Christopher R. Friend
REBUS. School of Arts and Sciences, Saint Leo University.
Publication year: 2017

When teaching argumentative essays, we often rely on ethos, logos, and pathos to provide the foundation of a “rhetorical triangle” that strengthens the author’s position. These three rhetorical tools work well in speeches and essays—long-form writing with a slow development period. But today’s idea exchanges happen on the scale of seconds, and our composing processes need to keep up. The timeliness of our messages are governed by another rhetorical device, kairos—the relevance of a text to the moment in which it exists.

“Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.”

In this essay, I rhetorically analyze a single tweet from President Obama, posted on Sept. 16, 2015. His 26-word message acknowledges youthful ingenuity trapped by socialized fears, contrasts respect for science with intolerance of religious differences, and highlights inflexible policies against innocent invention—by being timely. By skillfully employing kairos, Obama reinforced the kind of change he advocated for in his 2008 campaign, giving it the impression of constancy. I illustrate how, from a rhetorical perspective, a text gains significance through its relation with time.


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