The Power of the Spoken Word

Imagine you are giving an address to potential HSC students about the power of the spoken word. In your speech refer to at least 3 of the prescribed speeches you have studied in this module.

Hello, and welcome to this discussion about the power of the spoken word. I??™m sure that in your studies as students, you have come across an array of techniques that empower words and allow them to formulate great meaning, ideas and themes.

In famous speeches given by credible people, this becomes evident. Such is the case with the speeches given by Paul Keating, Faith Bandler and Aung San Suu Kyi.

These speeches show that words and the expression of those words are at the core of communicating to audiences. People are able to use strong words and constructive language techniques in order to articulate their views, or they can simply use meaningless rhetoric and not get across to their listeners.

Words are the embodiment of intention. Even in the pauses between the intake of breath and the uttering of words, a speaker is able to communicate certain feelings to their audience.

Because of speaking, we??™re able to produce awkward silences. We??™re able to create sexual innuendo with just the simple inflection of our voice. Studies have even shown that when someone??™s hand is placed in freezing cold water, they??™ve had a higher pain threshold if they were allowed to swear. That??™s power.

Famous political chants, like ???The people united will never be defeated???, often make use of repetition, alliteration or assonance, in order to create rhythm. When these words are said aloud they can have immense power, and that rhythm helps to achieve it by uniting the people who are chanting it. This chant was also originally a Spanish chant, but even when it is translated across cultures, contexts and languages it still remains powerful.

So what are some examples of powerful language in speeches

Paul Keating certainly uses it in his ???Funeral Service for an Unknown Australian Soldier.??™ The speech serves as a eulogy, and so, Keating??™s appropriate words invoke pathos in the audience. Keating is able to bring the Australian community together to commemorate the sacrifice made by Australians in war.

His speech is so meticulously crafted that he is able to present his own personal ideas of war and republicanism in the most subtle of ways. Isn??™t it amazing that you can read or hear a speech like this, delivered to so wide an audience, and not immediately realise the connotations of his words
His use of inclusive pronouns such as ???us??™ and ???we??™ unifies his audience and makes us accomplices to these ideas. As a politician, Keating had the media power to influence people, and he and the other writers of this speech would have been sure to take advantage of this.

This is an example of the way people can use language to not just inform, but to persuade.

Another speech which makes use of the power of persuasion is Faith Bandler??™s ???Faith, Hope and Reconciliation.??™ The conference at which this speech was delivered was held here in Wollongong in 1999, and focused on Indigenous youth, citizenship, land and culture.

Bandler urges the audience to not give up on the constant issue of land rights and states, ???Rights are not handed on a platter by governments, they have to be won.??? She uses these cliches (like ???handed on a platter???) to keep her powerful message simple and accessible to the responders.

Bandler also makes references to youth, something speakers at almost all conferences and rallies still do today. They do so, not just because youth are important to their topic, but because it is a way of drawing allusions to other powerful and famous speeches like John F. Kennedy??™s famous inaugural speech where he addressed ???the young and the not so young.???

By drawing allusions to this famous speech, speakers are able to guarantee that a sense of validity is present in their discussion, and this can assist in empowering their words and their audiences.

Aung San Suu Kyi, in her address at the Beijing World Conference on Women, which was relayed by film, not only empowers her audience but develops a relationship with them. She begins her speech modestly, understating her role, and explaining her political and personal circumstances in not being able to deliver her address in person.

Suu Kyi allows her audience to contemplate the ideas she presents by beginning sentences with conjunctions, like ???But??™ and ???And??™, which allow for dramatic pauses. She also uses rhetorical questions to allow her audience to deliberate her ideas, like the position of women in society.

All of these speeches would surely have touched someone, would surely have made someone respond or think or feel. Keating may have allowed the family of a soldier to be consoled and comforted. Faith Bandler may have inspired a young person to take up the fight for Indigenous land rights. Suu Kyi may have made it easier for a woman living in a sexist society to get through her day.
And all this was done through spoken words, through language.

And so I urge you potential HSC students to not become disillusioned with words as you study piles of texts, thick books, dozens of textbooks, sources of evidence, and formulas, but rather appreciate them for the power they contain and the knowledge and experience that power can give you.

Thank you.

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