ISSA Proceedings 2006 – Aesthetic Argument: Moving Beyond Logic

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logo  20061. Introduction
On April 4, 1968, Robert Kennedy was spreading his message that “Most people in America want to do the decent thing,” across Indiana with his presidential primary campaign (Witcover 1997, p. 151). However, that vision was being coldly questioned on this same day in Memphis, Tennessee, where Martin Luther King, Jr., was supporting striking black sanitation workers. King and his crew abandoned their daily work to go to dinner at the home of a local minister. A few minutes before six o’clock, a chauffeured car arrived outside, when King decided to step outside on his second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel. One shot exploded and shattered the jaw of Martin Luther King, Jr. as he stood on his balcony outside Room 306. The shot exploded and the street fell quiet. King collapsed to the floor of the balcony, one foot caught in the railing and blood gushing from a three-inch tear in his face. King was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead at five minutes past seven (Witcover 1997, p. 153).

Rioting or racial disturbances exploded that night and over the next two days in such major cities as Washington, D.C., Boston, New York, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, and Chicago, as well as in over a hundred smaller cities and towns (Witcover 1997, p. 157). Cities burned and people raged. Racial division hit the streets in fervent form. Hundreds of U.S. cities were surrounded by the National Guard troops as fires erupted and looters took to the streets. President Johnson quickly moved Federal troops into the nation’s capital. Newspapers reported that Federal troops – some sources said 10,000 – were poised for possible deployment. In Chicago, “Police reported more than 150 arrests in connection with disturbances throughout the city and more than 200 persons were treated in hospitals for injuries” (“Troops Patrol,” 1968). In Michigan it was the youths, which took to the streets as they marched on the City-County building, who were confronted by an armed police force at every turn. Massachusetts was also under the watch of the National Guard, which surrounded the Greater Boston area with police, as they sealed off downtown streets and businesses. Philadelphia, similar to Boston, took precautionary measures to halt vandalism by groups of looters and Tallahassee closed Florida A&M University in effort to head off violence (“Troops Patrol,” 1968). Memphis, the city of King’s assassination, also was victim to racial violence: “Police reported a sniper opened fire on a white man’s car on Interstate 95 …. A fireman received slight injuries battling fires in a variety store. More than 25 firebombings were reported in several hours” (“Troops Patrol,” 1968). Unlike these other U.S. cities, Indianapolis, Indiana, remained calm in spite of King’s assassination.

Political campaigning is what brought Robert Kennedy to Indianapolis on April 4, 1968; however, mere chance and what some have called a miracle placed him in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods of the city to relay the horrific news that the great civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated. Accompanied by the announcement of the tragic Memphis shooting, Kennedy (1968) added:
So I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, yeah that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love – a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.

The Indianapolis crowd dispersed “… quickly and in an orderly fashion” (“Branigin’s Favorite,” 1968). Rather than reactions steeped in violence the people of Indianapolis, did in fact, maintain a peaceful composure that illuminated Kennedy’s plea for “… understanding and compassion towards one another” (Kennedy, 1968). Such an extraordinary historical moment – when Indianapolis remained nonviolent where many other cities did not – raises questions regarding emotional argumentation, rhetorical effects, situational context, and opportunities for convergence between a rhetor and audience, or what is entailed in a dialogic rhetoric.
Both social commentators and citizens in the audience claimed that Kennedy’s speech was the primary reason why violence did not befall Indianapolis. Since then few rhetorical critics, historians, and political scientists have examined Kennedy’s address to see why it may have had this profound effect. The review of literature specific to Kennedy’s announcement of King’s assassination presents a problem of isolated rhetorical effect, because, to date all of these inquiries have focused only on Kennedy’s verbal message (Murphy, 1985, 1990; Nordlund, 1968).

This speech, to anyone who has seen it, realizes that its power lies beyond the words. Abie Robinson (2006), Indianapolis resident, remembers what it was like to be in the audience that fateful April night in 1968:
I was in that astonished crowd the night we learned of the assassination of Martin Luther King from the Senator Robert Kennedy. I remember the intense emotion that enveloped everyone present, the profound grief, the disbelief, the despair followed by anger and a desire to retaliate, but the inspiring impromptu speech given by Senator Robert Kennedy that tragic night caused us to reflect on the life of Martin Luther King and what he proclaimed to be the right response to violence. I believe it was a super-natural power, which caused us not to respond in lawlessness, but to hold on to the principles and ideas of non-violence that were the bench mark of Martin Luther Kings’ legacy.

