• Buy the 11th edition of Know-it-all passport
  • Cirieco Design - Graphic Design and Marketing Services

CDC Trump inaugural address 500
Photo credit: CNN

By Claire Doole, Claire Doole Communications

The Greeks got it right 2500 years ago. If you want to influence or persuade people you have to show ethos (character), pathos (emotions of the audience) and logos (the logic of the argument).

This principle – known as Aristotle’s Golden Triangle – is the cornerstone of powerful oratory – used by politicians, leaders and laymen when speaking in public.

So on the day we bid farewell to President Obama and usher in four years of Donald Trump as US Commander in Chief, I thought it would be interesting to briefly assess his inaugural address and see how he applied the golden triangle.

Aristotle argued that ethos, pathos and logos were not only equally important but also mutually supportive. For instance, a speaker would be more likely to sweep his audience along with his emotional appeal, if he had previously established his credibility and constructed a robust argument.

But does this hold true with Donald Trump, known for his pathos but not necessarily for his ethos and logos?

To date, Trump has made very few scripted speeches. At many of his rallies he spoke off the cuff, playing to his unstructured conversational style.

Would he have less pathos when constrained by a speech and a teleprompter but more ethos and logos?

 
Trump’s inaugural speech


Video credit: TIME

This was a speech that set the tone for Trump’s presidency: populist and nationalist. It embodied his ethos as the man who is a disrupter, who is anti establishment and does things his own way.

He appealed to the emotions of the audience (pathos) using simple and direct language:

“We will get our people off welfare and back to work. We will follow two simple rules, buy American and hire American.”

Unlike previous inaugural speeches, President Trump kept the rhetorical flourishes to a minimum.

“A new national pride will lift our sights and heal our divisions. It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget. That whether we are black or brown or white we all bleed the same red blood of patriots.”

But it was hard to find the logos (rational argument). If an inaugural address is about uniting the country and Trump has previously said that he wants to bind the wounds of division then this speech for many commentators failed.

They remarked that the tone barely differed from that of his campaign speeches. Perhaps, they surmised, this was a speech for the party faithful.

“This is your day, this is your celebration, and this, the United States of America, is your country.
“The forgotten men and woman of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now.
“What truly matters is not which party controls our government. But whether our country is controlled by the people.”

The target audience of an inaugural speech is always the entire nation – the President striving to bring unity to a country following divisive elections.

The question is did this address after one of the most divisive elections in history sufficiently reach out to all Americans?

Did it persuade you? I would be really interested to hear your thoughts and comments.

And for those who are wondering how Aristotle’s golden triangle can help your public speaking, here are his big three with two of my own thrown in.
 
5 Takeaways for your public speaking

1. Ethos (character) is important in speeches. In the words of Aristotle “we believe good men more fully and more readily than others.”

2. Emotion (pathos) trumps logic. The brain’s limbic system, which governs our emotions, is five times more powerful than the neo-cortex that controls our logical minds.

3. Logos is often an optional extra. Speeches move too fast for audiences to follow the rational argument.

4. Less is more. Give audiences time to think and make their own associations. Don’t cram in too much information.

5. The audience is more important than the speaker. It is not what you say but what people hear. You can have the best message in the world but the receiver will always understand it through the prism of his own emotions, preconceptions, prejudices and pre-existing beliefs.

Author's bio

clairedooleportrait 200Claire is a former BBC correspondent and international spokeswoman who is passionate about helping people communicate with confidence. Since 2006, she has successfully trained hundreds of professionals in the art of presenting and public speaking, talking to the media, managing communications in a crisis, and writing for the web. In addition, she has coached C-level executives and public figures to give powerful TEDx and TED style talks in Europe and the Middle East. A Swiss and UK national, Claire trains and coaches in French and English.

Claire is also a highly experienced moderator having facilitated panel discussions with government ministers, NGO activists, humanitarians and human rights specialists at major events.

www.doolecommunications.com

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save