Harnessing Ethos, Pathos, and Logos: Crafting Persuasive Discourse for the Modern Era


Persuasive discourse is a powerful tool that individuals use to convey their ideas, beliefs, and arguments to an audience with the aim of influencing their opinions and actions. Three fundamental elements often employed in such discourse are ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos pertains to the credibility and authority of the speaker, pathos involves appealing to the emotions of the audience, and logos relies on evidence and reasoning to construct a logical argument. In this essay, we will delve into these aspects by analyzing a recent impactful speech and its use of ethos, pathos, and logos.

Ethos: Credibility of the Speaker

Ethos refers to the perceived credibility and trustworthiness of the speaker. A speaker’s ethos is shaped by their reputation, expertise, and character. In the contemporary context, Greta Thunberg’s discourse on climate change stands out as an exemplar. Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist, gained global recognition for her passionate advocacy for urgent climate action. Her ethos is bolstered by her status as a young environmental activist who has managed to captivate the attention of world leaders and citizens alike. Thunberg’s genuine commitment to the cause and her unwavering dedication have lent her a credible and authoritative voice in the discourse on climate change (Smith, 2020).

Thunberg’s contemporaries view her as a fearless and sincere advocate. Her work has inspired a worldwide movement of young climate activists, further enhancing her ethos. Thunberg’s authenticity and unflinching determination have garnered respect from both supporters and critics, making her a prominent and influential figure in the fight against climate change (Liu, 2021).

Pathos: Emotional Appeal in the Speech

Pathos involves evoking emotions in the audience to make a persuasive argument. In Thunberg’s speeches, she strategically employs pathos to elicit strong emotional responses. By describing the devastating impacts of climate change and its toll on vulnerable communities, she taps into the audience’s empathy and compassion. For instance, Thunberg often emphasizes the plight of future generations who will inherit a damaged planet, striking a chord with the audience’s sense of responsibility towards the well-being of their descendants (Klein, 2019).

Thunberg’s emotional appeal is also evident in her passionate delivery. Her tone of voice, facial expressions, and gestures all contribute to her ability to connect with the audience on an emotional level. Through these techniques, she channels her own frustration, fear, and determination, effectively transmitting these emotions to her listeners. This emotional resonance compels the audience to internalize the urgency of her message and consider taking action (Kamrath, 2020).

Logos: Logical Appeal through Evidence and Reasoning

Logos involves employing logical reasoning and evidence to construct a convincing argument. Thunberg’s speeches are underpinned by a wealth of scientific data and empirical evidence that support her claims about the dire state of the environment. She frequently cites reports from reputable organizations like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to substantiate her assertions (Hickman, 2019). Thunberg’s emphasis on scientific consensus and the consensus of experts lends her discourse a robust logical foundation.

Furthermore, Thunberg’s use of analogies and comparisons enhances the logical appeal of her arguments. By drawing parallels between historical struggles for justice and the fight against climate change, she appeals to the audience’s sense of equity and ethics (Hassol, 2020). These comparisons facilitate a deeper understanding of the severity of the issue and the need for immediate action.

Ethos, Pathos, and Logos: Their Interplay in Persuasive Discourse

Effective communication, particularly in persuasive discourse, relies on a delicate interplay of ethos, pathos, and logos. Each of these elements contributes distinctively to the impact of a message, yet they often work in synergy to create a compelling narrative that resonates with the audience. Let’s further explore the importance of these elements and how they function together.

4.1 The Synergy of Ethos and Pathos

Ethos and pathos are closely intertwined in persuasive discourse. The credibility of the speaker, as established by their ethos, provides the foundation upon which emotional appeals can be built. A speaker with a strong ethos is more likely to elicit emotional responses effectively. This relationship is exemplified by contemporary figures like Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani education activist and Nobel laureate.

Malala’s ethos stems from her remarkable personal story – surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban for advocating girls’ education. This harrowing experience, along with her subsequent advocacy efforts, has solidified her reputation as a credible and resilient advocate for education and gender equality (Yousafzai & Lamb, 2013). Malala’s ethos is further bolstered by her unwavering dedication to her cause, as evident in her continuous activism and the establishment of the Malala Fund (Rosenberg, 2021).

Building upon her ethos, Malala skillfully employs pathos to connect with her audience emotionally. In her speeches, she recounts her own experiences, vividly describing the challenges she faced and the hurdles girls around the world continue to overcome in their pursuit of education. By sharing these personal stories, she taps into the audience’s empathy and compels them to empathize with the struggles of others. Malala’s emotional appeals are particularly potent because they are grounded in her authentic experiences, making her ethos and pathos mutually reinforcing (Kehinde, 2020).

4.2 The Role of Logos in Strengthening the Argument

While ethos and pathos tap into emotions and credibility, logos serves as the intellectual backbone of persuasive discourse. Logos relies on evidence, reasoning, and logical consistency to construct a coherent and compelling argument. This element is particularly important when addressing complex and controversial issues that demand a well-founded case. An exemplary speaker who masterfully integrates logos into her discourse is Angela Davis, an American political activist, scholar, and author.