Robinson’s memory of April 4, 1968, as a participating audience member, illustrates that there are multiple layers of rhetorical effectivity operating in the experience of Kennedy’s Indianapolis announcement. King’s legacy of non-violence is absolutely present in Robinson’s memory and he accredits this to“… the inspiring impromptu speech given by Senator Robert Kennedy …” (Robinson, 2006). Thus, in support of discursive focused work, Robinson’s memory points to Kennedy’s inspirational words and how they worked to maintain peace and seek out reconciliation.
However, and more importantly for the nature of this project, Robinson (2006) remembers “… the intense emotion that enveloped everyone present …,” which moves the rhetorical effect beyond Kennedy’s words. Robinson (2006) remembers feelings of “profound grief … disbelief … despair.” He felt angry, he desired for retaliation. And then Robinson (2006) remembers a turning point, a moment of reflection upon these feelings. He rejected the anger and urge to retaliate, and “… believes it was a super-natural power …” that quelled violence in Indianapolis. This recollection illustrates that both verbal and nonverbal features, such as emotion and feelings, contributed to the overall experience of the April 4, 1968 announcement. Thus, consideration of Kennedy’s appearance in Indianapolis following the assassination of King needs to be expanded beyond his spoken words.

This project offers that restricting our vision to the traditional and dominant views of argument is limiting and constrictive. That is, argumentation’s traditional concern with discursive effectivity limits our critical insight. Though logic is a fundamental mode of argumentation the other, peripheral and perhaps non-logical, modes are more often than not involved in the argument. And in the case of Kennedy’s Indianapolis speech the persuasive force of his argument is driven by the presence of emotional non-discursive (or non-verbal) appeals. Considering the emotional state of Kennedy and his audience, therefore, becomes as relevant as the logistic reasoning of his address.
The emotional mode points to Kennedy’s sincerity, the visceral indicating the role of the physical body, and the kisceral lends itself to the intuitiveness of Kennedy’s response as well as the non-sensory elements, such as the contextual moment of the speech act or “the once-occurrent act of being,” to use a Bakhtinian phrase. In connecting Kennedy’s words to the overall event, it is less likely that those present in Indianapolis at Kennedy’s speech on April 4, 1968 would remember what exactly was said. Rather, it is more likely that those present would remember the emotional-volitional tone of the entire event. This also moves the rhetorical effect beyond Kennedy’s words. Both the sense of understanding apparent in Kennedy’s gestures, tone, and words along with the shock, yet understanding, among individuals in the audience gives one an overall feeling of the dialogic moment. Thus, in his success of connecting the experience of the announcement of Dr. King’s assassination to the individuals actively experiencing it, Kennedy was able to overcome ambiguity and create a dialogic moment through emotional argument. The project concludes by considering what is entailed in a dialogic rhetoric, one that fully integrates the logical, emotional, visceral, and kisceral modes of argumentation. I suggest that Kennedy’s address is exemplar of such a rhetoric that may in turn be the basis for further theoretical development.

2. Analysis: Four modes of argumentation
Following is an effort to understand the “peripheral” through a critical analysis of Kennedy’s April 4, 1968 speech. The analysis will integrate Gilbert’s (1997) conception of the “peripheral modes of argument” with examples from a historically significant speech act. First this analysis will briefly illustrate the logical mode of argument found in Kennedy’s addressed followed by the consideration of the difficulties of assessing the peripheral modes of argumentation. Then the analysis will turn to the emotional, visceral, and kisceral elements that drive the rhetorical effect beyond Kennedy’s words. To note, however, this is not to suggest the each of these modes of argument exist in isolation to each other. Rather, all four of these modes work concurrently to create a more comprehensive understanding of the communication interaction.

