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Maya Angelou’s Graduation

In Maya Angelou’s article on her graduation there are two speakers. There is Mr. Edward Dunleavy, a seemingly ignorant and foolish man who shows very little empathy towards his audience, and Henry Reed, the valedictorian of his class who seems very intelligent and has a broad knowledge of his audiences perspective. Although both have the duty of addressing an identical audience, they approach it in very different and conflicting manners. Their differing styles lead to very distinct reaction from the audience.

Mr. Edward Dunleavy is a white man whom the school brought in as the guest speaker for their graduation. His purpose is to present a speech that can help to bring closure to the final minutes of the young schoolchildren’s educational careers. Although the audience he is addressing is filled with a majority of black schoolchildren, their parents, family, and friends he hardly seems to take into account whom exactly he is speaking too. The message that Mr. Dunleavy delivers is one that praises the school and its inhabitants for their rich history in sports, and describes many of the memories that many white athletes have  made there. He lays out a dream crushing disposition that paints the students future as one that is mediocre and filled with low-end jobs and visions of the possibility of fame through athletics. It seems that Mr. Dunleavy was trying to break down the dreams of the audience rather than lift them up. He delivers a direct message that he may feel is helping them, but indirectly he may be delivering a message that can hurt the ambitions of a young student. Edward seems to rely more on a logos appeal, he tells them what new things will be put into schools, and does little to appeal to the emotional or ethical side of the audience. In the end I feel Mr. Dunleavy failed his purpose of bringing closure to the students final moments of school

Henry Reed is a young student who attends the school, he is smart well spoken and articulate. His purpose is similar to Mr. Dunleavy’s in the sense that he is trying to bring a solid end to the final moments of their educational career. Although they shared the same audience Henry approached them in a much different manner. One that uplifted their spirits and even brought tears to the eyes of Maya. Instead of preaching to the crowd Henry turned his back and began to sing a popular poem to the crowd. This leads to a great revival of emotions from the crowd , and allows them to join along as they sang in unison. This is what I believe Henry wanted them too feel, he wanted them to shake off the message that had just been delivered and accept what they all knew to be true, to accept the idea that their future was bright. Henry was largely using pathos logic to pull at the emotional heartstrings of the crowd. He was clearly  successful at this as he even brought tears to the eyes of Maya Angelou.

Clearly both speakers used different rhetorical appeals and approached their audience in a very different manner. In the end Henry was more successful through his use of emotional appeal.


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