Throughout history, people have been persuaded by political leaders and sacrificed their lives for their country and for the greater good of mankind. Political leaders always try to represent their speeches in a way that can create effective appeal to the people and influence them not only to believe, but also to act on their message. Only a few speeches become successful enough to touch the heart of the people.
An example is the speech from the 7th of March by the father of the nation, Bangladesh, which is marked by history. However, in 1970, the national election of Pakistan was held where the Awami League got the majority of votes, but the leaders of West Pakistan refused to hand over power to Sheikh Mujib. They postponed the national assembly on the 3rdof March and the security force of West Pakistan shot dozens of unarmed protestors. The people of East Pakistan were impatient for their long-cherished independence (the 7th of March, 1971). Bangladeshis were being deceived whenever they wanted power. The speech on the 7thof March convinced the freedom-loving people of Bangladesh by raising their emotion through the historical facts of political deprivation and persecution, as well as building the credibility of Bangabandhu in order to prepare the Bangladeshi people for the Liberation War.
Bangabandhu used evidence from history to make his argument convenient. Using historical appeal is a common strategy used by politicians. To make people understand the argument, it is helpful to connect it with some previous incidents that happened within their community. For example, "Tutonic" was a "historic mythology" which was fundamental for the success of the Nazis and Hitler. Also, we can consider the speech of Pope Urban II (1905), where he used Frankish history as well as the Carolingian mythology to influence people to attack the Middle East (Graham et. al,18).
We can identify the same technique in Bangabandhu's speech, drawing on history before making his argument, "I have to tell painfully the pitiful history of twenty-three years, the bloody history of Bangalees being tortured in Bangla itself" (7th March, 1971 speech). He mentioned that "we have tried with our lives" and then briefly talked about the protests and movements that were launched for gaining power but suppressed by the authorities of West Pakistan. He continued step by step: 1952, the election of 1954, martial law in 1958, the Six Point's movement of 1966, and the Mass movement of 1969.
Recalling all these facts that reflected the long history of struggle for political, social and economic freedom, naturally he made people curious to find a way to get rid of oppression. He also discussed the dedication of Bangladeshis in those movements and the outcomes. He said that people were shot during the language movement of 1952, then in 1966 and 1969. They didn't get power despite being the majority in the 1954 election. Then martial law in 1958 was used as a trick to make Bangladeshis slaves of West Pakistan (7th March 1971). He came to his point after those historical references: "Now the people of Bangladesh want freedom. The people of Bangladesh want to live. The people of Bangladesh want their rights" (7th March, 1971).
Now if we look at his strategy, he didn't only mention movements from the history, he also emphasized the results. He tried to show his audience that the rulers of West Pakistan were not supposed to be affected by movements, so if the "people of Bangladesh want freedom", they need to think of something bigger. Those historical references cleared the way for people to think that the only way to get their rights was through the Liberation War. We can also identify the logical flow of the speech from this technique. It was more useful to let people think of their own suffering and become agitated than to directly call forward. The people of Bangladesh are naturally unoffending, and they were also unarmed. It was necessary to persuade them with logical reason. As historical appeals created their desperation for freedom, it was easy for them to agree with Bangabandhu: "…And be ready with whatever you have…We will surely liberate the people of this country" (7th March, 1971). Again, the appeals of history not only gave the speech a strong logical base but also awoke the emotion of the people.
