Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Strategic Repetition

Repetition isn't always repetitive. Sometimes it's the perfect device to drive home a point with just the right amount of cadence and rhythm. Used properly, repetition can be a writer's--and a speaker's--most powerful rhetorical device.

You'll find one of the most powerful modern examples of deliberate repetition in Ronald Reagan's "Tear Down This Wall" speech where he called on the Soviet Union to tear down the Berlin Wall:

General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev -- Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

...As I looked out a moment ago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner, "this wall will fall. Beliefs become reality." Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall, for it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.

Readers can find this speech on Youtube--it's well worth watching. And if you came of age during the Cold War, you'll find the "open this gate" moment (at 10:55) truly spine tingling.