There has been something nagging at me this past week, always in the back of my head. Rhetoric. For those who don’t know what this is here is Webster’s definition:
noun (rhet·o·ric|\ˈre-tə-rik\) Definition of rhetoric 1: the art of speaking or writing effectively: such as a) the study of principles and rules of composition formulated by critics of ancient times. b) the study of writing or speaking as a means of communication or persuasion. 2: a) skill in the effective use of speech b) a type or mode of language or speech
We look to our leaders and coaches to have positive, encouraging rhetoric that inspires us to be better and do better. This rhetoric is the whole package; the words chosen, the structure of how they are put together, and the delivery. Coaches will give impactful speeches before the big game or when you are down and trying for a come back. Leaders will give speeches when trying to rally support, criticize groups when they are being harmful, and spread hope when there is widespread doubt or fear.
Times of stress tend to show our true colors and comes out in our rhetoric. It shows how we truly feel about a situation and can belie insecurities. This makes it crucial that we pay attention to the rhetoric chosen during these times because the impact it can have on the audience can either assuage nerves or can embattle people to take up arms. We put our trust in our coaches, officials, and leaders to know when it’s right to use certain types of rhetoric. If the tone they end up taking is opposite of what you would expect it can lead you to question their motives.
Personally, it unnerves me when people use divisive language because that stirs up controversy, which can lead to violence. The web has made it easier to use this type of language with comment boxes where people can say what they want without thought to the consequences because they don’t have to say the words directly to a person’s face. To hear that type of language spoken out loud, especially from someone with influence, though is ten times more unnerving and even frightening. There is a paradox I heard that I think fits well here and reads:
“The paradox of tolerance concludes that in order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance.” – Karl Popper
We should be mindful of the words we use and what we are trying to say. We should use our words, thoughts, and deeds for tolerance, peace, and love. I know that may sound very hippie-ish, but why, with all the negative in the world, would we want to spread anything else. We have enough of the negative that we need to look for the positive. We should want to follow people that speak of these positive things, that push us to be better to our neighbors and listen/learn from generations that have gone before us, so we don’t repeat their mistakes.
Below are links to some of my favorite speeches. Speeches that have motivated or moved me to think about my life or helped me through athletic competitions (or both sometimes).
Life is a game of inches (originally from Any Given Sunday, but this version was shared with me when I rowed my freshman year of college. It’s my favorite, I basically have it memorized. Just watched it again and have goosebumps)