Bangabandhu used various kinds of emotional appeals which forced people to agree on his argument about freedom. In his speech, Bangabandhu related the emotion of his countrymen with facts: "The history of the last 23 years is the history of the wailing of dying men and women. The history of Bangla is the history of staining the streets with the blood of the people of this country" (7th March, 1971 speech). Whenever he talked about the people who were killed during several movements, he showed due respect by addressing them as "martyrs"
. In some places he called them "my children", and he emphasized that the brave sons of Bengal had been snatched from the chest of their mothers (7th March, 1971 speech). These word choices (son, mother, children) made people feel that all the people of Bangladesh are a family, so the will to do something for the family comes as an instinct. People could find a sense of family bonding, a sense of kinship in these quotes, so they made people into sympathizers, conscious against the oppressor, as well as strengthened the idea of national unity. Sheikh Mujib reminded people that "whenever we tried to gain power…..they assaulted us" and "the marks of blood have not dried yet" (7th march, 1971 speech). When a group of people is told that they have been deceived even after shedding blood, it surely creates a strong agitation and influences them to break the chain of subjection. The speech also encouraged people to show their bravery -"since we have given blood, we will give more" (7th March, 1971).These emotional appeals worked very effectively to raise the thirst for freedom among the people, and this thirst effectively led people to think about the Liberation War. As our prime minister said: "Being inspired by his March 7 speech, the people forgot about military rule, firmly got united, fought a battle and gave the nation an identity, Bangladesh" (The Daily Star, 2013).
Sheikh Mujib's modest language, the style of the speech, his rigorous voice and his representation of the arguments in a step-by-step way gained the trust of the audience and built his credibility. Despite all the conflicts, Bangabandhu addressed the West Pakistanis as "brothers." Those who sacrificed their lives became his "children." Through these words he tried to show his humanity and make people feel more attached to him. At the same time, he didn't forget to take a strong position, reminding them that he is the leader of "not only Bangla but also the majority of Pakistan," and added that he would not join the assembly as he couldn't trample the blood of his countrymen. It is a blend of his softness and strength which makes people believe in him. In several places, we can identify the strategy to gain the trust of the people: when he asked the crowd if they had faith in him, when calling for social disobedience, and when mentioning that the poor people should not suffer so that the laboring class would not stop working. Like this, throughout his speech he always gave the public interests and human rights the highest priority, which convinced people to act on his directions. It is another way which made people feel connected with their leader. Great leaders have used this strategy; for example, Martin Luther King dreamt about equality-"both the black and white children will treat each other as brothers in the state of Alabama…
(Edwards). Both of these speeches are comparable as both of them introduced the idea of a non-violent movement and both of them are also said to be some of the best speeches of history (Rashid, 2-4). Also, Sheikh Mujib's clear declaration about not demanding the prime ministership, but the rights of the Bangladeshi people impressed everyone. Bangabandhu could have remained just a member of Pakistan's parliament and not dreamt about an independent country, but he chose to fight to his last breath and encouraged people: "Build a fortress in each and every home. Face the enemy with whatever you have" (7th March, 1971).
Bangabandhu took a very clear, strong position, saying "I don't want the prime ministership. We want to establish the right of the people of this country" (7th March 1971). The "Mother of Martyrs," Jahanara Imam, compared this with a famous quote from Paradise Lost: "It is better to reign in the hell than serve in heaven" (Imam, 25). Another strong rhetorical strategy used in the speech was repetition of certain phrases, which hammered home Bangabandhu's inspirational concepts as well as dragged the attention of the audience towards the main point: liberation war. This technique also gave the speech a poetic tone, as we can see in "the struggle this time is the struggle for our liberation; the struggle this time is the struggle of our independence". His bold voice in this masterfully delivered speech expressed his determination to fight for the rights of the Bangladeshi people (Edwards). Bangabandhu's determination and the reliability of the people of Bangladesh helped the idea of the Liberation War be successful.
Every text uses rhetorical appeals in order to convince its audience. If it can influence the audience we can say it used rhetorical appeals successfully. The history of the birth of Bangladesh as an independent country is the best example of the success of Bangabandhu's speech. The "Mother of Martyrs," Jahanara Iman, talked about her experience, how she saw the people reacting after the speech: "The brave sons of Bangladesh are ready to sacrifice. They have left their home and all the comforts and brought out processions: all they want is independence" (Imam, 24). The narration of political facts, the process of relating them with emotion and the credibility of Bangabandhu also ask people to be prepared for the War of Liberation, every part of the speech tied together by strong rhetorical appeals, which allowed the message of the speech to persuade people of all ages and all classes. The writer is a student at Asian University for Women
- Afra Nower