Monday, March 10, 2008

You say rhetoric, like it's a bad thing. (column entry)

You say rhetoric like it’s a bad thing.

Rhetoric is generally understood to be the art or technique of persuasion through the use of oral, visual, or written language.

That definition is from Wikipedia. I have been hearing that phrase phrase over and over in attacks against Senator Obama. I knew what it meant, but I might not be the brightest bead on a pair of moccasins, so I looked up the exact definition. After reading the definition, I got to thinking, "Why does everyone keep saying it like it’s a bad thing?"

Like when they say he is“long on rhetoric and short on specifics.”

I don’t get how the word rhetoric is an attack when so many great leaders were rhetoric. They spoke with conviction that made people, not only want to follow them but take part in changing for the better.

Here are some examples I found:

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Of course, I started with Martin Luther King, Jr. He always spoke with rhetoric and made many, great changes in this country. Now I will show you some rhetoric quotes from others.

The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it-and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you- ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” -JFK

Another great rhetorical speaker who in his short time here, made wonderful changes in America.

“We should, all of us, be filled with gratitude and humility for our present progress and prosperity. We should be filled with awe and joy at what lies over the horizon. And we should be filled with absolute determination to make the most of it.” -William J. Clinton

Obama himself quoted Bill Clinton when he was criticized for lack of experience, just like President Clinton was when he was a candidate.

“The same old experience is not relevant: You can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience.” –Bill Clinton, as quoted by Barack Obama

Here is a rhetoric quote from Chief Sitting Bull, who way back in the day knew what we needed.

“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” –Chief Sitting Bull

So maybe the word rhetoric makes people think that someone can only have great, inspiring speeches and do nothing. But from the list of people I quoted, I think turned out to be great leaders. I think their rhetoric inspired us all to be better people, to want change, and to do it together.

I watch the debates I hear one saying “me, me, me” and the other saying “we, we, we.” I listen to the political analysts on news networks. I will vote again, because I have never missed an election since the age of 18. I hope everyone else plans to vote, because we do need change.

Then again, what do I know? I watch and vote on American Idol, too.

"It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to where we are today, but we have just begun. Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today." -Barack Obama


Anonymous said...

Would you mind, since we’re thinking about rhetoric shall we also discuss our romanticized American version of the Mother theory? Are people more afraid of a woman in power officiating her power? Or do we fear her being corrupted by it? In honor of Women’s History Month here are some interesting quotes delivered by powerful women.

It is easier to live through someone else than to become complete yourself.
--Betty Friedan, author

The story of Eve was not peripheral to Christianity; it was its corner stone; for, without the doctrine of the fall, and the consequent need of a Savior, the whole Christian super-structure drops into nothingness.
-Matilda Joslyn Gage, author

My mother and great-grandmother also took a leap of faith that I would have the space to be responsible for my body. I would not, for example face rape.
--Kim TallBear, author

Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get -- only with what you are expecting to give -- which is everything.
-- Katherine Hepburn, author

For shame! For shame! You dare to cry Liberty, when you hold us in places against our will, driving us from place to place as if we were beasts.
--Sarah Winnemucca, author

I speak to the black experience, but I am always talking about the human condition – about what we can endure, dream, fail at, and still survive.
--Maya Angelou, author

Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years. That is what makes a marriage last.
--Simone Signoret, author

A woman is handicapped by her sex, and handicaps society, either by slavishly copying the pattern of man’s advance in the professions, or by refusing to compete with man at all.
-Betty Friedan, author

Dana Dane said...
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Dana Dane said...
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Dana Dane said...

If I post this again and see another typo.
Nice rhetoric.
I feel being a single mom, I am a very strong woman. i feel that yes indeed a woman could run this country.
I however, don't like the tactics that hillary has reduced this campaign to. Barack gives me hope, Hillary gives me heartburn.
Barack reminds me of a young Bill Clinton (times ten), before you know, all the scandal.
Either way, hopefully the glass ceiling is shattered.

Anonymous said...

Do you think a woman in power could better discern the ethics question that arises when elected officials buy people for luxury sex as compared to consensual sex adults exchange?

Dana Dane said...

I don't really see how that is even relevant to this blog, the election, my opinion, or, if you are referring to Hillary and Obama, why should Spitzer be a concern?
I mean as adults, humans, women, men...whatever, can't we all "discern the ethics question of elected officials buying sex" as wrong?
Why should a woman be able to distinguish that better than a man?
Buying sex is wrong...period.
Consensual sex is just that, unless you are married, hold the most powerful job in the world, and your consenting partner is a wide eyed intern.
The difference?
One ho was paid, the other gave it away.
I think "ethically" either way is wrong.
Although, I am sure the hooker, call girl, whatever was consensual also, wouldn't you think? You do know that when you post your questions, you can post your name. I put myself out there, you can too. If you wanted to, that is.

Dana Dane said...

then again what do i know, i watch american idol

Anonymous said...

I appreciate you are willing to be visible as well as inviting conversation with your blog. My question is relevant to your comment about breaking the glass ceiling. Could the male power structure handle a woman as President? A woman as President just might be to threatening regarding human exploitation issues and economic stability. The change might be perceived as to drastic. American economic structures are tied to old and rigid oppressive institutions that are deeply rooted in sexist traditions. It’s hard to be patient when positive change feels so close. I do value another woman’s thinking about our exciting political times.

Dana Dane said...

Well, I may have quoted Senator Clinton about "glass ceilings" BUT as a minority and believer of hope and change, I was thinking of the fact that a minority could be president and break THAT glass ceiling.
I love how some people make this out to be sexist or racist, when in all reality...or what should be all reality, it should be about WHO you believe in more.
I notice you have no input about Spitzer, when you brought up the subject. And I didn't even bring up the fact that he is a super delegate and one of Clinton's biggest supporters.
Listen, I am visible, but obviously not "there" and my opinion draws nothing more than anonymous comments.
I support women's rights and lo and behold, I am to the right, but I am also sick of the "same ol games" and "same old politics."
Yes there is left and right and green and indy or whatever.
I don't look at Barack as a Democrat or Repub.

He is the exception of all that is boring and sickening about politics.

(Thats to Lionel for telling me that.)

He is what makes you excited about politics.

If there was no Barack, and all there was to go against Hillary were those who dropped out, would you still be interested in this election?

My wild hair guess is no.

May the best ceiling breaker win.

I hope.

Anonymous said...

American culture is mired in racism and sexism which makes it so for the politics. I would be involved without Clinton or Obama because it took American women with allies 75 years to win a small voice via the vote. At the rim of victory black women were not invited to march with white women, to controversial. They did anyway and the numbers of women in the streets swelled.

I didn't know Spitzer was a super del., a man with a super ego that purchases people for luxury sex..nice. I'm sure that behavior is a bi partisan tradition for American political economic elite.

It occured to me that America is the burbs of a growing global economy. A gated community shivering in fear because the bubble was broken. Needing workers to build the walls is interrupted because the American labor force is literate, therefore entitled. Big business then whines about high costs of operation. Now I ramble.

Dana I read your column in LCT, don't dismiss your impact, you are a good writer.