Jimmy Carter on the Arctic Refuge: Rhetorical Analysis

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In his foreword to Seasons of Life, a documentation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge published in 2003, former President Jimmy Carter does a remarkable job of convincing his readers to preserve the beauty and natural resources of the reserve. He accomplishes this through the use of descriptive, vivid diction, a compelling yet composed tone, and several uses of the pathos and ethos appeals. Carter’s passionate manner stimulates emotions of concern and sympathy towards the reserve within his readers. His delivery is directed towards the American people, whose support is critical for the conservation of the reserve. Through the brilliance of this piece, Carter is able to both captivate zealous environmentalists and sway indifferent individuals to protect, persevere, and appreciate the Arctic Refuge.

Rather than immediately plunging into the statistics and disadvantages of shutting down the reserve, Carter first provides an in-depth recollection of his personal experience at the refuge. He mainly utilizes descriptive diction in the first half of his foreword with vivid adjectives, hyperboles, and personification. For instance, he creates a beautiful image when describing the “brilliant mosaic of wildflowers, mosses, and lichens that hugged the tundra” or the muskox “lumber along braided rivers that meander toward the Beaufort Sea.” Carter then proceeds to describe the caribou migration in the third paragraph with a dramatic selection of diction to paint a picture of the incredible phenomenon; “…the sweep of tundra before us became flooded with life, with the sounds of grunting animals and clicking hooves filling the air. The dramatic procession of the Porcupine caribou herd was a once-in-a-lifetime wildlife spectacle.” Farther along in the piece, after providing statistics and discussing the drawbacks of closing the reserve, Carter again presents a compelling description of the possibility of the destruction of the refuge. The thought of the reserve being “consumed by a web of roads and pipelines” evokes negative feelings within the reader, arousing compassion and concern for the well-being of the extraordinary landmark.

As previously mentioned, the descriptive diction Carter utilizes demonstrates great use of the pathos and ethos appeals. By vividly recalling the scenery and setting of the Arctic Refuge, not only is Carter directly connecting his readers to the location and creating a breathtaking illustration, but he is also reinforcing his credibility with his own personal experience. Had Carter simply presented straight data and opinions fueled by personal preferences, he may not have had as strong an impact on his readers. However, this description makes his view more relevant, relatable, and reliable to his readers. This vivid vocabulary is also a form of pathos appeal, which allows his readers to clearly envision the beauty and importance of this refuge. Later in his forward, President Carter also refers to the indigenous American people and wildlife who depend greatly upon the refuge: “…would forever destroy the wilderness character of America’s only Arctic Refuge and disturb countless numbers of animals that depend on this northernmost terrestrial ecosystem.” He later addresses the natives who have a historical bond to the refuge, emphasizing the tragedy of this relationship being destroyed: “…the Gwich’in Athabascan Indians of Alaska and Canada, indigenous people whose culture has depended on the Porcupine caribou herd for thousands of years… I can empathize with the Gwich’ins’ struggle to safeguard one of their precious human rights.” By addressing individuals and wildlife native to the reserve, Carter provokes sympathy from his readers towards the lives who depend on the refuge for survival, which demonstrates another form of the pathos appeal.

The predominant underlying element of this foreword is Carter’s passionate yet calm tone. President Carter’s voice in the last few paragraphs is a call to action to the American people. Again, his choice of vocabulary in his statements during the last section of his writing reinforces his encouragement: “It will be a grand triumph for America if we can preserve the Arctic Refuge in its pure, untrammeled state. To leave this extraordinary land alone would be the greatest gift we could pass on to future generations.” Despite overtly displaying his passion for this subject, Carter further exhibits his maturity and credibility by managing to maintain his composure. He keeps a collected, analytical tone in the middle section of his foreword, again reassuring his readers that his opinion is not founded upon personal emotions and is to be taken seriously.

Through the use of vivid imagery, a reflective, passionate tone, and varying use of pathos and ethos appeals, President Jimmy Carter is able to persuade the readers of his foreword to support the preservation of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. This is an incredible piece of writing in which the author was immensely successful in evoking certain thoughts and emotions within his readers, ultimately leading to their support of his opinion. Although a small quantity of his audience may have less compassion towards the environment, Carter was certainly able to compel them to at least consider his position. Overall, this piece was masterfully composed, and former President Jimmy Carter achieved his goal of convincing the American people to preserve, protect, and appreciate the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Christian, conservative, homeschooled, ambitious truth-seeker obsessed with being different. Student Ambassador for Prager University. Learn more at prageru.com

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