Rhetorical Analysis

Rhetorical Analysis

Denzel Washington Graduation Speech

Adopted from 2011 Pennsylvania Commencement speech


Consider the following questions and provide your brief responses that show your knowledge of the rhetorical terms. Each response should be 3-7 sentences: Total: 22p


What do you think is the main purpose of the speech/ what is the speaker trying to “teach” his audience? (2p)

AUDIENCE: Who is (are) the target audience? Support your claim referring to the speech: (2p)

Rhetorical appeals of Ethos, Decorum, Pathos, Logos, Kairos, and the Rhetorical Tenses: As you consider each of these Persuasive strategies, think what kind of supporting information, quotes, references, and examples is the speaker using and refer to them as an explanation when you state your responses.

Kairos: Is this speech powerful considering the rhetorical situation (the time/ place) it was delivered? Why do you think so? Where else could this speech have the same effect?  Explain (3p)

Ethos: How is the speaker establishing his credibility as a speaker and the credibility of his argument/ his claims?  Explain referring to the speech (3p)

Decorum (as a part of Ethos, decorum means to fit into expectations of the audience) Well, knowing that Denzel Washington is a famous actor, and being invited to do graduation speech, we/ the audience surely expects him to deliver a “brilliant”/ good speech, at least to present his speech with confidence, and yet he starts the speech confessing how unorganized, unprepared, and unconfident he feels. 

Why do you think he does so?  What do we expect from a graduation speaker, from a famous actor and how do you feel as an audience seeing him unprepared?  Does he fit into “our” expected confident speaker framework by the end of his speech at least?  State your thoughts about all these that can refer to “decorum”-fitting into the expectations of the audience.  (3p)

Pathos: How is the author appealing to his audiences’ emotions? What kind of emotions is the author evoking in his audience (state at least 2 emotions and refer to the speech video or the transcript to support your claim with facts from the speech) What can you say about humor he uses, do you think it is effective? Explain! (3p)

Logos: how is his speech logical? Explain referring to the speech. Also, consider the structure of the speech and comment how this can make his speech logical. (3p)

Rhetorical Tenses: (Past, Present, Future):  The speaker refers to his past, he also is speaking of the present, and surely “teaches” life lessons for the future. In few sentences, state how effective do you think the changes of tenses are within the speech are? Provide just your thoughts/ comments / opinion on this and refer to specific examples from the speech that can relate to these 3 tenses. (3p)

Watch the video (see the link above) and complete the the attached document.
Should you have any question email me.

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