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Rhetoric and Social Justice in Nelson Mandela's ''I Am Prepared To Die''

Speeches are written with a particular audience in mind, depending on the audience, the speaker might make a speech in order to persuade people to act, to inform them. The speech Nelson Mandela gave prior to sentencing at the Rivonia Trail in 1964 is basically about why the ANC had decided to go behind its previous use of constitutional methods and nonviolent resistance and adopt sabotage against poverty. “Poverty and the breakdown of family life have secondary effects.”- Nelson Mandela. . He spoke at the beginning of the speech of how little they have and made use of the repetition “no” to emphasize it.

This poverty led to the breakdown of moral standards and the growing of violence that makes life in the townships very dangerous, with not one day going by without any person getting hurt. He states that discrimination broke down families and people’s lives got affected in all sorts of ways. The violence did not stay in the townships but got carried out into the white areas which made it dangerous for people to stroll alone along the streets after dark.

“Housebreakings and robberies are increasing, despite the fact that the death sentence can now be imposed for such offenses.”-Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela decided that instead of testifying he is going to deliver a formal speech that emphasizes his ideal for a democratic and free society in which all persons can live together in harmony and with equal rights and opportunities. Nelson makes use of repetition; “…no schools to go to, or no money to enable them to go to school, or no parents at home…” to develop a sense of urgency.

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He states that children in the township is experiencing a breakdown in moral standards and this has an effect on the secondary effects. The target audience were the people that did not live in the townships but the people that kept the African’s from education. He wanted to speak for all the African’s and he brought the audience’s attention by using repetition of emotive word choice. He makes use of we to emphasize that all Africans including him were prohibited from work, population, freedom, security, and equal political rights. “We want to be allowed to live where we obtain work, and not be forced out of an area because we were not born there.” “We want to be allowed and not to be obliged to live in rented houses which we can never call our own.” “We want to be allowed and not be part of the general population.”We want to be allowed out after eleven o’clock at night..”We want to be allowed to travel in our own country and to seek work where we want to,..”We want to share in the whole of South Africa; we want security and a stake in society”…we want equal political rights,..”-Nelson Mandela. In the speech, he gives the reason that it has been tough for the Africans of which they had no rights for very long. The ANC has been fighting for a century against racialism. “The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism.” –Nelson Mandela.

He states in the end of his speech what he has done for African people to fight for their rights. “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.”-Nelson Mandela. He makes this statement last to declare that he is prepared to die for people to be treated equally. “…I am prepared to die.” The last statement in his speech tells the audience how he felt about discrimination and how strongly he wanted people to be treated equally. The speech was described as the most effective speech of his career.

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Rhetoric and Social Justice in Nelson Mandela's ''I Am Prepared To Die''. (2019, Nov 27). Retrieved from

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