2.1 The logical
The first of the four modes of argument presented in the work of Gilbert (1997) is the logical. This mode can be understood as “… arguments [that] are based on an appeal to the linear patterns that lead us from one statement or set of statements to a claim. These arguments are linguistic, dialectical and classically identified as serial predictions” (Gilbert 1997, p. 84). For example, consider a short example of Kennedy’s address through the lens of the logical mode. Such an analysis would consider Kennedy’s argument in terms of his claim, data, warrant, and/or backing:[i]

A claim is a statement that you are asking the other participants to accept. This includes information you are asking them to accept as true or actions you want them to accept and enact. For example Kennedy (1968) claims:
But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.

Kennedy puts forth that racial reconciliation is possible and provides data as the grounds for the real persuasive force of the argument. Data is the truth on which the claim is based. Kennedy (1968) grounds his claim by evoking the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.:
Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for between fellow human beings, he died in the cause of that effort.

Furthermore, a warrant links data to a claim, legitimizing the claim by showing the data to be relevant. The warrant may be explicit or implicit. It answers the question of why the data presented means that your claim is true. Kennedy (1968) continues:
We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization – black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread out across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love.

By acknowledging King’s legacy of nonviolence and compassion, Kennedy provides his Indianapolis audience with a powerful truth to warrant his claim toward racial reconciliation. Finally, the backing (or support) to an argument gives additional support to the warrant by answering different questions. Kennedy (1968) quotes Aeschylus and evokes the wisdom of the ancient Greeks to provide additional support for his overall claim toward racial reconciliation:
My favorite poem, my favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: ‘Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God. Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

Utilizing a Critical-Logical model, this example illustrates how Kennedy’s message can be viewed in a categorical linear manner of A, B, therefore C. However, to merely reduce Kennedy’s message to its linguistic terms “… is to negate both the method and purpose (conscious or not) of the move” (Gilbert 1997, p. 80). While illustrative of the discursive force of Kennedy’s speech, the previous analysis does not account for the radical shift in context that occurred in a moment when the Kennedy campaign, planning for a political rally, heard of King’s death. The claim, data, warrant, backing categorization does not consider the emotions apparent in Kennedy’s delivery of the message (tone, vocal pauses, hand gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, etc.) nor does it consider the “feelings” of the audience in the act of experiencing the announcement of King’s assassination. Thus, the peripheral modes of argument must be considered to incorporate nondiscursive elements that occur in actual communication interaction.

2.2 The “peripheral” modes
Before turning to the “peripheral” modes of argument which include the emotional, visceral, and kisceral (Gilbert, 1997), it is important to note the problems and difficulties inherent in attempting to translate nondiscursive forms of argument into discursive language. The issue is the “translatability of nonverbal communications … into linguistic terms” (and relating it to a premise or claim) allowing for the identification of an argument (Gilbert 1997, p. 80). However, as Gilbert (1997) posits, “The kind of information presented may defy direct translation, but that does not mean it is not an argumentative move” (p. 80). Because of the difficulty of this translation of nondiscursive argument into discursive language the contextual implications of the argument “… and, perhaps, the personal and social histories of the arguers” needs to be considered (Gilbert 1997, p. 80-81). Thus, the timing and announcement of King’s death as well as the social history of Kennedy, himself, will be fundamental in evaluating the emotional appeals of the April 4, 1968 address.

2.2a The kisceral
The kisceral mode of argument derives “… from the Japanese term ki meaning energy, life-force, and connectedness, which covers the intuitive and nonsensory arenas” (Gilbert 1997, p. 79, 86).[ii] The kisceral involves sub-sensory elements, like feelings of apprehension, as well as considers the context of choice-making. The kisceral mode of argument “… is a synthesis of experience and insight” (Gilbert 1997, p. 87). The intuitiveness of Kennedy’s response is illustrated by revisiting the immediate context prior to Kennedy’s announcement. Leaving Ball State University for the Hoosier capital, Robert Kennedy was sitting in his chartered plane when he received startling news that Martin Luther King, Jr., had been shot in Memphis. New York Times reporter Johnny Apple told him. Kennedy “sagged. His eyes went blank,” recalled Apple (Thomas 2000, p. 366). Before more details were available, the plane took off for Indianapolis. Kennedy instructed Fred Dutton, one of his assistants, to find out two things immediately upon arrival at Weir Cook Airport in Indianapolis. What was King’s condition, Kennedy wanted to know, “and the state of the city’s Negro wards, in the midst of which … [he] was scheduled to hold a large street-corner rally” (Witcover 1969, p. 139).