Angela Davis is known for her advocacy against racism, sexism, and systemic oppression. In her speeches, Davis meticulously employs logos by presenting historical data, sociopolitical analysis, and scholarly research to substantiate her claims. Her arguments are structured logically, drawing connections between various facets of inequality and injustice. Davis’s ethos, rooted in her academic background and longstanding activism, bolsters her credibility in discussing complex issues (Gillan, 2021).

Furthermore, Davis’s logos-driven approach often entails invoking historical precedents and socio-economic contexts to contextualize the issues she addresses. By demonstrating the historical continuity of injustices and their systemic underpinnings, she constructs a robust argument that fosters a deeper understanding of the challenges at hand. Through this strategic use of logos, Davis empowers her audience with the knowledge needed to critically engage with the topics she presents (Olson, 2020).

4.3 The Fusion of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in Modern Communication

In the digital age, where information is disseminated rapidly across various platforms, the fusion of ethos, pathos, and logos becomes even more critical in shaping public discourse. A contemporary example that vividly illustrates the interconnectedness of these elements is Michelle Obama, the former First Lady of the United States.

Michelle Obama’s ethos is established through her education, professional accomplishments, and role as the First Lady. Her background as a lawyer and her dedication to initiatives like “Let’s Move!” to combat childhood obesity bolster her credibility as a thoughtful and informed advocate (Gonchar, 2019). Furthermore, her relatable persona and ability to connect with people on a personal level have garnered widespread respect and admiration (Hesse, 2018).

Leveraging her ethos, Michelle Obama incorporates pathos into her speeches by sharing personal anecdotes and relatable stories. She often emphasizes her own experiences as a mother, wife, and citizen, making her messages accessible and resonant with a broad audience. By appealing to universal emotions like empathy, hope, and unity, Obama creates an emotional connection that transcends partisan lines (Davidson, 2017).

Logos, as embodied by Michelle Obama, is manifested in her commitment to evidence-based initiatives and data-driven policies. Whether addressing issues of education, health, or social justice, she draws upon statistics, research, and expert opinions to buttress her arguments (Nilsen, 2020). Her speeches often feature a clear and logical progression of ideas, guiding her audience through a compelling narrative that is grounded in reason and substance.

4.4 The Symbiotic Nature of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

The symbiotic nature of ethos, pathos, and logos is evident when examining speeches that seamlessly blend these elements to achieve persuasive impact. Stacey Abrams, an American politician, author, and voting rights activist, exemplifies this synergy. Abrams’s ethos is fortified by her background as a lawyer, her tenure as a Georgia House of Representatives minority leader, and her resolute dedication to fighting voter suppression and promoting democratic participation (McGhee, 2021).

Abrams’s speeches are characterized by her skillful use of pathos. She frequently shares personal stories and anecdotes, connecting her audience emotionally to the challenges faced by marginalized communities, particularly in the realm of voting rights. By highlighting individual struggles and triumphs, she evokes empathy and underscores the urgency of her cause (Friedman, 2019).

Logos plays a pivotal role in Abrams’s discourse as well. She substantiates her arguments with legal precedents, historical context, and empirical evidence of voter suppression. Her emphasis on the importance of fair and accessible elections is supported by a wealth of data and expert analysis (Jones, 2020). By weaving these evidentiary threads into her speeches, Abrams constructs a logical framework that bolsters her position and educates her audience.

 The Art of Persuasion in Contemporary Discourse

In the dynamic landscape of modern communication, mastering the art of ethos, pathos, and logos is essential for effectively shaping narratives and driving change. The stories of Michelle Obama and Stacey Abrams underscore that these elements are not disparate components but rather integral facets of persuasive discourse. By skillfully intertwining ethos to establish credibility, pathos to forge emotional connections, and logos to substantiate arguments, speakers can create a comprehensive and impactful message.

As society navigates complex challenges, the strategic integration of ethos, pathos, and logos remains a potent tool for fostering understanding, inspiring action, and effecting positive change. These elements, when harnessed in unison, empower speakers to engage diverse audiences, transcend boundaries, and foster meaningful dialogues that shape the course of societal progress.


In conclusion, the effective use of ethos, pathos, and logos in persuasive discourse can greatly influence an audience’s perception and response to the message being conveyed. Greta Thunberg’s speeches on climate change exemplify the successful integration of these elements to create a compelling and impactful narrative. Her ethos, as a dedicated and authentic advocate, lends credibility to her words. The skillful use of pathos, through emotional stories and passionate delivery, engages the audience’s empathy and encourages action. Finally, her reliance on logos, through scientific evidence and logical reasoning, constructs a robust argument that underscores the urgency of her cause. In the ongoing quest for effective communication and persuasion, the strategic implementation of ethos, pathos, and logos remains a pivotal strategy.


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McGhee, H. (2021). Stacey Abrams’s Call to Action. The New York Times Magazine.

Friedman, L. (2019). Stacey Abrams Wants to Be the First Black Woman Governor. Vogue.

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