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Analyzing Debatable Claim: Death Penalty in the USA by Nick McKeown

The speaker introduces his topic to persuade the audience on the future of the death penalty in the United States.

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He points out various reasons that validate the need to end the death penalty and use alternatives. According to the speaker, the death penalty is often a result of an unfair justice system. Many cases that he presents include people who were convicted in totally unfair trials, use of doctored evidence, coached witnesses and even some who did not have proper legal representations.

In some countries such as China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea where capital punishment is still prevalent, citizens are executed based on the crime and judges do not have the opportunity to consider the circumstances of the crime before passing judgment. Thus, according to the speaker, the death penalty is an irreversible and cruel form of punishment that should not be used in the United States. The main purpose of the talk is to convince the audience who are eligible to vote to raise and let their voices be heard by voting for the repeal of the death penalty in the upcoming popular vote in the State of California.

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Moreover, the speaker targets Californian citizens who are eligible to vote in rejection or repealing capital punishment. It is important because categorizing the target audience is crucial to advocacy and campaigning. Communication and mobilization of the target audience through talks would advance the narrative that the death penalty was outdated and barbaric. On the other hand, the speaker bases the context of his talk on the high number of advanced democracies that have since abolished the death penalty while the punishment was still applicable in the United States. The audience needs to understand that over 100 countries across the globe have abolished the death penalty, 60 countries no longer use it but it is still legal in 28 countries. In the United States, 19 states have abolished the death penalty.

Additionally, the speaker appeals to the audience by tapping into the power of reason, emotion, and credibility. The reason, emotion, and credibility focus on the speaker, the argument and the audience respectively; together, it allows a speaker to persuade effectively and powerfully deliver the meaning of their speech (Varpio, 2018). First, the speaker uses appeals based on reason by asking “I am an engineering professor so why would I get involved in this?” (McKeown, 2016). He answers that by re-counting “when I was at college in England, I volunteered for Amnesty International and wrote letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience” (McKeown, 2016). On the other hand, the speaker draws out feelings from the audience by arguing that “if you stand up, speak out and say something, even a little something, it could make quite a difference” (McKeown, 2016). Moreover, the speaker appeals to logic by using statistical facts and trends. He argues “there are 1 million African Americans in prison in America today, six times the rate of whites, but if that trend continues one in three black men born today will go to prison” (McKeown, 2016). Together, these examples become powerful and effective persuasion tools available for the speaker in this situation.

Similarly, the speaker strongly utilizes statistical evidence to strengthen the credibility of his arguments. For instance, evidence on the number of countries where capital punishment is still legal, those that no longer use it and those that have abolished it as 28, 60 and 100 respectively. The evidence is credible because it is based on Amnesty International data, which is a credible source of information. Besides, the speaker uses the court’s statistics from the State of California as evidence to back up his claims and enhance credibility. Additional information worth knowing about capital punishment in America includes the cost of executions, the average time spent in death row and the percentage of innocent individuals who end up executed.

Overall, the speaker’s introduction is compelling because he uses statistics to ground his speech and bring reality to it. The use of a statistic to introduce his powerful talk is an effective method to grab the audience’s attention from the beginning. It is important because it establishes the topic in a credible, memorable and emotionally effective way that offers the audience something to grasp. On the other hand, the speaker uses a concluding device to end his speech. Using a famous Martin Luther King Jr quote on hate and love, he asks his audience to turn up and vote for a repeal of capital punishment in California. The use of a concluding device gives the audience the final thought and a sense of closure of the talk.

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Analyzing Debatable Claim: Death Penalty in the USA by Nick McKeown. (2020, Sep 16). Retrieved from

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