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He personalizes the sense of power and youth with which the audience is leaving college, while universalizing the benefit they could bring to society as a whole:
We need help. Your help...Help... And you will make a huge impact on the life of the street, the town, the country, and our planet. If only one out of four of each one hundred of you choose to help on any given day, in any given cause - incredible things will happen in the world you live in." (Hanks 7).
Hanks therefore attempts to move his audience to action by emphasizing that the action they need to take is very small, but will have great benefits. He does this progressively, by infusing his speech with small to large images. The life of the street becomes the life of the planet with a single choice by a single person to do something helpful on a specific day.
Both Reeve's and Hanks' speeches are therefore suited to the specific outcomes they wish for in the hearts and minds of their hearers. Hanks for example impresses his college graduate audience not only with the sense of hope and apprehension with which they are entering the world, but also with the intellectual appeal of powerful statistics. He wishes them to enter the world and their respective professions on the basis of power at their disposal. He appeals to their potential to make a difference for the future of the world, and upon their sense of hope.
Reeve's desired outcome for the audience is that they'll make use of their current abilities to help. His focus is, as mentioned above, much more specific than that of Hanks, because the average age of his audience is more advanced. The hearers generally have already made their mark in the world, and are more likely than not in powerful positions to help by means of resources in terms of both money and time. Because of his narrower focus, Reeve is able to appeal to his audience in a much more practical, specific way. He therefore calls for specific actions targeted towards empowerment for the disabled. He calls for actions that would provide these people with more than just being alive. He can do this from an authoritative position, as he is himself disabled. This makes his speech all the more powerful.
Nevertheless, Reeve does not end his speech in a negative tone. While he focuses the majority of his speech on the problems faced by the disabled and the need that they have for help, Reeve, like Hanks, does this from the basis of power. He combines his ideal of family with the ideal of the American national consciousness, which has proven countless times that the apparently impossible soon proves to be reality:
Now, America has a tradition that many nations probably envy. We frequently achieve the impossible. That's part of our national character. That's what got us from one coast to another. That's what got us to the moon." (Reeve 4).
Both these words by Reeve, and Tom Hanks' assertion that "You will always be able to help" (Hanks 8) serve as a powerfully inspirational force for a variety of reasons. Reeve's words, designed for an older, politically oriented audience, focuses on past achievements and power. The actor uses these as a basis for an appeal to the future potential of the country to reach even greater feats by helping others to reach their full potential.
Hanks' words focuses more on the future. The young people who are his audience stand on the brink of adulthood, and Hanks therefore seeks to inspire them with the power to achieve the impossible that Reeve mentions in his speech.
In this way, both actors appeal to a specific concern in the hearts of their audience. They use this concern as a basis for their appeal in order to achieve the desired outcome in the audience: taking practical steps to improve the world around them.
Hanks, Tom. "The Power of Four." Poughkeepsie, 22 May 2005. American Rhetoric. Ed. Michael E. Eidenmuller. 2006. 26 Sept. 2006. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/tomhanksvassar.htm.
Reeve, Christopher. "1996 Democratic National Convention Address." Chicago, 26 Aug. 1996. American Rhetoric. Ed. Michael E. Eidenmuller.…[continue]
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