“If we don’t come together...we, too, will be destroyed”
In the movie “Remember the Titans”, Coach Boone takes his segregated football team for a run in the middle of the night while they are up at camp. They run through all sorts of trees and rivers until it is morning when they stop.
Coach Boone tells them that they are standing where the Battle of Gettysburg was fought. He then goes on to deliver a profound speech. He uses strong imagery, refers to an event that is a part of their lives, and appeals to their emotions all in an effort to encourage his team to come together, respect each other, and play the “game like men”. Coach Boone really gets his players’ attention and is able to reach out to them through using a huge part of their heritage and what they know. He takes them to Gettysburg where history happened. They all live in Virginia and are very aware of the Civil War and how segregation is a part of their lives. This is all happening in a time when prejudice and hatred between blacks and whites was at one of its heights. He starts his speech out talking about the battle and how men died right there “fighting the same fight that [they’re] still fighting amongst [themselves]”. Coach Boone points out that the battle hasn’t ended, that the terrible hatred and fighting is still happening, that they are still fighting their own Battle of Gettysburg. The players have all seen this but Coach Boone puts it in a way that really makes them think and realize how terrible it is. He asks them to take a lesson from the dead. He refers back to the battle again when he says, “If we don't come together, right now, on this hallowed ground, then we, too, will be destroyed. Just like they were.”
When talking about the battle, Coach Boone uses the rhetorical strategy of strong imagery to captivate his audience and really get them to picture the scene. He describes all the colors and how the battle really happened when he says, “This green field right here was painted red. Bubbling with the blood of young boys. Smoke and hot lead pouring right through their bodies.” Everyone there must have been able to clearly visualize what it was like, how the field was soaked with blood. He describes how horrible the fighting really was when he talks about the “smoke and hot lead pouring right through” the bodies of the soldiers. Coach Boone uses this to draw the connection between present day and the past. He is able to say that they are still fighting the same way, that there is figurative, and literal, smoke and hot lead pouring through their bodies.
All this is for an appeal to their emotion. The reference to the Battle of Gettysburg becomes the basis of his speech. It brings with it heavy emotional baggage and feelings, some tender and some of intense hatred. Before the speech, the white and black players were constantly going up against each other and tensions ran high. But in Coach Boone’s speech he recognizes this and compares it to the tension felt on the field at Gettysburg. The boys are all able to relate to this and recognize the truth in their coach’s words.
So with the speech, their coach is able to inspire them to work together and resolve this century-long issue within the team. Afterwards, the team takes steady steps to becoming unified and they are eventually able to overcome their past issues and historical tensions. Coach Boone’s words of emotion, imagery, and familiar ideas put in a new perspective really affect the boys. He is able to help spur on a huge change that affected a whole town and made a very big difference in many people’s lives.