The rhetoric speech of Charles Colson has instances of fallacies, ethos, pathos, and logos. The use of these features in the speech influences the behavior and attitude of the target audiences. Therefore, throughout his speech, Colson creates a sense of pathos, logos, and ethos to the listeners. One noticed aspect from Colson’s speech is that he creates a sense of logos to provide a clear argument that permits the target audiences to make a specific decision. At the same time, Charles Colson uses ethos to demonstrate goodwill and moral character educated individuals or society should pursue (AmericanRhetoric.com n.d). The use of pathos in Colson’s speech clearly indicates his emotion and intends to influence the audiences to be identified by specific perspectives.
To develop goodwill and character (ethos), Charles Colson has renounced himself with a religious man’s character or persona. In several speech instances, Colson has created his persona by highlighting religious beliefs and practices. For example, Colson state, “that inspires in me a sense of gratitude that I will do for my God whatever He calls me to do (AmericanRhetoric.com n.d).” Colson’s speech contains several religious reflections to tell the audience that he has changed his character, which he gains from Watergate scadal and believes God forgives his earlier sin. Therefore, Colson can do whatever God directs him to pay the price of salvation. He utilizes Christ teaching to build his character or persona and let audiences know he is a deeply rooted religious man who observes moral aspects by God’s fear. Colson has avoided harming his character or persona since he excluded statements that could lead to untrustworthy, misinformed, deceitful, and unintelligent. One can note Colson has used words and phrases that are not against his ethos application. For example, Colson shows his audience that he is intelligent, credible, and informed. From the speech, one can note Colson is running away from the Watergate scandal. Thus, Colson has included his religious character in each section of his speech rather than looking at his dark side (Watergate scandal incident).
To influence the audiences’ decisions (logos), Charles Colson has constructed an excellent argument and presented clear evidence to his speech objectives. Colson begins his speech by laying down the foundation of ethics from the ’80s and ’90s (“And we were deeply concerned in the ’80s with the question of ethics and moral behavior (AmericanRhetoric.com n.d)”). At the same time, Colson utilized evidence to support his argument. For example, Colson states, “97% of the American people say that they believe their moral behavior is superior to the President (AmericanRhetoric.com n.d).” The uses of evidence intend to lay down a foundation that the majority of American citizens know and uphold the moral concept. The initial arguments and evidence presented in Colson speech are the founding attributed to moral components. Furthermore, Colson utilizes these moral component foundations to persuade the audience to be better individuals in society. At the end of his speech, Colson believes that he has changed and persuaded the audience when they leave Geneva, they should pursue God’s teaching, possess integrity, preserve their moral character and show gratitude. For example, Colson states to the audience, “And what he calls us to do is to live for him in biblical fidelity to the kinds of commands I read to you from the Holy Scriptures, and to be men and women of character who exalt virtue (AmericanRhetoric.com n.d).” From Colson’s perspective, he wants learners to leave Geneva and live a life full of good character, virtual, purity, and integrity. These attributes will help the students to make a difference in society by setting-up moral standards.
Colson makes a common practice fallacy when he outlines why individuals require character. He states, “Every college in America before the twentieth century was started by Christians, with one exception, the University of South (Carolina AmericanRhetoric.com n.d).” This means that character was part and parcel of the societies before the twentieth century. The intention of using the statement “every college in America before the twentieth century” is to act as evidence of supporting his claim that character matters. Colson’s common practice statement implies that because many collages in America during the twentieth century focused on character, then this aspect is good for society. However, this is a common practice fallacy since not everything is done by the majority becomes moral and just. The message Colson intended to deliver using the common practice fallacy statement was that excellent character in society must be justified and virtuous.
The use of pathos in Colson’s speech is evident when he establishes his moral position. Colson states, “Bob Packwood was driven from the Senate for, who had a long and distinguished career in the United States Senate, for unseemly behavior with women, rightly so in my opinion (AmericanRhetoric.com n.d).” Thus, his opinion regarding the moral position is that character matters. Colson wants to show the audiences that behaviors committed by Clarence Thomas, John Tower, and Bob Packwood could cost them hugely, including denied to serve the public in prestigious government positions such as Supreme Court judges. Colson wants the audience to know that a bad reputation can taint the career growth for professionals; hence they should take his moral position that character matters.
Colson deploys ethos when explaining the moral aspect concerning government. Colson states, “But two-thirds of the American people say that, if indeed the President of the United States committed perjury, subornation of perjury, tampering with witnesses, and committed a series of sexual indiscretions that it should make no difference because the country is doing so well (AmericanRhetoric.com n.d).” The intention of Colson to issue this evidence to the audience is to help them conclude whether character matters in their lives and government institutions. He connects the character aspect with his life experiences which lead to imprisonment. Further, Colson wants to show the audience that lack of ethics and dishonesty destroy individual lives by bringing all kinds of suffering, including reputation damage and loss of employment. Since Colson uses his personal experiences to show the significance of the character in society, he wants to influence his audience to believe in his question regarding ethics.
A personal attack fallacy is evident in Colson’s speech. For example, “To educate a man in the mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” From Colson’s point of view, education programs should be correlated with moral training. Colson supports his argument by commending institutions in Geneva for educating its students’ moral education and formation. Although Colson’s intention was that education should build an individual’s mind and moral aspects, he attacks the intelligent mind without morality. Colons have not supported his argument since he has not presented evidence that the Geneva institution that equips students with intellectual and moral formation has influenced learners to become ethical.
Furthermore, Colson has used a hasty generalization fallacy while highlighting reasons for immoral behavior among students (Common Fallacies, 2005). He states, “We’ve raised a generation without conscience, which is why in the work that I do in the prisons I travel from place to place and I see people say that –I see these kids, and I see them say (AmericanRhetoric.com n.d).” Colson has not presented clear evidence that the majority of kids brought up in the United States are immoral. If groups of children have committed immoral behaviors that have shocked the world, it doesn’t mean that all children across the region behave the same. Colson has concluded that the generation raised has no conscience, using one case where a student mercilessly killed a person. This incident is not enough to justify that the more significant generation is raised without conscience. Colson intended to show the audience that lack of character in society will increase immoral behaviors. However, one should not assume that a large proportion of upcoming generations are immoral due to their upbringing without presenting appropriate evidence from a significant sample size. One incident is insignificant in representing the whole generation characters.
Colson has created a bandwagon appeal fallacy when he says “Is it better to appear right or to be right?” “And if you answer that question, you will have lives of nobility and decency and character, and you’ll contribute something of worth to your society and to your culture (AmericanRhetoric.com n.d).” This means that any response to this question makes a person moral. It can also mean that if a person cannot answer this question posed by Colson, he/she is not moral, cannot contribute something worthy to society, and cannot live a noble or decent life. His personal experience as a convict influences Colson’s sentiments. By that time, Colson had not realized what was to right appear right or to be right. However, what Colson believes in regarding moral formation might differ from another person’s opinion. At the same time, Colson’s argument on what appears to be right or right has less evidence that this leads to morality. Therefore, this is a personal point of view but not a fact.
The speech of Colson focused on individual character and good governance. He presented his argument with intelligence, vast information, and a persuasive approach. Colson hides his past character by renouncing his new Christ-like attributes. To achieve the objective of the speech, which is to help students shape their character, Colson utilizes ethos, pathos, and logos. The three aspects have been utilized effectively since his past character before becoming a firm religious man did not affect audiences.
AmericanRhetoric.com (n.d). Charles W. Colson Geneva College Commencement Address. delivered May 1998, Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA
Common Fallacies (or Errors) In Reasoning (July 2005)