RHETORICAL QUESTIONS USED IN
MARTIN LUTHER KING’S “A TIME TO BREAK SILENCE”
The speech was given by Martin Luther King, Jr., who was one of few black members of a multi-faith organization called National Emergency Committee of Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam (CALCAV). “Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence” is the second of the two speeches that King gave about the Vietnam War. It was given on April 4th, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York with the help of CALCAV. The event drew in 3,000 people which helped raise the highest amount of donations for the anti-war movement. After this event King became the co-chair of the organization and then helped ...view middle of the document...
King addresses the following question to those who question his credibility: “Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men – for Communists and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them?” King clearly states that it is his duty to work for “the brotherhood of man”, and sometimes such work requires him to talk about wars. He believes that every person, no matter of their races or skin colors, deserves to enjoy peace, and in order for that to happen, he has to speak up whenever he sees his brothers and sisters suffer from the war. Also, in particular to this speech, King reasons that it is also for the sake of America, as he says: “No one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: Vietnam.” King has established himself as a person who has every right to give this speech on this day. By confronting the people who question his credibility and motives, he gains credibility so that the audience can be in a better position to listen to him and accept his message.
After building up trust between him and the audience, King takes the second step to enlighten the audience about the crimes the U.S. government has been doing in Vietnam. He says, “What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? Where are the new roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building?” With this question, King points out two main contradictions. Firstly, the U.S. government promises it would help with land reform, as stated in the Geneva Agreement, yet it supports the extortionist landlords through Premier Diem, its newly appointed governor and most vicious dictator. Second, it guarantees to build an independent Vietnam, yet it refuses to let Ho Chi Minh become the President, thus rejecting the possibility of reuniting the divided nation. Such contradictions between what the government says and what it actually does leave the audience, American citizens who have full faith in their government, with shock. Also with this question, King wants to counter the audience’s assumptions about the Vietnam War. The justification for the war, according to the U.S. government, is that Communism would be a threat to the nation. However, the truth is the U.S. is the one doing harms to the Vietnamese people. When the audience recognizes the government’s true nature, they would think to themselves, “Is this really is the government that I have been supporting all this time? What else might it has been lying about?” The government is built upon trust of the people and such trust is being challenged the moment the people realize the government has been lying, not only to...