The Power of Language

Bob Jones
period 3
Mrs. Fox

Of all possible human qualities, the one that wields the most power is
the ability to use, understand and communicate effectively through language. A
proficient use of language allows us to clearly communicate an exact idea from
one person to another person or group of people. This precise science of being
able to convey exactly what you want equates to the acquisition of power. An
important link between language and power is persuasion. The power of
persuasion is so strong it allows certain individuals to influence, and
therefore, control thousands, even millions, of people and bind them together in
search of one common cause.
This tactic of persuasion is also called propaganda. Propaganda is the
spreading of information in order to influence public opinion and to manipulate
other people's beliefs. The message of propaganda is primarily intended to
serve the interests of the messenger, thereby increasing his power. All
propaganda is a systematic effort to persuade. The propagandist gives a one-
sided message, accentuating the good points of one side and the bad points of
the other position. Propaganda is most widely distributed through public
speaking and use of the mass media. The propagandist speaks in an attempt to
persuade the audience to believe his way. With the support of the audience, the
speaker gains power.
Propaganda as an art of persuasion has been used for thousands of years.
In the fifth century BC, when Pericles addressed his fellow Athenians on the
merits of their city compared to the tyranny of Sparta, he was making propaganda,
even though much of what he was saying was true. Many centuries later, Lenin,
the Soviet revolutionary, realized the value of propaganda to indoctrinate
educated people. He employed another tactic toward the uneducated, called
agitation. This process involved the use of slogans, stories, half-truths, and
even outright lies in order to avoid the need for complex arguments. The Nazi
government of Germany from 1933 to 1945, was very adept at propaganda. In
order to gain power, Adolf Hitler used his ability to tell each audience what
it wanted to hear. He stirred fears of communism when talking to businessmen,
and preached the values of socialism when talking to factory workers. After his
party won control of the government office, he appointed Joseph Goebbels as head
of the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. Through Goebbels,
Hitler gained power over the press, radio, theater, films, music, and literature.

People naturally have this feeling, or intuition, about something. They
know how they feel and believe about a subject, but it is something that they
don't take the time to verbalize; they merely contain it in their minds as a
belief. However, there are certain people who verbalize and put into words
these internal feelings of the masses and gain the trust of the people. These
certain people are our leaders. By speaking about and placing importance on the
beliefs and values that these people have never before heard articulated, the
leaders gain the confidence of the people.
Political leaders are the primary examples of the people we put our
trust in. In 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected to the office of President
after four nationally televised debates against vice-president Richard Nixon.
It was generally conceded that these debates helped Kennedy more than Nixon. In
April of 1961, after Russia successfully launched the first man into outer space,
John Kennedy asked for a greatly increased budget for space research. Kennedy
said, powerfully, “I believe that this nation should commit itself, to achieving
the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon, and returning
him safely to the earth.” Kennedy is considered to have been a driving force
behind the mission to the moon which was successful in 1969. It was the power
of his language that made the trip possible. It was also Kennedy who coined the
phrase, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your
country.” This became the battle cry for the capitalist, American way of life.
On January 26 and 27, 1830, the United States Senate heard one of the
greatest speeches ever delivered before it. Daniel Webster, senator from
Massachusetts, made the speech in answer to Senator Robert Hayne of South
Carolina. The issue was the nullification controversy. Hayne, a confederate of
John C. Calhoun, has said that the federal government was a mere confederation
of states and that the states could refuse to obey any laws passed by Congress.
Webster refuted Hayne's notion with the memorable words, “Liberty and Union,