Writing Project #1

Today’s youth is responsible for the future and whether or not our history will continue through time. They will be the one’s to develop life saving medical practices and maybe even stop nuclear wars to come. In Toni Morrison’s commencement address to Rutgers University, on May 17th 2011, Morrison addresses issues including today’s issues with the United States government, like whether or not to leave abortion legal or debt, and shows how today’s youth can do what’s right and fix what our future is headed to. Morrison effectively discusses and argues her opinion on today’s government issues and suggests how today’s youth can fix them through the use of aphorism, pathos, tone, and structure.

Toni Morrison is a storyteller and successful author. Because of that, her commencement speech to the 2011 graduating class of Rutgers University is one to remember. Commencement speeches are given to graduating students and encourages the students to use their knowledge for the future. They reflect on the students hard work and usually has a happy and encouraging tone. Morrison encourages these students to look into the future by showing them a path to take. Morrison discusses the problems in today’s government by talking as if she is someone from the future. She talks as if she is someone from the future because these students are the future. They will be the ones to change what’s wrong. Morrison discusses these topics and speaks in this way to show these students what they need to do.

Aphorism plays a big part in this speech to bring the moral of her story to light. Aphorism is when a statement or truth is stated in a witty or concise manner. Morrison uses aphorism in paragraphs 14-20 when she acts like the person from the future. She talks in a mocking tone, making fun of the these issues that people are arguing today and while giving her opinion on them. Morrison also is talking like she is from the future because she is trying to imply that the change will happen. If people from the future are making fun of the mistakes society makes now, then those things have been dealt with. Morrison references the argument of abortion by stating “females… [are] too stupid to manage their very own bodies?” (Morrison, p19). It not only shows what she is for having abortion to be legal, but it also shows that she is adamant about the topic. It’s a dismay of justice because there shouldn’t be a law preventing people from performing a sometimes life saving procedure. Morrison also talks about how “illness incurre[s] huge personal debt” (p17). She is arguing that the fact that if you get sick, you may get a major amount of debt from medical bills. The fact that companies will withhold health benefits from their employees to “profit for their own lives” (p17) is referenced as well. Morrison is trying to get the students to realize that these issues are not being dealt with correctly and the students need to see what is going wrong. They need to start fighting for what is right because they will be the ones to fix what is happening.

Pathos also plays a part in bringing to light the topic of this speech. Pathos is used throughout the speech, but is mostly used when Morrison is talking as if she was from the future. Not only is Morrison discussing issues, but she is using pathos to make the students feel obligated to help. She references how children are put into “environments so dangerous [that] no adult would… enter them” (p18). There are not many people left in this world who would not feel upset and angered by that statement. Morrison also references homelessness of families because they can’t afford anything. The innocence of children is being jeopardized and families are in pain. Morrison knows that there aren’t many people left who wouldn’t be willing to help. By discussing this with younger generations,the things that need to be fixed will be ingrained in their brains and they will act upon them.

Chronological structure is used in this speech to tell a story and offer a solution. Morrison tells the story of a person from the future looking back at history to try to get the students to realize that they will be the future. They will be the ones to shape our destiny and fix what is going wrong. It gives them insight that hey are the ones that need to do what is right. These students have all of their lives to make a difference, so why not do something?

The tone of this speech is almost persuasive and passionate. Although Morrison is not speaking as herself, it is obvious that she is adamant and passionate about the opinions on these issues. From statements such as “huge personal debt” (p17)and “whole families lives in tunnels” (p20) shows how she is passionate about the issues. Morrison does not just say that personal debt is being dealt with, but that the debt is large and hard to deal with. She does not just say that people are homeless, but that whole families are homeless and struggling at the hands of their government. Families are forced to pay for medical insurance when most can’t afford it, which takes more money away from that family. People don’t exaggerate to that extent if they aren’t passionate about the issue. These issues are serious problems because many people are affected by them. It more reinforces the fact that change needs to be made, thus being persuasive in trying to get the students to act on these issues.

By addressing issues with the United States government and showing how today’s youth can change the path of the future, Toni Morrison shows how today’s youth and students can bring about change. Change for the better that can not only benefit our lives right now, but for people down the road as well. Morrison uses aphorism and a chronological structure to give her opinions without being direct and uses pathos to make the students feel more obligated to help. Morrison’s persuasive and passionate tone also is used to make students feel more obligated to help. Morrison is trying to show these students that they will be the ones to do what is right and they need to start acting now.


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