Audience Appeal

In public speaking we cannot stress enough the importance of establishing a common ground or interest with the audience in a speech. In the book we read titled “Great Speeches for Better Speaking,” Michael Eidenmuller stresses the importance for the speaker to establish a strong ethos or credibility. By establishing this common ground and credibility, the audience is more likely to be influenced as they know the speaker has similar beliefs and is speaking for the better interests of the audience.

One particular speech that shows the effectiveness of establishing ethos in influencing an audience is a speech made by the character Anne Howard in the movie “The Patriot.” The speech is made when the character played by Heath Ledger interrupts church in a small town to recruit men to fight against the British in the Revolutionary War. Being a stranger to the town, the members of the church erupt in protest as they were already mourning the loss of other town members. At this point, Anne Howard, a well known town member, stands up and begins her speech. Anne quickly establishes credibility among the audience when she says, “Half the men in the church, including you Father, and you Reverend, are as ardent a patriot as I.” Immediately she has gained the attention and respect of the audience by stating her similar belief and desire to live in an independent America.

By establishing a strong credibility, Anne is now able to use this common desire for independence to evoke a call to action later in her speech. This call to action is exhibited at the end of the speech when she says, “I ask only that you act upon the beliefs of which you have so strongly spoken, and in which you so strongly believe.” Upon finishing her speech, a number of the men in the church stand up and vow to go off and fight. Anne’s speech is successful in influencing her audience mainly because she is able to establish a common ground/credibility, ethos, with her audience and this is what leads to the interest and success in the rest of the speech. The scene/speech is available on youtube at the following address.

Brendan Fell


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