In most speeches it would be difficult to get through to the audience without drawing their interest first and making them sit up a listen. Exceptions to that will be the likes of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. who were both charismatic personalities whose reputation and causes preceded them. If either of them walked into a roomful of people they will have everyone spellbound and expectant of every word they will utter. When he addressed the delegates of the national convention of the Democratic Party, Mario Cuomo used language and stylistic devices to woo his audience and get his point across.
On July 16, 1984 Mario Cuomo was tasked to speak to the Democrats on the day the party officially proclaimed their standard bearers. Cuomo needed to get his party mates to listen, interest them to what he had to say and most importantly make them embrace his thoughts as their own. Basically, what he laid out before them was the contrast between the policies of the Republicans and the Democrats. Cuomo emphasized the windows of opportunities for the Democrats in those areas where the Republicans had missed out on. It was some kind of pep talk that appealed to the intellect and emotions of his audience.
Instead of plainly referring to the country as “America,” he borrowed Reagan’s Metaphor “shining city on a hill” only to throw it back, smack in the face of the president, with an Anti-Thesis of America as the “Tale of Two Cities. ” He pointed to the realities on one side which the glimmer could not reach. There was no mistaking in the effect he wanted to make about the inappropriate label and blaming such on its author. Towards the end of his speech he did not elaborate on the poverty that was visible to everyone. Cuomo found it sufficient with the Parallelism, “I saw it and I lived it. In his address Cuomo used statistical figures sparingly but its entirety was replete with figures of speech. Cuomo’s use of language helped the audience along in the reception of the message of his speech. It was easier for the audience to understand, relate to and accept the realities of the times that Cuomo wanted to impart to them through the use of effective language, instead of just the bland and unappealing statements that lacked the necessary impact and interest to affect them. He used plenty of stylistic devices to bolster his arguments. The most frequently used was the Anaphora.
He distinguished the Democrats’ policy of Inclusion of members from “every color, every creed … ,” the urgency with which he called the attention of “Mr. President” to the neglected and poverty-stricken side of affluent America, and the conviction of the Democrats in those they hold as fundamental and in what they say “We believe in. ” Cuomo used Allusion to remind them of valuable lessons in transparent politics with “if July brings back Ann Gorsuch Burford” and to warn that the longer it took for America to see the direction Reagan was taking the country to, four more years meant more problems and more suffering.
To dramatize his argument for the fiscal deficit and mounting debt of the Reagan administration, Cuomo used Hyperbole and claimed that it was already “a mortgage on our children’s future,” “can be paid only in pain” and “bring this nation to its knees. ” He asked a question that if the President had told the voters about the real state of the nation’s economy on Election Day, would he have won. He answered the question himself with “Of course not! ” With his use of the stylistic device of Hypophora, he strengthened his argument because he seemed doubly convinced of the wisdom and truth in his opinion that he had to confirm it.
It may also appear that he shared this opinion with somebody else who may have similarly answered with “of course not. ” He illustrated the Democrats’ vision of a multi-cultural America with Synecdoche when he said that ethnics have much to contribute to the “magnificent mosaic that is America. ” What Cuomo actually did when he used stylistic devices in his arguments was to simplify and clarify his points further. It helped that he used words that painted a picture of what he was actually saying.
When he paid tribute to the efforts of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Cuomo did not repeat what was already written in history books. He was poetic when he likened Roosevelt’s extreme pain in rising from the wheelchair to the tremendous hardship of pulling the nation out of the Great Depression, and yet, his audience got the meaning of the symbolism perfectly. In many ways, Cuomo’s use of language made his speech far from boring. There were stylistic devices that were relevant as it was appropriate to push the point further.
While there were those exceptionally beautiful ones that enhanced interpretation, there were those that lost their significance in translation. The use of Repetition in almost all of the beginning sentences was over done, to the point that one would think the speaker had lost the trend of his thoughts or worst was that he was stuttering. Take the case of “And, now — now — now it is up to us. ” There are several others like, “We — our — our government — our government …” and then he used “We believe …” nine times to start off a paragraph.
He should have done away with too much of Repetition. It did not serve to emphasize his point nor did it add value to the composition. It had confused and misled at times. The last few paragraphs were muddled. Somewhere he mentioned 50 years of progress which he credited to the Democratic Party. He never substantiated that with concrete facts nor supported it with valid claims. He should have applied the same style he had when he disputed the track record of the Republicans, including all the symbolisms and stylistic devices. He should have achieved uniformity and continuity of style.
It would be more effective if he had finish off his speech by being more direct, brief and to the point when he mentioned the party’s standard bearers. This would have cut the momentum abruptly and leave his audience wanting more. The unexpected end would make them rewind the speech in their minds and recall the important points he made along. Again, he should remove “and she – she – she will open …. ” Instead, “A first woman vice-president will open a new chapter in our nation’s history” should be sufficient to achieve the desired impact.