience with more black people, the race was the main constraint in delivering the speech. Kennedy felt like the black people would not understand receiving the message openly because he would not understand their perspective as a white man. According to the demographic nature of a ghetto, the education level, occupation, culture, and other demographic factors were some of the concerns towards the reception Kennedy could get in giving the speech (List,2020).
The speech occasion came when the country was going through racial disturbances and riots. When Martin Luther King was killed, the looters were on the streets burning cities and raging people mercilessly. Amid the racial chaos, Kennedy used a speech as a plea of compassion to stop and prevent the hostility and racial violence that was a tragedy in the country (Buck, 2020). Being a white man and a tenor, tinny, and a voice with pained earnestness, Kennedy psychologically influenced the audience into listening and remaining calm. Kennedy used the psychology of persuasion. For instance, Kennedy using a quiet, flourished voice, asked the audience, “what has violence ever accomplished”? which was plausible.
Kennedy’s speech was constructed within no time because there was no time to waste due to the racial tension created after the assassination. Because the audience consisted of a mixture of races, culture played an important role in making rhetorical choices. Kennedy worked on constructing a diverse speech to all cultures, which would comfort both the black and white people (Buck, 2020). Kennedy achieved cultural diversity through a statement that goes by, “for those who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling.” Kennedy used an emotionally frank speech that took into account every audience’s feelings, both white and black.
Kennedy achieved identification by looking for a common ground from knowledge gained about the audience, and the audience’s response, without changing their beliefs and cultures (List,2020). Kennedy shared his story concerning his brother John F. Kennedy’s assassination, killed by a white man. Also, Kennedy stood up regardless of his skin and faced the darkest fear of talking to the black people and bridging the gap between racial and class differences. Kennedy Acknowledging Martin Luther King as a white person was a way of winning the hearts of the blacks, especially concerning his brother’s death (Buck, 2020). The two tragedies gave Kennedy the courage to give the speech on racial reconciliation. Time was the main constraint and a major resource in delivering the speech. With the constraint, Kennedy’s death developed a spontaneous speech that was fit for the occasion and the audience.
Kennedy applied a prophetic ethos, which was promoted the unique personal qualities that provided the significance of the speech (Buck, 2020). The prophetic ethos enabled Kenney to speak with justice to bring redemption through the application of natural law. Additionally, the speech resonated with the audience, especially in bridging the gap between the white and the black. Through his courage, authority, reputation, and respect, Robert F. Kennedy was able to draw the audience’s attention, persuade the audience, and attract the attention of the audience.
Buck, D. (2020). The rhetorical situation. Essentials for ENGL-121.
List, C. (2020). Finding Aid for the Robert F. Kennedy Speech Collection (MUM01738).