Emma Goldmans Speech Essay

Emma Goldmans Speech Essay

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Few people are fearless speakers. As students, we generally feel the rumble of butterflies in our stomachs, but the most we have to lose is a good grade.
For Emma Goldman, the stakes were considerably higher. She had the daunting
task of speaking to secure her own freedom when she was placed on trial for obstructing the draft in 1917. The country was awash in patriotism, and she was prosecuted as an enemy of the state. When preparing her speech, she realized that a seated jury would be a microcosm of the country's national spirit. Jurors may have had children or loved ones committed or lost to the Great War. Her position, though heartfelt and eloquently expressed, with an attempt to express her own patriotism, was subversive and threatening to the population.
     Although many of her words may have angered the jurors, Goldman made the key points of every topic that she discussed very clear and easy to understand. She was able to talk about her stances, and use powerful language and various sources to help the jury understand why she held certain ideals. When describing her opposition to war, Goldman stated that "all wars are wars among thieves who are too cowardly to fight and who therefore induce the young manhood of the world to do the fighting for them." Also, Goldman goes to great lengths to clearly depict the fact that she was not acting in a violent manner. She used imagery, such as the officers who went to arrest her finding "Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman, in their separate offices quietly seated at their desks, wielding not the gun or the bomb or the club or the sword, but only such a simple and insignificant thing as a pen." Goldman also makes it very clear why she does not believe that the war should continue. She claims that it is "not a war for democracy. If it were a war for the purpose of making democracy safe for the world, we would say that democracy must first be safe for America before it can be safe for the world." By repeating this idea throughout her speech, Goldman emphasizes why
she behaved in the manner that she did. She also explains that "the war going on in the world is for the further enslavement of the people." Goldman works to point out that "the fight began in Australia and conscription was there defeated by the brave and determined and courageous ...


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..., [and] which expresses itself in prisons." During this point in American history, where the nation's pride was sweeping the nation, the last thing Goldman should have done was criticize the United States. These accusations against the country, although they were her belief, went against the accepted norms and rules of the time. By continuing to behave in such an antagonistic manner, Goldman makes the jury feel like it needs to vindicate its country and punish her.
     Emma Goldman's remarks may have infuriated the jury, and this may have proved too big an obstacle to overcome. Jurors may purport to be impartial, but they carry within them a belief system that is threatened by a revolutionary perspective. Goldman's organization and logic was compelling, and her persuasive skills were impressive. It was a wise decision to portray herself as pro- America. But Goldman's failure was to underestimate the depth of commitment that Americans had at this time to the War effort. To allow Goldman's opposition to the government system of conscription would mock the sacrifices of loved ones. Despite an eloquent defense, Goldman was not able to overcome this bias.

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