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What the Waters Revealed by Jim Wallis Essay

What the Water’s Revealed, an essay by Jim Wallis, argues that the silent story of poverty in America was brought to light in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He also covers issues such as the war in Iraq and government spending that came under fire as a result of the storm. These were all issues that were slowly brewing prior to Katrina, but came to a head once people started looking for answers. Jim Wallis follows the classic principals of argumentation in his article. The subject covered in the article, is controversial and shocking for many Americans. He uses ethos, pathos, and logos to develop authority in the article and connect with readers.


Jim Wallis is a political activist and Christian writer. He is best known for his advocacy of peace and social justice. He previously served as a spiritual advisor to President Obama. (Sojourners, 2011) What the Waters Revealed was written by Wallis for publication in his magazine titled Sojourners. Wallis builds ethos, (authority) in his article through his years of experience in fighting for social justice. From his writing he appears to have a strong passion for helping the millions of poverty stricken Americans throughout the country not only the ones directly affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Jim Wallis creates authority in the article by following the basic principals discussed above. Wallis uses an authoritative voice when addressing important issues in the article. His tone is firm and pressed on the urgency to make changes for the future of the nation. Readers can feel the importance of his topic through his writing. This subject is clearly something that Wallis has strong feelings towards.


In the article, Wallis uses pathos, emotion, to effectively draw on the reader’s emotions. He uses images in the article to put a face on poverty. During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, media coverage brought up an issue that people had no idea existed. Wallis states in his article that “The faces of those stranded in New Orleans were overwhelmingly poor and black, the very old and the very young. They were the ones who could not evacuate; had no cars or money for gas; no money for bus, train, or airfare; no budget for hotels or no friends or family with room to share or spare.” (Wallis, 2005) These people were struggling to survive before Hurricane Katrina. Americans across the nation were surprised to know that so many of their fellow Americans were not only living in poverty, but left to fend for themselves once the storm hit.


Wallis builds ethos in his argument through the use of logos, logic. Jim Wallis backs his claims in the article with statistics taken from a US census. The Census results were published around the same time Hurricane Katrina hit, providing accurate numbers of Americans suffering in poverty. According to the results of the Census more than 37 million Americans were stuck below the poverty line. (Wallis, 2005) This number was an increase for the 4th straight year. New Orleans alone had a 28% poverty rate, 84% of which was African American.

Wallis’ claim that Americans were blind to the growing poverty rate appears stronger due to the figures provided by the Census. The article also covers important issues such as government spending. Wallis uses historical data from the flood of 1927 in Mississippi to add to his claim. “Floods wash away the surface of society, the settled way things have been done. They expose the underlying power structures, the injustices, the patterns of corruption, and the unacknowledged inequalities.” (Wallis, 2005)


What the Waters Revealed covers an important problem faced by many Americans. Jim Wallis uses his argument to address a need for change in America. The issues that Hurricane Katrina brought forward left Americans in shock. Wallis was able to build authority, tap into his reader’s emotions, and use logic to back his claim. His article is easy to read and connect with.


Wallis, J. (2005, November). What the Water’s Revealed. Sojourners, Retrieved from http://sojo.net/magazine/2005/11/what-waters-revealed Sojourners. (2011). Retrieved from http://sojo.net/jim-wallis

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