Pathos and ethos

Table of contents

Robert F. Kennedy uses two forms of appeal in his statement on the assassination of Martin Luther King – ethos and pathos. Both forms of appeal help Kennedy balance his speech and show the audience that he can empathize with them while also being mindful about the direction America is moving towards. 


Kennedy appeals to pathos when he alludes to his brother’s assassination. While he does not mention John F. Kennedy’s name, the audience understands his reference: 

For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

Here, Kennedy’s personal story helps him show the audience that he understands the pain and anger they are going through. Therefore, he appeals to the crowd’s emotions and shows them that they are connected by similar experiences. 

Kennedy also appeals to pathos when he uses words with positive meanings, like compassio...

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