Rhetorical Analysis Of President Wilson's War Message To Congress

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Late in the winter of 1917, tensions around the world grew in the midst of World War I. The U.S. remained neutral in the beginning; however, the U.S. severed diplomatic connections with Germany in early February after Germany announced their agenda (“Wilson's War Message to Congress.”). Germany had declared their intent to sink any sea vessel that sought to approach the ports of Great Britain, Ireland, or the ports of its enemies within the Mediterranean. Breaking its promise, Germany put aside all restraints of law or of humanity, sinking every vessel, along with passenger ships, with no warning. President Wilson, after witnessing a plethora of inhumane atrocities, spoke before an irritated and aggravated congress, asking them for a declaration of war. The congress, who had voted to abstain from entering the war, reversed their decision and overwhelmingly voted to enter World War I (“Wilson's War Message to Congress.”). President Wilson expertly used a variety of appeals and rhetorical devices to sway the congress in his favor. President Wilson, a very successful president, was respected by Americans and congress members, and he used his reputation to legitimize his speech. Furthermore, President Wilson makes an ethical appeal to the congress when he states, “I have called the Congress into extraordinary session because there are serious, very serious, choices of policy to be made, and made immediately.” He begins this way to express the importance of the situation at hand and the authenticity of his urgency. President Wilson also discredits the character of the German government when he explains how they violated their promise, that no passenger vessels should be sunk. He cleverly used this example to show that the U.S. couldn’t trust the German Government. In addition, he uses this ethical appeal to lead into an emotional appeal. President Wilson included emotional appeals in his speech to inspire a feeling of empathy in his audience for those killed. For instance, he briefly describes a scene of a ship sinking in order to implant an idea in the congressmen of the bloodshed carried out by the German submarines in the Atlantic. President Wilson mentions the deaths of non-combatants, such as women and
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