Words Have Power, A Persuasive Speech

This is a persuasive speech I wrote based on The Book Thief by Markus Zusak from Liesel’s point of view speaking to Rudy, convincing him of the power words have. The timeframe is when Rudy is upset with Liesel after she steals a book instead of the food he wanted, and she explains why she did it.

You don’t understand, Rudy. I know you think that I should have taken more than just a book when I had the chance, but don’t you see? Books hold so much more than food. You say that it’s too bad you can’t eat books, but what you have to see is the power of the words in those books. Words can be the greatest gift a person can give, words can heal and hurt, words can end or save a life—words can change the world. Don’t you see? The Führer did, and he used that power for evil, “Without words, the Führer [would be] nothing. There would be no limping prisoners, no need for consolation or wordly tricks to make us feel better” (521). He attacked by “..plant[ing] words…. He watched them grow, until eventually… It was a nation of farmed thoughts” (475). He started this war with his words, manipulated this country with his words. Though without words, the two of us wouldn’t be the people we are today, we wouldn’t be standing together right here, right now.

Don’t you see? It’s not just you, most people don’t. Words have power. They can be a weapon, but they can also heal. Remember down in the basement last time? We were there during the first air raid, and I read The Whistler in the warm chaos of that shelter. They listened to that story, and as my voice read the words, the children were soothed, the adults distracted from the raid by “…visions of the whistler running from the crime scene” (381). Could food have done that? Even you were comforted in that moment, though you tried to act like you didn’t need it—don’t think I didn’t notice, I see right through you.

My books give me hope, give me the strength to survive, the will to keep living. My books give you and everyone around me a light in this darkness. When I first came to Himmel Street I was so alone, “…you could still see the bite marks of snow on [my] hands and the frosty blood on [my] fingers” (31). Mama had left me with an unfamiliar family and Werner had just died. Without a family or a home, I walked into that “small, boxlike house” (32) carrying nothing but that book. I hid it under my bed, knowing that no matter what happened I would still have that. Soon after that, Papa taught me how to read, and that’s when I truly felt love in my life again, from them and you. Remember that day Sister Maria gave us reading tests in front of the whole class? I stood in front of all of you, trembling as my “…blood loudened. The sentences blurred…and it didn’t help that tears…formed in [my] eyes” (77). Do you remember how stupid I proved myself to be compared with you and the rest of them? The humiliation, anger, and frustration I felt after that was something I can still bring to mind. You comforted me that day, and you still do with so much, but what continues to save me are those books. Learning how to read freed me, gave me the sense of identity I craved. I know I should repay you for that time you helped me and many more after that, and I know that I shouldn’t have done this, but I still stole this book instead of the food you wanted and I can explain why.

Books are precious, so valuable to humanity, priceless compared to food. I know you’re thinking right now, “But why does this all matter? I’m hungry right now, what can books do to fix that?” Well, if only people realized the power the words those books hold have, this war wouldn’t have started—our families wouldn’t be poor, you wouldn’t be hungry—the whole of Germany wouldn’t be starving. A bite of food now might curb your hunger for the time being, but what about tomorrow? What about the rest of Germany?

Food keeps you alive, but books give you a reason to keep living—something all of humanity needs in this time of destruction and loss. Why doesn’t anyone realize this? We may not have much food, but books will always be there. I’d do anything it takes—I might have to steal for them, but I’ll still do it. You and everyone else must realize, words are what change the world. If only people could see that, this war wouldn’t be happening and death wouldn’t visit this little town so often. They change lives, for better or for worse—ours and this entire country’s. Words have power. You have to understand.