Kennedy’s plane landed in Indianapolis at 8:40 p.m. (thirty-five minutes past the announcement of King’s death). As Dutton hurried to the airport police office to make several calls, Kennedy waited aboard the plane, scribbling some notes and undoubtedly questioning whether he should continue with his visit to the African American neighborhood. When Dutton returned, his report was dreadful; King was dead. As for the situation in the African American wards in Indianapolis, they were calm. The news of the assassination had not reached them yet.
On the way to the site, Kennedy sat silently for long minutes. “What should I say?” he finally mumbled. Dutton mentioned only the obvious, the need to stress nonviolence and faith in racial reconciliation. Kennedy fell into silence again (Witcover 1969, p. 140). His questions suggest that he was still unsure about what he should do or say, but he remained determined to deliver the message.

When Kennedy and his committee arrived in the Indianapolis neighborhood in which he was to deliver his address, it was apparent that the crowd had not heard the news of King’s death. According to an Indianapolis New reporter, “Most of them had been waiting for Kennedy for two hours in the 30-degree drippy weather” (“Kennedy Calls,” 1968). There were plenty of Kennedy banners and the usual cheerful mood of a political gathering. Kennedy, grim-faced, stepped out into the chilly night, huddled in a black topcoat. He asked the local organizer of the rally if they had heard the news of King’s death. The organizer replied, “No, we have left that up to you.” Adam Walinsky, Kennedy’s speech writer, dashed up to deliver a hastily outlined speech, but Kennedy nodded him off and drew from his pocket some crumpled notes that he had written himself (Thomas 2001, p. 366). Kennedy (1968) begins to speak:
Ladies and gentlemen, [clears throat], I am only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening because I have very sad news for all of you [His voice catches, perhaps a slight cough or effort to clear his throat]. Could you lower those signs please? [There are screams out from individuals in the crowd, still in a political rallying mood]. I have some very sad news for all of you, and I think sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.” [Kennedy’s voice fades as he announces the location of King’s death and cries from the crowd overtake the moment. Cries of “No!” and gasps of disbelief come from several members of the audience. The screams echoed, the wailing was illustrative of raw disbelief. Cries of sorrow escaped individuals in the audience as Kennedy paused, resuming slowly, pausing frequently].[iii]

The kisceral mode consists of sub-sensory experiences. Kennedy’s intuition that emerged is evidence of the kisceral mode and even he, in that moment, might not have been fully aware of the kisceral implications. However, what is of importance is that Kennedy embraced an intuitive drive to continue forward with his trip into the urban community. The contextual moment of a speech act is unique and cannot be recreated to evoke similar kisceral feelings. Rather, the once-occurrent act of being in the moment is an essential component of Kennedy’s rhetorical effectivity on April 4, 1968. Kennedy’s gesture to speak out, in spite of numerous warnings, also speaks to the visceral mode of argumentation.

2.2b The visceral
The visceral mode of argumentation “…stems from the area of the physical” (Gilbert 1997, p. 79). This mode can be displayed through the body, through nondiscursive means, as well as, can exist prior to the linguistic, logical model. To consider the visceral mode of argument apparent in Kennedy’s address is to consider that it was Kennedy’s physical actions that moved the argument. His behavior, along with his physical embodiment of the announcement, is the significant contributor to the overall rhetorical effect of the April 4, 1968 speech act.

As previously mentioned the four modes of argument can often be found working in conjunction to each other. Of particular interest, at this point of the analysis, is consideration of the feeling of fear as a combination of the kisceral and visceral. Kennedy’s hesitation to continue forward with this trip into the African American neighborhood despite warnings from police officials, family members, campaign staff and friends illustrates the kisceral function of argumentation. Further, the slow pace of Kennedy’s physical delivery also illustrates this hesitation. Watching Kennedy pull at the envelope in which the hastily outlined speech was written is indicative of the nervousness embedded in Kennedy’s body. Not knowing how the audience would react to the announcement of King’s death reasonably places Kennedy’s body at the mercy of his audience. As such, feelings of anxiety, fear, and nervousness present themselves as part of the overall composition of Kennedy’s argument.
Due to the rise of violent racial outbreaks across the United States – even in the absence of such a tragedy as King’s assassination – several indicated that they feared for the safety of Kennedy’s own life if he were to continue on with his trip. Kennedy’s gesture highlights his rejection of racialized notions of African Americans as violent as well as illustrates a rhetorical interruption in which Kennedy places his white body in a racialized space. Kennedy, by placing his white body in a racialized space created a zone of vulnerability. This vulnerability was a familiar feeling for the African American audience who had historically put their bodies on the line during the civil rights movement. By placing his body in a racialized space, along with his delivery (tone, gestures, voice, and eye contact), Kennedy illustrated his sincerity through performance and displayed the emotional modes of seriousness, grief, and hesitation.

