oa Communicare : Journal for Communication Sciences in Southern Africa - President De Klerk and ethos: an alternative way of addressing the nation

Volume 9, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0259-0069



This article deals with State President de Klerk's historic opening address before Parliament on 2 February 1990. The focus is on the speaker's ethos as essentially conceptualised by Aristotle in his Rhetoric, and as it has evolved in modem public speaking in the oratory setting. The evaluation is an exercise in rhetorical criticism based on the artistic standard and neo-Aristotelian approach. Both verbal and non-verbal messages are considered. The author concludes that Mr De Klerk's display of ethos was credible insofar as he conveyed expertness (intelligence), trustworthiness and good will during the speech. In fact, given the principles of (Western) democratic politics, no South African State President or Prime Minister has ever reached out with so much apparent good will to the vast majority of South Africans.

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