How Can The Power Of Words Bring About A Positive Change In A Community?

1119 words - 5 pages

Words can bring positive change to a community, be it a small town or the entire world - all it takes is two key components, delivery and content. This was certainly the case with Clarence Darrow’s 1926 concluding speech in defence of African American, Henry Sweet, accused of the murder of a white man. Darrow’s monumental eight-hour speech set a legal precedent when Sweet was acquitted of his murder charge. The speech, “Changed the status of Negros before the law and meant in respect to defending ones home and self in self defence, what applied to whites now, in practice and not just in word, apply to African Americans as well.” Clarence Darrow’s speech, along with Henry Sweet’s acquittal, is now considered huge milestone in the civil rights movement.

Another example of the power of words bringing change to large communities is President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s inaugural speech in 1961. In one short speech JFK brought hope to a nation, flung 1960’s into a new era and told the world that America would not back down when it came to the protection of their people and borders. The speech was so successful that it is still seen as the benchmark for presidential inaugural speeches over 50 years later. For these men, delivery and content were key to their achievements, they were used with such success that these men changed the world for the better.

In 1926, Henry Sweet, a 21 year-old black man, was put on trial for the shooting murder of a white man who was invading Sweets’ brother’s family home. Clarence Darrow, seen, as the spokesman for the underdog was Sweet’s attorney. In his many decades as an attorney Darrow defended over a hundred people on death row for murder, never once losing - Henry Sweets’ case was no exception.

Darrow introduced his defence speech by laying down the facts and telling the jury that they knew that this case was based on, “race prejudice and nothing else.” He went on to talk about the history of the Negro race; by talking about the background of the Negro race Darrow hoped to soften the jury’s rock hard prejudice. He told them that, “if the race we belong to owes anything to any human being, … they owe an obligation and duty to these black men.” Darrow then informed the jury about their duty, their chance to make history, their chance to right a wrong performed by their ancestors years before. He then asked the jury what they would do if put in Henry Sweet’s position. This made the jury emphasise with Sweet and made them think about the situation through a new perspective. Afterwards, Darrow called on many of Henry’s network to speak about his bright future, giving the jury more reason to let him go. Finally, to close, Darrow asked the jury to consider the case without prejudice and advised them to use patience and tolerance, “Which are necessary for men who live together.” He asked them that, in the name of the human race, they return the verdict not guilty.

In his speech, Darrow used many language devices; in his...

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