On the evening of April 4, 1968, the weather was cold and rainy as the political rally quickly shifted to a space of mourning upon the announcement of King’s assassination. King’s death ruptured the moment and the weather reflected it. Kennedy through his embodiment sensed the mood of the crowd, what Bakhtin calls response to the other. And before and emotion-filled, impressionable Indianapolis audience, Kennedy had to alter his rhetoric to fit a tragedy no one could have foreseen.

Further, how the audience received the news of King’s death is of interest. More than likely, those present in the audience would remember the visceral feeling associated with that moment. William Crawford, now a 70-year-old Indiana state representative, in 1968 was a young and impatient member of Black Radical Action Program. “He was in the audience that night, and he and his friends might have ‘struck the match’ over King’s slaying,” reported Higgins (“A Tribute,” 2006). Recalling the visceral and emotional elements of the reaction of the audience, Crawford remembers:
…. as the sky darkened and a light rain fell, the crowd shook with sorrow and anger when Kennedy told them King had been shot. But after hearing Kennedy’s words of peace and nonviolence, ‘our reaction was one of prayer … Unlike other communities, we did not strike a match. We did not pick up a gun (“Keep MLK’s message,” 2006).

In similar form, John Lewis, Civil Rights Activist, recalls: “The words … they just ring … they’ll just chill your body. And he [Kennedy] did, not in a … loud … but almost in a prayerful manner [delivered the news of King’s death]” (Lewis 2004, RFK film).
In these remembrances it becomes apparent that the rhetorical effect of Kennedy’s address is a combination of bodily experience, Kennedy’s words, and his tone. The situational context and Kennedy’s gesture (of speaking) and delivery also play a role in the once-occurrent experience. Kennedy never looks down from the audience which can be seen as the expression of sincerity through his face. This facial connection with the audience remains throughout the entirety of his speech and continues while he is departing from the stage (The Nostalgia Company, 1998). Kennedy’s hand gestures continually point directly at the crowd and then back to him. This highlights, vividly, the connection of Kennedy and the audience experiencing the event at the same time. The back and forth motion of his hands imitates the back and forth exchange as he delivers his response for the audience.

2.2c The emotional
Passionate appeals were always theorized in classical rhetorical tradition as an intrinsic rhetorical proof (pathos), however, ironically public address and communication scholarship have consistently, over time, moved to a more literary-criticism or textual approach. The peripheral mode concerning emotion allows for reflection upon the rhetorical canon of delivery that appears to have escaped the attention of many communication scholars. The emotional mode of argument is concerned with the “realm of feelings … [and] involves the illustration by use of [one’s] body and human emotional devices” along with words” (Gilbert 1997, p. 79, 83). The emotional argument of April 4, 1968 can be found in Kennedy’s sincerity which is illustrated through his delivery as well as through the “emotional-volitional” tone of the overall event.[iv] Beyond Kennedy’s words, the tone of the speech act was just as important in creating the emotional argument.

