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Common Sense Solutions

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The art of effective writing and speaking is called rhetoric. Rhetoric also refers to the art of persuasion in written or spoken work. This document gives a rhetorical analysis of Herman Cain “Common Sense Solutions for America” speech on May 21, 2011 at Olympic Centennial Park Atlanta, Georgia. Through history, rhetoric has had many definitions but has maintained its characteristics. A thorough rhetoric analysis helps a speech analyzer to perceive the oral use of language and enhances proficiency in applying language resources in their own speaking, writing. It also enables one to grasp the intentions of the speech giver (Myers, 2011).

To discern how language is being used and how it is working in others piece of work, either in spoken or written speeches, it is necessary to artificially divide form and content of what is being said and how it is being said. Basically, rhetoric attentively examines the language in terms of methods and means of communication. Aristotle defined rhetoric as the ability to see every available means of persuasion in each particular case or situation. He explained the three main forms of   rhetoric as ethos, logos and pathos. These three are important aspects of understanding and analyzing the rhetoric perspective of a speech.

Rhetoric is a comprehensive art as set forth from antiquity. At times, it has been lived down to its critics. However, its concern on what one need to say and how he needs to say it remains indivisible in its own definition. How something is said by somebody conveys as much message as what it is said. Rhetoric examines language effectiveness, and its’ comprehensively. This is inclusive of its emotional impact, referred to as pathos, and its propositional contents, also referred to as the logos.

A close examination to Herman Cain’s speech shows how effective use of pathos and logos, and other rhetoric devices, has made his speech for presidential bid for 2012 one of the most persuading speeches by America’s presidential candidates.

Who/what speech/theory

Harman Cain is a scholar with a number of honorary degrees from different universities across United States.  Being a black American, Cain accounts his experience and states that America is his nation he was born in and grew up in. through this speech, Herman shows his patriotism to America as his nation, and also declares his faith in the citizens of the United States. In this speech, Cain’s address a crowd at the Olympic Centennial Park this has increased his popularity across America. In this speech, Herman declared his interests to run for the top seat in the United States and declares his vision, he further refers the vision not to be his own, a vision for the Americans” I don’t call it my vision, my job as the leader is to define it, key it up, share it with you; it becomes our vision”.  This way, he makes the audience own up the task ahead therefore attracting their attention, as part of his bid for America presidency.

Thesis and preview

            A close examination to Herman Cain’s speech shows how effective use of pathos and logos, and other rhetoric devices, has made his speech for presidential bid for 2012 one of the most persuading speeches by America’s presidential candidates.

            Based on his ability to perceive his audience, Cain is a speaker so much interested in persuading his audience and has well considered the three rhetoric proofs including ethical, logical and emotional impacts. In this particular speech, his audience is his key point of persuasion using rhetorical syllogism which leaves his audience to fill in missing pieces of his speech. In his cognitive response model, Cain message promotes attitude change towards contagious issues like reviving American economy faster by having a bolder, and a more direct stimulus policy. He has criticized the current administration stimulus plan as a spending bill instead of being meaningful in designing meaningful stimulus through permanent tax cuts. This way, his message indirectly influences attitude change (Long, 2004).

His way of thinking and speech delivery attracts American citizens’ (who are his audience) attention and provokes their way of thinking. This is achieved through being very specific to his ideas and speaking his mind clearly and effectively. He catches Americans’ attention through communicating obvious ideas in a new way, and also being realistic and practical. This provides new information, knowledge, arguments, ideas, and appeals most contagious issues regarding America in his speech straight to the point. This way, the message induces, encourages, instigates, assists, facilitates, cultivates and promotes persuasion.

II.        The Rhetorical Theory

In his definition, Aristotle defines rhetoric as the faculty of observing the available means of persuasion in any given case. Rhetoric has never been declared as a faculty of observing the availability of interpreting and reacting to the persuasive message in any given case. Rhetoric mainly focuses on the making of a good skilled speaker not on a good and excellent listener.  Traditional rhetoric theories have also focused on great orators rather than good listeners although traditionally, it had no focus on great auditors. Although in further communication studies, good listening skills are also considered in details.

