How Bernie Sanders engages the audience


Choice of words

Bernie Sanders' choice of words in his commencement address reveals that he uses only a few positive adjectives and nouns such as: “important day” (l. 1), “healthy and happy lives” (l. 3), “our great nation” (ll. 36-37), “wealthiest country” (l. 94), “extraordinary potential” (l. 95), “intelligent and hardworking people” (l. 96) etc. These phrases create positive images in connection to the graduates he is addressing and the United States’ potential. This way, he engages the audience by appealing to their pride as both graduates and Americans, trying to motivate them to fight for a better America.

However, most adjectives and nouns in the speech convey negative images: “profound realities” (l. 14), “financial pressures” (l. 16), “painful and stress-filled decisions” (l. 19), “very serious crises” (l. 31), “childhood poverty” (l. 45) “hopelessness and despair” (l. 49), “broken criminal justice system” (l. 51), etc. These phrases are related to income inequality in the US, which leads to a gap between the very rich and the rest of the country. Their function is to convey Bernie Sanders’ criticism towards a faulty political system, the very rich, and corporations. Such words engage the audience because they stir negative feelings, encouraging them to be as appalled as the speaker is with regards to inequality in the US.

In terms of choice of pronouns, Sanders delivers his speech using the first-person, both singular and plural. He uses the first-person singular (“I”) to talk about himself and his experiences: “I grew up in Flatbush and graduated from James Madison High School” (l. 8). Sanders uses these personal experiences to connect to his audience and show graduates that they share the experience of growing up in the same area. The use of personal experiences also adds to Sanders’ credibility when it comes to discussing the issue of poverty and inequality in the US. The more reliable a speakers seems, the more likely his audience is to listen carefully and support his arguments.

The second part of the speech is dominated by the use of the first-person plural (“us”, “we”): “And for us to do that it is necessary that we fight for a vision of a new America” (l. 75). This helps the speaker engage the audience by suggesting that they all share the same problems, goals, and responsibilities when it comes to inequality in the US. It helps create ethos because it empowers the audience and makes them more likely to accept Sanders’ views and vote for the party, by including them in Sande...

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