I love to bring you examples of effective writing so you can use them with your students, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent speech to a joint meeting of the U. S. Congress is an excellent example of persuasive writing. He used many powerful strategies in his speech, five of which we’ll delve into today.
Your students will better understand the intricacies of writing when they have the chance to learn from professional examples of published authors and speechmakers, so, to that end, let’s explore the persuasion tactics Netanyahu used.
Below are five powerful persuasion techniques. After the list, you’ll find a family writing prompt that involves one of them.
Now, onto the powerful techniques for persuasive writing . . .
1. Appeal to common values.
Netanyahu appealed to values that are common to his country and those of his listeners. In the examples below, he appeals to our resilient spirit and our love of peace:
“You stand with Israel, because you know that the story of Israel is not only the story of the Jewish people but of the human spirit that refuses again and again to succumb to history’s horrors.”
“. . . peace of the world, the peace, we all desire.”
This is a powerful tactic because it helps listeners or readers identify with the writer. It builds a bridge across which both sides can meet each other. And it shows respect for the values listeners/readers hold dear.
2. Mention or allude to cultural experiences.
In Netanyahu’s speech, he alluded to names and writings his listeners could easily identify with because those are common in our culture. Because we are familiar with them, they make a positive impact, much as when Martin Luther King Jr. alluded to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in the speech “I Have a Dream.”
Here are five examples of Netanyahu alluding to titles, names, and historical documents familiar to Americans:
“In this deadly game of thrones, there’s no place for America or for Israel, no peace for Christians, Jews or Muslims who don’t share the Islamist medieval creed, no rights for women, no freedom for anyone.”
“I’m standing here in Washington, D.C. and the difference is so stark. America’s founding document promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Iran’s founding document pledges death, tyranny, and the pursuit of jihad.”
“My long-time friend, John Kerry, Secretary of State, confirmed last week that Iran could legitimately possess that massive centrifuge capacity when the deal expires.”
“This deal won’t be a farewell to arms. It would be a farewell to arms control.”
“You don’t have to read Robert Frost to know. You have to live life to know that the difficult path is usually the one less traveled, but it will make all the difference for the future of my country, the security of the Middle East and the peace of the world, the peace, we all desire.”
Netanyahu alludes to a popular TV series (Game of Thrones), the United States Declaration of Independence (“America’s founding document . . . life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”), our Secretary of State, a famous book by American novelist Ernest Hemingway (A Farewell to Arms), and a poem by famous American poet Robert Frost ( “The Road Not Taken”).
This is powerful in persuasion. It shows the writer understands his readers, has things in common with them, and wants to create a friendly bond that more easily will enable readers to agree with the writer.
3. Mention an opposing argument and then refute it.
Perhaps one of the strongest strategies in persuasion writing is this one, which Netanyahu does here in reference to what he believes is a flawed U. S.-Iranian nuclear arms deal that, at the time of his speech, had not yet been approved. The paragraphs below are not two separate examples. The first paragraph is the mention of the opposing view; the second is the refutation.
My friends, what about the argument that there’s no alternative to this deal, that Iran’s nuclear know-how cannot be erased, that its nuclear program is so advanced that the best we can do is delay the inevitable, which is essentially what the proposed deal seeks to do?
Well, nuclear know-how without nuclear infrastructure doesn’t get you very much. A racecar driver without a car can’t drive. A pilot without a plane can’t fly. Without thousands of centrifuges, tons of enriched uranium or heavy water facilities, Iran can’t make nuclear weapons.
Writing about an opposing argument shows that your student has researched the topic and knows the arguments. It is powerful because people listening to a speech or reading an article will very naturally ask themselves, “Yes, but what about ___________?” when they read the student’s arguments. Having a viable answer to an opposing claim can sometimes help listeners/readers see your point of view.
Incidentally, Netanyahu uses a logical statement here to refute an opposing point, and then he illustrates it with two analogies (a driver without a car and a pilot without a plane). I want to highlight two things about that: (1) Students should learn to refute arguments with cold, hard facts and include a quotation from an expert, and (2) Analogies are great to support a point, as Netanyahu does, but they should not be used to make a point.
4. Define your terms.
Students should not assume that all readers know all the terms. Netanyahu used a term I was not familiar with. For one second I was lost, but then he quickly defined the term “break-out time” so everyone could track with him.
“The first major concession would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure, providing it with a short break-out time to the bomb. Break-out time is the time it takes to amass enough weapons-grade uranium or plutonium for a nuclear bomb.”
5. Issue a clear and measurable call to action.
The three paragraphs below followed each other in the speech and show Netanyahu’s clear and measurable call to action—make a better deal (which he defines in the second paragraph).
The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal.
A better deal that doesn’t leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure and such a short break-out time. A better deal that keeps the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in place until Iran’s aggression ends.
A better deal that won’t give Iran an easy path to the bomb.
Students should avoid writing something like this: “This is a terrible problem. Someone should do something about it.” If the essay is to persuade readers to recycle, a clearer call to action would be something like this in their conclusion: “Instead of throwing away your next soda can or plastic bottle, pop it into a recycling bin.” That call to action is measurable. Readers are either throwing a can into a recycling bin or they are not.
A Persuasion Writing Activity for Your Family
1. Choose a fun persuasion topic or one of interest to your family. You can use any of the topics below, if you wish, or click here for more serious ones:
-All girls should wear pink every day.
-Everyone in our family should eat one chocolate bar a day.
-Only the males in our family should take out the garbage.
-Teens in our family should be allowed to drive when they turn 14.
-Our family vacation this year should be on a deserted island to see how long we can survive.
2. Once your family has selected its topic, everyone writes a paragraph to mention an opposing view and then refute it. It may help students if they use this “formula”:
Some say running with scissors is fun, but Roberta Fiskars of Don’t Do Dumb Things states otherwise. “Scissors are sharp. Eyes, throats, and tummies are soft. They don’t mix well,” says Fiskars.
In other words, they’ll use the format “Some say that ________________, but Some Expert disagrees. Quote the expert here.” In this family prompt, it is perfectly okay to make up an expert and a quote (as I did with Roberta Fiskars), just to get the hang of it. Or you may want to find a real expert and a real quote. It’s up to you!
3. When everyone has finished his or her paragraph, read your opposing arguments and refutations to each other and then have a good laugh.
For another post on persuasive writing click here.
To teach your children the difference between writing an opinion and writing persuasively, click here.
To read the complete transcript of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech, click here. .
Yours for a more vibrant writing class,
Copyright © 2014 by Sharon Watson
Bullhorn image courtesy of Sergey Nivens / dollarphotoclub.com
Hammer image courtesy of octaviolopez / morguefile.com
Pink tutu image courtesy of Andreja Donko / dollarphotoclub.com
How did your family “refute the opposing view” session go?
Let us know in the box below!
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Want daily writing prompts to tempt reluctant writers and delight eager ones? Find out more about Sharon’s daily writing prompts posted on SchoolhouseTeachers.com under “Dailies” or click here.
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