L3 LLCE Anglais
Introduction à la rhétorique
MANDELA, Let Freedom Reign
Nelson Mandela was known to be a black nationalist, philanthropist, and leader of the anti-apartheid movement. He was elected President of the Republic of South Africa on May 10th, 1994. The political change from the dismantle of a system of apartheid to the creation of a democratic South Africa, leading to a racial reconciliation, was and still is considered to be one of the greatest political turning points in history. Mandela, who had been incarcerated from 1962 to 1990 for rebelling against racist white people, became the first black man to become South Africa’s head of state. Hence, his inaugural speech is a very symbolic and significant piece of history. He was delivering it in front of a large audience which consisted of representatives from all around the world. Throughout his speech, Mandela uses some rhetorical devices making him able to establish credibility with his audience and inspire them by touching their hearts. Thus, Mandela’s tone is inspirational and uplifting.
In his speech, Mandela employs ethos. Firstly, as being known to be a fighter for equality for all people and by being elected President, he already has some credibility towards his audience.
He begins his speech by addressing to his audience with the very first lines “Your Majesties, Your Highnesses, Distinguished Guests, Comrades and Friends.”. By doing so, he is not only thanking them for their presence at the inauguration but also for their common victory for justice which ended discrimination and brought peace and unity.
Furthermore, Mandela very frequently uses the pronoun “we” in his speech, such as in “We have, at last, achieved” “We understand” and “We know”. This use can get him closer to his audience, making his audience feel more involved and somewhat appreciated. In one part of the speech, where he says, “We must therefore act together as a united people”, through the use of the pronoun “we?, Mandela is asking his people to join him in his effort to create peace and equality. Mandela seeks to emphasize South Africa’s unity and the need for peaceful co-existence. As South Africa was previously a place of extreme segregation, it is important that Mandela stresses unity as his country heads for reconciliation. By making use of these words multiple times, he emphasizes on the fact that there is no difference between black people and white people.
Another rhetorical device he uses throughout his speech is anaphora, which is a repetition of the first word in a clause or sentence. The most noticeable example of this is when he says “Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work”. The way these sentences are successive is effective. By using repetition, Mandela is more likely to have his ideas to be understand by his audience. He wants to stress to his audience that his sincere intentions are for his people to enjoy the privilege of justice, peace, and well-being.
From the beginning of his speech, Mandela employs pathos, using emotive language. This mostly refers to the part where he says, “that will reinforce humanity’s belief in justice, strengthen its confidence in the nobility of the human soul”. Here, he emphasizes the necessity for people to come together as one, to be united without racial segregation so that South Africa will never again be oppressed by others. Emotive language is used again towards the end when he says, “The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement”. This just shows how large the success of the political turning point is, and that it is one that every living soul should be proud of.
Nelson Mandela’s speech can also be divided into two parts; a motivational part and an emotional part. The speaker uses persuasive words in order to emphasize the inspirational tone of his speech. Indeed, when he says “The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us.”, he demands his audience to not look at the past anymore and to move beyond that, so that they can, together, build a great future. Furthermore, the lines “We must act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world. Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all.” can be ambiguous as it can stand for both motivational and emotional parts, as Mandela demands them to finally be able to live as one undivided nation and to create a safe place for everyone, but he is also referring to the concepts of justice and peace which both implies feelings. Then, in the lines “We dedicate this day to all the heroes and heroines in this country and the rest of the world who sacrificed in many ways and surrendered their lives so that we could be free.”, he is seeking the audience’s emotions in order to thank every person who has made their dreams become reality, making freedom their reward. Furthermore, Mandela’s inauguration was an emotional day for not only the people of South Africa but also for the whole world, because it represented a shift towards democracy, equality, and freedom for all people.
Mandela also uses allusion, for example when he says, “let freedom reign”. This is an allusion to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, in which he says, “let freedom ring”. This may suggest that, in some ways, Mandela has similar ideas with Martin Luther King, as their ultimate goal is to free the black community from political, economic and social oppression by the white people.
In conclusion, thanks to all of these rhetorical tools used for delivering his speech, Mandela’s message is clear and can be easily understood. He gives an insight into the long struggle for democracy and the unity as humanity. Mandela wants the black community and the white community to recognize the importance of the turning point that his election and fight represented in the country’s history. He wants them to understand that unity bring strength to everyone, no matter color and gender and that together they can overcome the conflicts of the past.