Rhetoric theories main focus is on message production and how to invent a more persuading message but not on message reception or how effective the audience is. Basically, rhetoric theory the audience is allocated the role of the target, the obstacle or as the means to the rhetor’s end. Even the traditional rhetorical theory was designed for orators but not their audience.

The term rhetoric was first coined by the ancient Greeks. This was aimed at identifying crucial political skills of effective public speaker. Since then, there have been numerous theories defining what rhetoric really is, how it works, what it means to human social-political interaction, and why it works. For more than two thousand years in history, a scholar named James Berlin came up with the most reliable classification of diverse rhetoric theories.

In every speech we make, we involve rhetorics in a number of ways. This indicates that we are always engaging in social political actions with, for or against others. According to berlin, rhetoric has at its base a conception of reality, of language and of human nature. In other terms, it is grounded in a noetic field; as a closed system of defining what can be known, and what cannot be known. This also includes the nature of the knower, the nature of the knower and the relationship between the knower and what is known. He also noted out that rhetoric also involve the audience, and the nature of the language. This clearly shows that rhetoric is implicate in almost all social attempts. In actual sense, it is at the center of every cultural activity (James, 2004).

This enables us to look at rhetoric of a given society and judge on who may speak, how they may speak, who listens, how they are likely to speak, and the types of languages features and the arguments deemed persuasive (Cline, 2011).

According to Berlin, rhetorics can be classified based on ontology and epistemology. He based rhetorics on objective theories, subjective theories and transactional theories. Objective theories are based on positivistic epistemology. This theory asserts that the real is located in the material world. In this perspective, only which can be justified using tangible data, exhibits and statistics can be perceived to be real. The speaker’s major responsibility is to record this reality exactly as it has been experienced into the mind of the audience. The language used in this is the sign system to record what exists apart from the verbal. Truth is determined through the inductive method, through collecting sense data and arriving at conclusive generalizations. There are no longer concerns with the probabilistic nature of the values in political, legal and social spheres.

In this specific speech, Harman opening remarks creates suspense when he declares that his aunt is in attendance, but she has not decided on whether to vote for her nephew. He further assures them that by the end of his speech, he will have convinced her beyond any reasonable doubt that he (Herman) is the best candidate for the top job in America

 Herman describes America as a nation in crisis; he states that America is in moral crises, economic crises, entitlement spending crises, immigration crises, foggy affair crises, and refers to the white house leadership as deficient (4president.org, 2011). The most frequent applause throughout his speech shows how well convinced his audience is.

Artifact/context (rhetorical situation)


In rhetoric, an exigency is an issue, problem, or situation that causes or prompts someone to write or speak. In Cain’s case the fact that there are unexploited avenues to solving the economic crises is what is driving him to address his audience with confidence that he can practically employ these methods in solving them.


Rhetorical oriented discourse is composed with the end receivers in mind. The audience is considered to be the recipient of the rhetorical composition. In this analysis, rhetoric takes to account how the audience shapes the composition of the message or responds to it.

The relationship between the audience and the settings or the occasion depends on the genre of oratory were carried out. Theorists have also considered multiple audiences on which the speech is aimed at.  The primary audience refers to the members directly addressed by the speaker. Other audience refers to the group of people likely to read from written records of the same speech which may be translated in some instances. Emphasizing on the audience is contradicting to the philosophical rhetoric dimension that discourses orienting itself to the truth rather than the doxa or the opinion of the misinformed public

Harman Cain’s response to his audience on the crises facing the Obama administration have little to do with his approach to the methods he promised to use in order to solve the problem (4president.org, 2011). However, this comparison is very important in attracting the audience attention. His aim was to create confidence with the voter so as to secure his or her vote if indeed he will represent himself as a republican presidential candidate. Harman’s intent was to create an ethos of confidence in the face of his friendly audience. This way he incites the public to follow his ideologies (Myers, 2011). Any person reading this speech would interpret his arguments and rhetoric in light of the broader populace whom he was addressing.


In rhetoric, constraints are those factors that restrict the persuasive opportunities or strategies available to the speaker or a speech writer. These constrains consist of events, objects, relations or persons who are part of the rhetoric situation. This is because all these are in a position to constrain an action or a decision. Sources of constrains include beliefs, documents, attitude, tradition, facts, image, and motives among others (Webster, 2011).