In light of such a tragic announcement, not what was said but how Kennedy chose to say it is of just significance. Bakhtin’s emotional-volitional tone “… seeks to express the truth [pravda] of the given moment, and that relates it to the ultimate unitary, and once-occurrent unity” (Bakhtin 1993, p. 87). To further illustrate the emotional argument of Kennedy’s address this analysis will turn to consider Kennedy’s delivery.
The Kennedy voice is distinct and the calming tone displayed by Kennedy in announcing the death of Dr. King was familiar to the 1968 Indianapolis crowd. From the moment Kennedy began to speak, the somber, yet sincere, emotional mood swept over the interaction. Kennedy’s opening utterance, along with the remainder of the speech, was delivered at a slow pace while Kennedy maintained consistent eye contact with the audience. The slowness of his pace is illustrative of Kennedy’s seriousness, his grief, and of his hesitation (an example of the kisceral mode of argument).
The seriousness of the situation is relevant in considering that Kennedy’s initial appearance to this audience was scheduled as a political rally. Thus, when Kennedy (1968) says, “Could you lower those signs please?” and repeats “I have some very sad news for all of you…” it is evident that he his changing the overall emotional-volitional tone of the entire event from one of a politically rallying mood to one more attuned to seriousness. Further, the slow pace of Kennedy’s voice and how it fades immediately following his announcement of the location of King’s death reflects the grief, along with shock and disbelief, of Kennedy’s own emotional reflection of King’s death as he was actively announcing it.

Evident by the eloquence and sincerity put forth by Kennedy’s tone, one is reminiscent of his older brother, President John F. Kennedy. To evoke the memory of the past President who had fallen victim to an assassination only a mere five years previous to this tragic announcement had the power to evoke great emotional feelings from many Americans. Not only was the audience reminded of President Kennedy via the similarities apparent in his brother’s delivery, by drawing upon his own personal experience, Kennedy spoke out of his own brother’s assassination in hopes of identifying with his audience and aligning possible feelings and emotions that were apparent in the Indianapolis crowd. Kennedy (1968) said:
For those [Kennedy sweeps his hand across his body in acknowledging those individual present in front of him] of you who are black [audience cries out in disbelief] and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only [points to the crowd] say that I can also feel in my own heart [Kennedy points to his heart] the same kind of feeling [points to the crowd]. I had a member of my family [points to the crowd] killed, but he was killed by a white [points to the crowd] man. But we have to make an effort [points to the crowd] in the United States, we have to make an effort [points to the crowd] to understand, to get beyond or go beyond these rather difficult times.

Emotional arguments are fundamental to human argumentation. They communicate to us elements that logical arguments do not. “These include such elements as degree of commitment, depth, and extent of feeling, sincerity, and degree of resistance” (Gilbert 1997, p. 84.). The crowd appeared to sense the commitment of Kennedy and this can be evidenced by his physical delivery. In support of this claim, Time reporter Joe Klein (2006), has recently contended:
One senses, listening to tape years later, the audience’s trust in the man on the podium, a man who didn’t merely feel the crowd’s pain but shared it. And Kennedy reciprocated: he laid himself bare for them, speaking of the death of his brother – something he’d never done publicly and rarely privately …. The silence had deepened, somehow; the moment was stunning.

3. Conclusion
Though important to consider, the words of Kennedy’s address do not stand alone in the creation of the rhetorical effect. Rather, moving the analysis beyond logic allows for a more real account of what happened in Indianapolis on April 4, 1968. Though the logical mode would be contributing to the traditional study of rhetoric it also would drastically rupture an encompassing view of the rhetorical effect. The “feelings” associated with the overall once-occurrent act of experiencing the announcement of King’s death would be unaccounted for. To begin such an encompassing investigation is to account for both the discursive and the “peripheral” or nondiscursive communication elements the drive the persuasive appeal of Kennedy’s speech act. Similarly, work involving dialogic rhetoric should also be open to the insight that such a multi-faceted analysis would bring. Understanding a rhetor’s spoken words is an essential step to the evaluation of one side of the dialogic pair. Where dialogic rhetoric takes a step further is by investigating the receiver of the message as well as the relationship between the two. Thus, a dialogic rhetoric would benefit from aesthetic argumentation in which the entire situational context of the communicative act is taken into account.[v]
Whether Kennedy’s address helped quell violence in Indianapolis as violence erupted in cities across the nation cannot be answered in the absolute sense. However, investigating Kennedy’s address through a phenomenological account of argument allows for a better understanding of how rhetorical effectivity is both verbal and nonverbal. Kennedy’s Indianapolis speech demonstrates a way in which honorable aspirations via words and feelings can be achieved through communicative interaction.
This project was in effort to identify the ways in which peripheral modes of argumentation are conceptualized, described, and analyzed. The theoretical payoff is a new account for argumentation and rhetoric – one that fully integrates the logical, emotional, visceral and kisceral modes of argumentation.[vi] Kennedy’s April 4, 1968 Indianapolis appearance is an exemplar account of how an encompassing view of the rhetorical effect can contribute to the study of argument. Kennedy’s sincerity that was reflected through the peripheral modes of argument as well as through the heartening remarks, delivered from a few small notes Kennedy pulled together on the somber ride from the Weir Cook airport to an Indianapolis basketball court, remain one of the most moving moments of U.S. history.

