Rhetoric: Forgotten Tools of Society Series

This article is a part of a series of the Lost Tools of Society: Listening, Conversations, and now, Rhetoric. Have you ever been compelled to sit for hours listening to an amazing speaker? Were you sitting on the edge of every single sentence? You can learn to do that. My most memorable experience of listening to a spellbound speaker was a woman named Donna VanLiere. This name might ring a bell as she is the author of the Christmas book, Christmas Shoes. Her eloquence, humor, frankness, and candor left me spellbound. I was laughing one minute only to practically be in tears the next. What makes her different than the plethora of speakers I have heard in the past? What was it that stole my attention? Donna VanLiere, with excellence in her speech, speaks beautifully.

Speaking beautifully is rhetoric on steroids. Rhetoric is essentially the art of persuasion, and to a certain degree, it must necessarily encompass beauty. What is missing in our everyday conversation is beauty and elegance in our speech.

It is interesting contemplating upon the truth that for the last 2500 years, there was a premium placed on teaching rhetoric. Granted, much of this was done in the academies, politics, and the church. Today, every citizen has an “education,” yet know not the beauty of rhetoric. It is not so much a glory to speak with excellence, as it is a shame to speak without it.

Aristotle championed the three aspects to Rhetoric (or persuasion).

1. Ethos
2. Pathos
3. Logos

Tools of Rhetoric

Ethos, being the most important of these tools is the ethical character of the person speaking. Is the orator trustworthy? If he is speaking about how to earn one million dollars, and yet has never achieved this himself, I would be wary of what he says. I don’t trust him fully as compared to someone who has earned one million dollars.

Pathos encompasses the motivating factor that arouses the passions and emotions of an individual to go in the direction the orator desires. One can have earned the respect of the crowd by revealing he did, in fact, earn one million dollars, but if he does not get the crowd to desire that ability as well, the audience will not care and