From point of view, Harman Cain’s stand on foreign issues is made clear, he declares the Obama administration as one thet has failed greatly in identifying America’s friends and, maintaining a good relationship. His example includes Israel, a long time America friend in terms of foreign trade, military power and war on terror. He states that the relationship between America and Israel has deteriorated with time, and he is in a good position to fix it. Although his critics say that he inexperienced in foreign affairs, he uses a simple example in layman’s language, ‘know your friends.

III.       Analysis

Persuasive appeals/ modes of persuasion


Ethos describes a character’s persuasive appeal. This means that, it shows how a character is established in terms of speech or discourse. According to Aristotle each character should be able to portray his/her knowledge concerning a certain subject. In classical oratory the commencement of a speech should establish the orator’s credibility with the audience. The classical oratory argument was brought about by Cicero.

In Harman Cain’s speech, he begins with defining American economy as one in crisis. For his well-known fame as a scholar, he defines Obama’s administration as one composed of inexperienced officers in the private sector. This tactic establishes his ethos because the audience is forced to acknowledge that he is the most favorable candidate for the presidential race. His entire speech, Harman attempts to increase his popularity in his attempt to increase the respectability of the ethos of politics, which is largely achieved by tying his ambition to his academic qualifications and also his rich resume (4president.org, 2011).


Logos is used to describe the appeal to reason. According to Aristotle any communication should be made only through this appeal, this though does not happen due to the weakness of the humanity and thus we end up using ethos and pathos appeals (Long, 2004). The term logo has other meanings and is usually used for “oration”.

Herman describes himself as the son of a chauffeur and a domestic worker. This statement reflects not only pure concision but also his simple logical preparedness. This is aimed at convincing his audience that he is the most humble, real, and ideal presidential candidate. He describes himself as an experienced and educated man who will only involve the elites in his administration. In his context, there is no space for the clouds of emotion in this straight forward speech. This qualifies his speech as a purely logical appear.


Pathos describes the appeal to emotion. According to Cicero pathos should be used at the conclusion of an oration although this is not usually the case because emotions appeals are widely viable. Aristotle’s rhetoric has a lot of discussion of how emotions are affected, providing the kinds of responses expressed by different demographic groups (Granger, 2007). This portrays a close relation between pathos assessment and the audience. Pathos also helps us to clearly understand how rhetoric is psychological. Criticism of rhetoric mostly focuses on pathos overemphasis, emotion, but not logos which represents the message.

Herman’s speech to his audience at Olympic Centennial Park managed to stir up the twenty members audience, much enough to influence their minds towards considering his policies as the most real.  He describes Obama’s leadership as one full of rhetorics and empty promises which are not practical. He also uses figures to demonstrate how the current administration has failed in dealing with the most urgent issues. He states that there is a nine percent unemployment rate, with nearly fifteen million jobless people, forty seven millions on food stamps, the increased gas prices, and a failed strenuous budget to stimulate the economy.

Most of the places they are speaking have significance to why they are speaking there.

By addressing a large crowd of an enthusiastic audience at the Olympic Centennial Park, Harman create an ample atmosphere to air his opinions. This group is positive to his thinking and easy to convince using figures, derived methods and statistics. He termed the venue as a victory ground where men goes to seek victory. He relates this ground with the expected American victory with his administration. This achieves rhetoric objectives in creating a speech that is well achieved by a responsive audience.

Major Findings

This method of launching his quest is very effective, and its objectives are well achieved. By applying rhetorical principles, Herman Cain created a very appropriate platform to launch his political ambition and it was well achieved. His message was well received by his well persuaded audience making it one of the most successful speeches. By using facts and applying objectives rhetoric theory, he achieves his intended purpose of his speech.

            In rhetorics, the speech and the speaker are the most important element in a successive rhetoric process. This case study also demonstrates the effectiveness of use of facts and illustrations in giving speech. This case also teaches how constructs, ethos, pathos and logos (persuasive appeals/ modes of persuasion) are achieved in a well-structured rhetoric case.

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