Here's the video.
Here's the essay I wrote in the video:
In the speech “Beyond Vietnam - A Time to Break Silence,” Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. makes a compelling case for the proposition that the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War is unjust using ethos (facts and commonly accepted values or ethics), pathos (appeals to emotion through powerful descriptive language), and logos (logic). Dr. King’s speech makes a powerful moral argument for U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam and a renewed American commitment to the War on Poverty in the U.S. itself.
The first element with which Dr. King strikes the reader is pathos. In the first paragraph, King refers to his being a “preacher by calling,” which in addition to giving him some moral authority, or ethos, brings the reader into a frame of mind where he or she can contemplate ethics – good and evil. King then describes “the poverty program,” commonly referred to as the “War on Poverty,” as a “shining moment in that struggle,” namely the battle for civil rights for African-Americans and other minorities in the U.S. He references “experiments, hopes, and new beginnings,” all of which have positive connotations, especially when placed together. This happy juxtaposition of positive terms, however, immediately contrasts with King’s next statement. “Then came the buildup in Vietnam.” Even without more, that statement immediately brings to mind negative connotations. The Vietnam War was the first U.S. war where images of death and destruction, including the deaths of U.S. troops, were televised nightly on news broadcasts. King then mentions that the war caused “this program” to be “broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war.”
Obviously, the image of American society as some kind of psychopathic child destroying important social programs as some unwanted toy in order to pursue its new “play” at war is incredibly powerful emotional language. “Eviscerated” literally means a person or being’s internal organs (or “viscera”) being torn out. King mentions that the war on poverty could not be fought effectively if “men and skills” were drawn into “adventures like Vietnam” “like some demonic destructive suction tube.” King then concludes that the Vietnam War is “an enemy of the poor,” which requires him to “attack it as such.”
In the second paragraph, King noted that the Vietnam War was not only “devastating the poor at home,” but “sending their sons and brothers to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population.” He also cites the “cruel irony” of watching “black young men” fight “to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia” which they had been denied at home in America. He succinctly sums up the sadly ironic situation by stating “[W]e have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools.” King cites to similar segregation in housing to emphasize his point – that blacks dying for “freedom” denied to them at home was not only the most savage form of injustice and hypocrisy, but also unacceptable under any worthwhile system of morality, which leads him to the conclusion “I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.” King’s citation to the facts of school and housing segregation and the fact that these things are wrong and hypocritical in a “free” society are splendid examples of the effective use of ethos in a speech.
In the third paragraph, King describes his efforts to encourage African-Americans to shun violent protests, stating “I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems,” while facing the counterargument that the U.S. government itself was using violence to solve it problems in Vietnam. King then states “I knew I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed [e.g., African Americans] without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.” King uses his moral authority as a non-violent preacher and advocate of non-violence to address why he feels the need to address violence on the global scale, such as war, and not just violence in the U.S. His use of repetition with the repeated phrase, “For the sake of…” emphasizes his belief that non-violence is the solution and only salvation of the poor, of minorities, of the U.S. government, and the people of Vietnam who were being killed in the Vietnam War.
King uses this emotional argument, layered upon the ethos of common Judeo-Christian morality, to lead into the fourth paragraph, where he answers the question “Aren’t you a civil rights leader?” with his stated mission “[t]o save the soul of America” from the corrupt use of unjust violence in any form against any person or group, and that the mission could not be limited to obtaining “certain rights for black people.” King forcefully compares the U.S. government and society to a human body, stating “If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned [like the corpse of a poisoning victim], part of the autopsy must read : Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes or men the world over.” King finally concludes that those who would improve America and save it from its darkest impulses must head “down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.”
King thus compares the struggle for civil rights to a journey down a strenuous and demanding hiking path, where those who wish to work for justice must “work for the health of our land” by struggling against the injustice wreaked by the powerful in the U.S. government, not only against African Americans in the U.S., but against Vietnamese nationals in Vietnam.
King’s use of ethos is detailed above, in that he cites to the fact of Vietnam war scenes being broadcast on television every night, the irony of black soldiers purportedly fighting for freedom they did not fully possess at home, and the facts of educational and housing segregation. King also relies on the obvious ideas that unjust death, torture, poverty, and social segregation based on race are wrong. King also cites to the obvious fact that money spent on warfare cannot be spent on social programs to help the poor.
King’s use of logos is very simple. Since he relies on the basic notions that no one deserves to suffer for no other reason than his or her race, it makes no sense to fight for racial equality for one group (black Americans), but not another (the Vietnamese). Since the Vietnam War not only oppressed the Vietnamese, but drew much-needed money away from social programs intended to help the poor and minorities in the U.S., King’s inexorable logic leads him to oppose the Vietnam War.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech uses ethos in the form of commonly-accepted Judeo-Christian morality, pathos in the vibrant description of racial injustice and intolerable violence, and logos in the form of the compelling conclusion that any civil rights movement must aim for peach and justice for all people worldwide, not just some in the U.S. It is a classic example of a persuasive moral argument against war and for racial and civil justice.
Author: John Linneball Who did you think? ;-)
I'm the proprietor and only tutor for this business; that's why I named it after me.