[i] This brief example utilizes Stephen Toulmin’s (1969) model of argumentation which identified elements of persuasive argument as well as provides useful categories for argument analysis.
[ii] Gilbert (1997) takes “… the liberty of introducing a new term here in order to afford sufficient breadth without at the same time using terminology generally in disrepute. That is, the kisceral covers not only the intuitive but also, for those who indulge, the mystical, religious, supernatural and extrasensory. ‘Kisceral’ is chosen in order to have a descriptive term that does not carry with it normative baggage, like, for example, ‘mystical’ or ‘extra-sensory’” (p. 79).
[iii] Video and audio recordings of Robert Kennedy’s Statement on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Indianapolis, Indiana, April 4, 1968, are available for review in the video series Great Speeches or on the video The Greatest Speeches of All-Time and online from the archives of the JFK library or from Video footage of Kennedy’s address from Great Speeches is cut short and two paragraphs near the beginning and end of the text is lost in their rendition. However, the video footage that is provided allows for visual reference to Kennedy’s non-verbal indicators such as gestures and facial expressions. The video also provides a brief glimpse of the audience. The online recordings of Kennedy’s April 4, 1968 speech, though lacking visual reference, gives a clearer, more complete audio version of the address. Several renditions are taken into account in this analysis. See Lloyd Rohler, educational consultant, The Educational Video Group, (1989), Great Speeches: Volume V and The Nostalgia Company, (1998), The Greatest Speeches of All-Time, Rolling Bay, WA: SoundWorks, USA, Inc. For online audio renditions see Robert Kennedy, Statement on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., (Indianapolis, Indiana, April 4, 1968 -, accessed 10 November 2003); available from; Internet or visit
[iv] Mikhail Bakhtin presents the concept of the “emotional-volitional tone” in Toward a Philosophy of the Act, trans. V. Liapunov and ed. M. Holquist & V. Liapunov (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1993).
[v] Time and space do not permit a fuller discussion of dialogic rhetoric here. This portion of the project allows only consideration of what a dialogic rhetoric is and what it entails. Furthermore, how the peripheral modes of argument work to provide a more encompassing view of the situational context (which includes the speaker, audience, and the relationship between the two) allows for further theorizing of dialogic rhetoric.
[vi] It is important to remember, however, “…that no claim is being made for exclusivity. It is unlikely that any argument is purely in one mode, and it is practically certain that any argument can be twisted out of its natural shape and into some arbitrary mode” (Gilbert, 1997, 82).

A tribute to peace. (2006, April 5). The Indianapolis News.
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Branigin’s ‘Favorite Son’ race backed by Indiana Youth Group. (1968, April 5). The Indianapolis Star.
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Keep MLK’s message of peace alive, (2006, April 9). The Indianapolis Star.
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Kennedy, R. (2006). Robert F. Kennedy: Remarks on the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Indianapolis, Indiana, April 4, 1968. Retrieved May 10, 2006, from
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Nordlund, M.A. (1968). The rhetoric of Senator Robert F. Kennedy in the Oregon presidential preference primary of 1968. (Master Thesis, University of Oregon).
Robinson, A. (2006, April 4). Handout from the Rededication Celebration of the “Landmark for Peace Memorial,” Indianapolis, IN.
Rohler, L. (1989). Great speeches: Volume V (videotape). The Educational Video Group.
The Nostalgia Company. (1998). The greatest speeches of all-time (videotape). Rolling Bay, WA: SoundWorks, USA, Inc.
Thomas E. (2000). Robert Kennedy: His life. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Troops patrol in downtown Washington. (1968, April 6). The Indianapolis Star.
Witcover J. (1969). 85 Days: The last campaign of Robert Kennedy. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Witcover, J. (1997). The year the dream died: Revisiting 1968 in America. New York: Warner Books.

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