“Remarks on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day”¯ by Ronald Reagan delivered in Normandy is a sample of a effective and persuading speech, where the speaker uses different stylistic devices to increase the impact of his words and speech on the audience. As the matter of fact, the speech focuses on the historical events related to World War II but Ronald Reagan attempts to intertwine the historical events of the past with the present moment. Moreover, he shows the close link between the past heroic deeds of Americans and the need to unite efforts of all democratic countries in the new struggle against their common enemy. In general, the speech is quite successful due to the use of various stylistic devices, logical and emotional presentation of key ideas and the appeal to the authority, such God, which makes the speech closer to minds and souls of the audience and make people feel sympathetic and follow the lead of Ronald Reagan.
In actuality, the speech “Remarks on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day”¯ opens with the reference of the author to the past and to the heroic struggle of American and European soldiers against their common enemy ”“ the Nazi regime in Germany, which spread its influence all over Europe and threatened to the freedom of the US as well:
We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. (Reagan).
In such a way, the author uses the contrast between the present calmness of the place and the past heroic struggle and turbulent events that accompanied the D-Day in 1944. Actually, Ronal Reagan shows that the past was full of tragic events and the D-Day has changed the calm environment of Normandy and its quiet and powerful nature. The D-day is depicted as something abnormal, as a challenge to the nature and as an attempt of Americans and their allies to restore the natural order, when democratic nations united their efforts in the struggle against Nazi Germany, which threatened to their freedom and fundamental values. The use of contrast by Ronald Reagan has a profound impact on the audience because it is obvious that the audience can be shocked by the present calmness of the place and the past turbulent events, which cost thousands of lives to Americans and their allies. In such a way, Ronald Reagan engages the audience with the help of the contrast.
At the same time, he attempts to strengthen the impression from his speech on the audience and to increase its persuasive power by appealing to the authority. IN this regard, Ronald Reagan abundantly refers to God as the highest authority and it is according to God’s will he attempts to act and to appeal to the authority of God, who, as Ronald Reagan attempts to show, defined the outcome of the war and justified actions of Americans and their allies in the course of World War II and does so in the present time. IN fact, he attempts to show that all actions and events are ruled by God: This world He created is of moral design. Grief and tragedy and hatred are only for a time.
Goodness, remembrance and love have no end, and the Lord of life holds all who die and all who mourn (Reagan). Such an appeal to the authority of God helps Ronald Reagan to gain attention of the audience and to show that what he is saying is not just his own ideas and beliefs but what he says is grounded on his firm belief in God and His will and power to determine the life of people and guide people to the virtuous and good life.
In such a context, Ronald Reagan derives from material values and draws the attention of the audience to fundamental spiritual values: As we’ve been assured, neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities, nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth can separate us from God’s love. May He bless the souls of the departed. May He comfort our own. And may He always guide our country (Reagan). This is another manifestation of the appeal to the authority, which shows that people should not focus on their material life but there are more important values.
At the same time, along with the appeal to authority and the use of contrast and other stylistic devices, Ronald Reagan develops his speech logically and reasonably but often he refers to emotions and moral values of the audience. In this regard, it is possible to trace the effective and systematic use of pathos in the speech of Ronald Reagan. For instance, her refers to the veterans of World War II as follows: “These are the men who took the cliffs.
These are the champions who helped free a continent. And these are the heroes who helped end a war (Reagan).
Obviously, the use of pathos contributes to the persuasion of the audience because it evokes basic moral values in the audience, such as the respect to the elder generation and to veterans of World War II, who were true heroes and Reagan stresses their heroic struggle and deeds, which cost so many lives for the US and its allies.
In addition, Ronald Reagan appeals to emotions of the audience and feelings of veterans as well as other people listening to his speech. In this regard, it is possible to refer to the story of Bill Millin of the 51st Highlanders. In fact, this story is the manifestation of ethos in “Remarks on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day”¯, which Ronald Reagan uses to evoke strong emotions in the audience. While evoking strong emotions in the audience, the speaker can direct listeners and persuade them in his righteousness. At any rate, when the audience is emotionally affected, people readily accept the message of the speaker without even thinking about what he is actually saying.
In such a context, the regular reference to the past are particularly effective in the course of the speech:
Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief. It was loyalty and love (Reagan). Obviously, such use of ethos can hardly keep the audience, especially veterans of World War II, indifferent to what Reagan is saying.
In stark contrast, such reference to the past and emotions of the audience make people follow the lead of Ronald Reagan. People start thinking over questions the speaker poses and they can hardly think clearly over these questions because Ronald Reagan provides immediately the answer to the questions he poses. Thus, he provides the audience with the answer giving them practically no time to consider over possible alternative answers to the questions.
Furthermore, Ronald Reagan uses ethos to strengthen the heroism of American soldiers and allies in World War II: They are the names of people who faced death and in their last moments called home to say, be brave and I love you (Reagan). At the same time, this sample of ethos shows the effective way in which Reagan has linked closely the tragic events that took place in Europe and sufferings of people in the US. Thus, he revealed the fact that World War II was the tragedy for all people all over the world.
However, Ronald Regan steadily and logically leads to the audience from the past to the present time. In this regard, he uses logos to make his speech reasonable and persuading: We’re bound today by what bound us 40 years ago, the same loyalties, traditions, and beliefs. We’re bound by reality. The strength of America’s allies is vital to the United States, and the American security guarantee is essential to the continued freedom of Europe’s democracies. We were with you then; we’re with you now. Your hopes are our hopes, and your destiny is our destiny (Reagan). At this point, Ronald Reagan uses logos to draw attention of the public to the current problems the US, all Americans and democratic people face. In fact, he uses the events of the D-Day that occurred forty years ago as the background to the present threats to the democracy and the US and its allies. He uses skillfully logos to show that threats of the past persist and today Americans still face numerous problems and threats, which can put under a threat their freedom and fundamental values. In such a way, he logically concludes that Americans and their allies should unite their efforts in the struggle against new threats that emerge in the contemporary world. Moreover, in the end of his speech he refers again to the authority of God to complete his speech and back it up with the authority of God.
Thus, “Remarks on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day”¯ is a persuasive and effective speech delivered by Ronald Reagan in 1984. The speech has proved to be quite successful due to the skillful use of stylistic devices, logos, ethos and pathos. Ronald Reagan has managed to show the heroic deeds of Americans and their allies in the past and, what is more, he has managed to intertwine those deeds and past threats with the present situation to show that threats persisted and Americans should be aware of existing threats to their freedom and traditional values. In such a way, the speech “Remarks on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day”¯ is the sample of the logical and emotionally strong speech that persuades the audience.
Bizzell, Patricia and Bruce Herzberg. The Rhetorical Tradition-Readings from Classical Times to the Present. New York: Allyson and Beacon, 2005.
Bitzer. L. “The rhetorical situation.”¯ Philosophy and Rhetoric. 1:1, 1999, 1-14.
Black, Edwin. Rhetorical Criticism a Study in Method. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004.
Reagan, R. Remarks on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day. 1984.
Russell, G. Rhetoric. New York: Random House, 2003.