On August 19, 1992, in Houston, Texas, during the Republican National Convention, Mary Fisher, a blonde woman from a Republican household, gave the speech "A Whisper of AIDS." The speech was delivered at a time when AIDS and HIV were murdering a lot of people in the United States and other parts of the world. People who developed HIV and Aids were shunned by society and even their own relatives. Mary Fisher, who acquired HIV from her husband and who is HIV positive, has made it her mission to promote awareness of the illness and improved understanding in order to lessen stigma and lead a better life. Mary, a mother of two boys, calls for conversations on AIDS not in whispers and informs the audience that no one is safe from the disease that knows no boundaries. Mary Fisher uses ethos, logos, and pathos to appeal to her audience on the risks of HIV & AIDS and the importance of coming out to speak about the killer that no one wants to talk about a loud. Fisher’s speech was effective with Mailer (1992) covering the convention for The Republic stating “Fisher spoke like an angel that night” and “the floor was in tears, and conceivably the nation as well” (Shaw, 2012).The effectiveness of the speech is also evidenced by its inclusion in the Words of a century: Top 100 American speeches, 1900-1999 to which Stephen Lucas, a communication arts professor at the University of Wisconsin comments that is “as elegant as any speech in the top 100” (Shaw, 2012). This essay provides a rhetorical analysis of the use of appeals authority, reasoning, and emotion by Mary Fisher in appealing to her audience.

Mary Fisher effectively used ethos to appeal to her audience in her speech. She provides the situation in the society where the people rejected those who contracted HIV/AIDS. Fisher appeals to the audience by using the President Bush Sr. stating that he and his family have been kind to her instead of rejection. She shows that instead of cruelty meted to others by the society, the President has demonstrated affection, “In the place of judgment, they have shown affection.” She states that instead of shunning her and oppressing her as the society does to others, “they have embraced me.” Fisher uses the first family to persuade the audience through ethos that those who contract HIV/AIDS should not be treated differently than they were before the disease. The other instance of using ethos was establishing her credibility at the start of the speech by stating “I want your attention, not your applause” and presenting herself as a representative of those affected by HIV/AIDS. She stated that she represented the community, “whose members have been reluctantly drafted from every segment of American society.” She gains credibility from her positive as an HIV positive mother who has directly suffered the effects of ignorance and prejudice, and she calls for this to change for the benefit of many. Her appeal to authority is effective in persuading the audience.

Fisher also used logos, which is the appeal to reasoning to persuade the audience of the need to break the salience on AIDS and help each other especially the HIV positive in the society. She begins by informing the audience that she has engaged the Republican Party on the AIDS problem, “Less than three months ago at platform hearings in Salt Lake City, I asked the Republican Party to lift the shroud of silence which has been draped over the issue of HIV and AIDS.” This shows that she understands the problem and is actively looking for a solution. She then informs the audience of her HIV status and that she contracted from her husband breaking the stereotypes that homosexuals, black and drug users were only affected as she is straight white and a mother of two. She uses this logic to show that anyone can be affected stating that “There is no family or community, no race or religion, no place left in America that is safe.” She uses logos to show the audience the dire situation that AIDS has brought and the need to speak up by quoting the devastating effects “Two hundred thousand Americans are dead or dying. A million more are infected, Worldwide, forty million, sixty million, or a hundred million infections will be counted in the coming few years.” She brings up the numbers to show that anyone can be affected anywhere by demonstrating its growth in the country and outside. She also uses logos to show that AIDS is “the third leading killer of young adult Americans today” hence it can no longer be ignored or talked about in whispers.

Pathos appeals to emotions and Fisher use them well in persuading her audience. Her pledge to her two sons, Max and Zachary at the end of the speech is an emotional appeal. She sounds like she is dying at any moment and that there is a need for the people to speak up on AIDS. She states, “I will not give in Zachary because I draw my courage from you” serving to connect with all the people who have children and know the pain of losing a mother. She also used pathos by connecting her status to a lonely person rejected by the society saying, “I am one with the lonely gay man sheltering a flickering candle from the cold wind of his family’s rejection.” The statement served to make the audience question their humanity and the need to help those who have been affected and share their pain hence appealed to sympathy. She also uses pathos to bring out the collective effect of silence stating that “we have killed each other with our ignorance, our prejudice, and our silence.” She makes everybody feel responsible and guilty for the continued deaths and suffering from HIV/AIDS because of their silence, prejudice, and intolerance. She also appeals to fear by stating the numbers of people and Americans “dead or dying.”

Fisher does not mention that she contracted the disease from her husband. She seeks for a solution and not assigning blame, and that is the change she aims to create in the society on HIV/AIDS that those affected should not be prejudiced. It would have been helpful to address this point to make everyone responsible for the fight against AIDS.

Fisher deals with the issue of AIDS from an informed perspective being a victim, appeals to emotions from her life, the lives of those affected and the point of view of her children, and states the facts on the deaths and spread of HIV/AIDS. These rhetorical devices, ethos, pathos, and logos were efficiently used to persuade the audience to speak up about HIV/AIDS so that children have a better tomorrow.

Works Cited

Fisher, Mary. “Whisper of AIDS.” Speech to the Republican National Convention, 19. Aug. 1992, Houston Astrodome. American Rhetoric, www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/maryfisher1992rnc.html

Mailer, Norman. By Heaven Inspired. The Republic, October 121992. Accessed November 18, 2017.

Shaw, Dan. Defined by words, not by a disease. The New York Times, August 22, 2012. Accessed November 18, 2017.

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