Jim Wallis, author of “What the Waters Revealed” used classical principles of argument to develop his case against how Americans treat each other, whether that is American citizens, American infrastructure, or the environment. He challenges the current belief system of Americans by showcasing past events and how they sprung about change, and relating these events to Hurricane Katrina.
There are three classic principles to argument: ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos is an appeal based on the speaker’s character. In this case, Wallis uses his place as the founder of Sojourners magazine to establish his character. Logos is an appeal based on logic or reason. This classical principle is used by showing a cause-and-effect process. If America does not look at Hurricane Katrina and its effect on the poor people of this country and make some changes, then America has not learned anything since Civil Rights or the Great Depression, other events that brought to light the plight of the poor in America. Pathos is an appeal based on emotion (“The Art of Rhetoric,” 2011). Wallis tugs on the emotional heartstrings of his readers by explaining the squalid conditions people had to live in before, during and after Hurricane Katrina, and also giving vivid imagery when describing women with babies stranded on roofs during the floods following Hurricane Katrina.
Wallis demonstrates his ethos argument by using his expertise as a long-time advocate for civil rights to make several points. He shows his character by taking a moral stance on the poor and poverty, and calling for the reader to do the same. He states, “The poor have been near the bottom of our priority list, if they are on the list at all. It will take a moral and even religious imperative to change our priorities…” (Lamm & Everett, 2007).
Logos is present in Wallis’ argument as well. Logic and reason are apparent when an argument is constructed relating to poverty. Facts and figures are easily used to appeal to those who want concrete evidence and proof. Child poverty rates of almost half the population in New Orleans showcase the worst of the poverty that strikes the city. 84 percent of the poor are African-American, a fact that is not lost on Wallis, or he thinks, the rest of America as to why this population was ignored until Hurricane Katrina happened (Lamm & Everett, 2007). He argues that Katrina was so bad because of the 37 million people below the poverty line in America, those were the same people who could not afford to escape Katrina’s path.
The appeal to emotion, or pathos, is easily found in Wallis’ argument. He pulls on the reader’s emotions by giving visuals of what the poor people in New Orleans went through. “They were totally exposed and on their own. For days, nobody came for them. And the conditions of the places they were finally herded to (“like animals,” many testified) sickened the nation” (Lamm & Everett, 2007). He also discusses the vulnerability of poor children in New Orleans, and shared shocking stories of what poor children went through.
Authors can establish authority in a number of different ways. One way is to draw on personal knowledge and experience. Another way is to utilize research and in that way borrow authority from others who already established it. A third way to establish authority is to write using an authoritative voice (Lamm & Everett, 2007). Wallis does all of these things. He uses his experience as a veteran of civil rights movements along with his careful research of all things that have changed the way Americans have looked at poverty to exert his authority. His voice within his argument is also very authoritative. He uses words like “always” and “never” to challenge the readers to do something. He feels that with voting, serious changes can be made. He calls on Congress by stating that, “Congressional pork-barrel spending that aligns with political power more than human needs must be challenged as never before” (Lamm & Everett, 2007). He uses his words to challenge people to make changes.
Jim Wallis is an author with authority, who constructed a valid argument and essay using all of the classical principles of argumentation. His use of authority, along with ethos, pathos, and logos, makes his argument strong and moves the reader to make the changes Wallis seeks.