Argumentative Essay on “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King, Jr. and “A More Perfect Union” by President Barack Obama Colette Eubanks November 21, 2011 ENG 101 Christopher Brunt On April 16, 1963, from the jail in Birmingham, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote a letter to the eight, white Alabama clergymen. They had attacked his civil rights work in a public statement released on April 12, 1963. To persuade his readers, King mainly uses three types of persuasion that are appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos. First, King appeals to his own reputation and wisdom.
Second, he tries to arouse emotions or sympathy in the readers. Finally, he appeals to logic, supported with evidence and citations from influential thinkers. He generates strong emotional appeals that are powerful at influencing what people think and believe. King establishes ethos by reaching different audiences based on his character. He also uses inartistic and artistic appeals at his attempt to persuade his readers in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail. ” Martin Luther King, Jr. intends to create a feeling of closeness and compassion for the civil rights cause. His purpose is to stir up emotion in his readers.
The comparison and contrast, ethos, and pathos in King’s letter help convince his audience that racial segregation is unjust. A rhetorical mode King applies several times is comparison and contrast, an effective device he uses to make association between modern day and the past. King compares himself to historical figures several times throughout the letter, but the most important comparison appears in a paragraph in which King relates himself to past prophets of Christianity. He expresses the obligation he feels “…to carry the gospel of freedom…” beyond his home town, “Just as the prophets of the eighteenth century B.
C. left their villages and carried their ‘thus saith the Lord’ far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world…” (King 591). This comparison succeeds in forcing readers to regard King’s intentions as religious-based and genuine and convince readers which succeeds in getting the original audience attention (clergymen) and creates understanding among one them. King uses the example of ethos to explain the moral law of being treated as a human being.
He refers to St. Thomas Aquinas stating “An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. ”(King593) In other words, King tries to convince his audience that all segregation is filled with injustice. Not only is segregation politically and socially wrong, it is morally wrong and sinful. On Tuesday, March 18, 2008 Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama delivered a speech on race and religion that will be analyzed, reprinted, and quoted for generations to come.
Titled “A More Perfect Union”, Obama spoke with a level of compassion and heart-wrenching honesty not often seen in American politics. It was into this historical speech that “A More Perfect Union” was addressed. Taking place in Philadelphia, Obama stated that their work in crafting the Constitution was ultimately unfinished because “it was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery”(Obama 600). From this point on it was clear that this would be no ordinary speech and that history, race, and religion were all going to be targets.
At no point did Senator Obama become the useless, politically correct African American public figure that overly seeks to please everyone except his core black community. Moreover, his insistence that he could not disown the Reverend Wright, or the Black community, or at times his bigoted white grandmother finally threw a dose of wisdom and reality into the American public that has been characterized by meaningless opinions. Obama creates a strategy to convince his target listeners about the real issues of American politics as well as a generation today.
In Obama’s speech he mentioned, “… we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together—unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction—towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren” (Obama 600). In other words, Obama is stating that no man is an island and people should come to realize that in order to survive in this world we all need other peoples help.
In addition, the hope of a more perfect union is close to reality if people would learn to stand up for what they believe in. Obama then invoked the history of racial inequality in the United States, first by paraphrasing a line by William Faulkner: “…The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past. ”(Obama 602) He argued that many of the difficulties in African-American communities could be traced to the sufferings of previous generations under slavery and Jim Crow laws.
Obama observed that, in the time in which African-Americans of Reverend Wright’s generation grew up, segregation and degradation were common. Even blacks of that generation who, like Wright, surmounted obstacles to succeed in life often remained bitter and angry about their experiences with racism. Barrack Obama’s speech “A More Perfect Union” and Martin Luther King Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail” has the same point of view. America has done the unthinkable and achieved the impossible in the past.
However, times have not been as good as they were in the past, but in Obama’s speech strongly believe that Americans are ready to get up and brush themselves off. Everyone will do anything to help fix the nation and return to be the most powerful nation in the world. In addition, “Letter from Birmingham Jail” written by Martin Luther King’s Jr. was a letter that appeared in the Birmingham newspaper. King drafted a document that would mark the turning point of the Civil Rights movement and provide enduring inspiration to the struggle for equality.
King and Obama are demanding and striving to defend the desperate needs of equality and unity in our world. All in All, both King and Obama hope that all dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon turn into sunny skies of equality of mutual understanding. They believe that love and brotherhood can shine over this great nation called America. Through future generations we as young people can claw and scratch our way to the American dream and defeat discrimination. King and Obama believe that we can surpass these obstacles. They simply believe in “Yes We Can. ”