Don't Give Up, Don't Ever Give Up
written by: Donavan N. Johnston
On March 4, 1993 , a man by the name of Jim Valvano gave a speech that started a program to help fight a dreaded disease that engulfs millions everywhere. His cause that Jim Valvano is fighting for is cancer and at the time of the speech, Jim will die within one month of the cancerous tumors that are in his body. He does not know when he will die, but he knows it is soon and therefore there is a need of urgency to establish this program and get it up and running. In the speech, Jim Valvano used two aspects of persuasion to make his point, and establish why it would be necessary to fight for the cause. The two areas that Jim unknowingly uses are the theory of cultural learning and the Rhetoric of protest to appeal to his audience so that they will take his message and remember him when he is gone.
Knowing who your audience is becomes important when trying to establish an emotional appeal based on culture. There are two groups of people in this speech that Jim Valvano is speaking to. The first is the audience in front of him of about 5000 people. The second is the worldwide audience of about 1.2 million who were watching at home. Both sets of people had one come cultural background that they held. Everyone Jim Valvano was speaking to liked sports, and most liked stories about sports. In the cultural learning, he uses this common cultural background as a starting point to start making his persuasion. He gives the story of his first coaching job at age 21 and describes what occurred in lines 33-68. In this section of his speech, he uses four key items that that people could relate to. The first item he mentions is a book by Vince Lombardi. Now it is not the book, rather the person that everyone could relate to. At the time of the speech, everyone in the audience had an idea of who Vince Lombardi was, and what type of person other people around he believed him to be. Everyone in the audience directly in front of him had grown up hearing stories of Vince Lombardi and held a shared opinion of him. Even members of audience at home who knew of sports may have known of Vince Lombardi or at least knew he did something great. By using the reference of Lombardi, Jim Valvano gives us a person to relate to. The next key item Jim Valvano uses is the Green Bay Packers. Vince Lombardi coached this team when people began to notice him. His Packers teams were great and dominate teams that ruled the NFL under Vince Lombardi's time. Jim Valvano uses the Packers as an example of great and powerful teams. This allows both audiences to think about other great teams that they know of and why they were consider great. The use of the Packers also foreshowed the need to be great, powerful, and strong, and in a cultural ideal, we all could be great like the Vince Lombardi Packers teams of the 1960. This shared power is an implied reference that Jim Valvano makes.
A third key point that Jim Valvano mentions is the basketball team in the locker room. Again, because the audiences are made of people who are sports people, people like sports or people who have played sports, they all can relate to being in a locker room waiting for the coach to come in. This usage of the locker can be seen as a slimily metaphor for later on in speech. The slimily is that sitting in the locker room waiting for something great, in the case of the story he telling the game, and to sitting at the edge of something new and exciting that will happen and change and impact people. The locker room is the place were people come together and gather themselves before going out and then go out to fight the battle. Later on in the speech in lines 86-91, he lays out the great plan ahead of them. In this manor both audiences for the good and prospers place it can be see the locker room. A final key area that Jim Valvano focuses on for a cultural reference is the pep talk that he gave his players when Jim was twenty-one years old. The audiences again are drawn to fact of the locker room and sitting in there waiting for their coach to speak and instruct them. Some of the audience members may have sat in the locker room and then comes the coach in to talk to them. This is also another slimily in that that the coach is speaking to inspire the players, as a leader would speaking to a group of people to inspire them for a cause. The people in the audience can culturally relate to what Jim Valvano is talking about, because they have all listened to a great leader, a coach or a teacher that has inspired them to a greater cause. In using these four manors of cultural backgrounds, Jim Valvano is able to relate to his audience even though some of his audience may not have had the chance to experience part of his life and meet the people Jim Valvano has met.
There is one additional way Jim Valvano relates culturally to his audience that is not found in the story on lines 33-68. Starting in lines 72-77 he gives a brief encounter that shows how cross culturally courage is maintained. In this section, he tells that people think of him as courageous. He tells us that his courage comes from his family. Right at that same time Jim Valvano faces opposition from a clock keeper that says he has 30 seconds left to speak. Courageously he tell speaks up against the clock keeper and that he can worry about his 30 seconds when he has tumors in his body. This is shows as a cultural reference to have courage and he gives the example of how to be courage even in the face of a clock-watcher. In this aspect he show another form of culture.
Getting people to believe in the cause you are fighting for can cause emotions in the people around you to be stirred up. In the rhetoric of protest, a person tries to get the people around them to fight for their cause and be inspired to work harder for their cause. In this acceptance speech by Jim Valvano, he uses this speech as the opportunity to inspire people on to a further cause. He has a goal in mind and he clearly states it in his speech by comparing it to another cause people fight for in lines 86-91 in the speech. In this part of the speech, he lays out his goal of bringing the issue of cancer research back to the front table. This provides the people with a goal to fight for and that they can be inspired to support the cancer cause, because with the wake of other outbreaks like AIDS cancer, which Jim is dieing of, has been pushed back.
Another part of the rhetoric of protest is that normal a movement begins during a quite time of unrest were people think there may not be a problem. Looking at lines 86-91 again part of the reason Jim Valvano is bringing up the issue of cancer research is that at the time hardly anyone is focusing in on cancer research. By his choice of words, one could imply that with the onset of the AIDS virus and looking for a cure for AIDS, cancer research has taken a backseat. Therefore, in this time when cancer research is not being promoted, Jim Valvano comes in and gives this speech starting the ball reenrolling for research to cure or eliminate cancer. During this stage of starting, a project to begin a social movement the leader will come up with a plan on how to solve the problem that he is promoting. In lines 93-96, he lays out the groundwork for establishing a program for cancer research. The program he wants to establish is not in the genesis starting stage of a social movement, because he has a follower named ESPN that is willing to finance the cancer research program he wanting to create.
As far as the speech is concerned in the social movement stage he is only get here during his speech. Yet with his death in April of 1993, his movement he started is still carrying on and growing. In a social movement the death of the leader of movement can have one of two affects. The first is the movement ends and there is no more social movement. The other is that supporters and followers to the Jimmy V foundation carry on the movement. Today the foundation is up and running and looking for cures for cancer. Because of the work Jim Valvano started in 1993 work is being carried forth and people are benefiting from his research. The program is ran from donation and events like the Jimmy V Men's Basketball tournament, held December 6 th of this year and the Women's held later on this year, help to support and bring money in for his organization. Every year at the tournaments, Dick Vitale, whom Jim mentioned a few times in speech, gives a speech promoting the work of the Jimmy V foundation(Vitale, 2004). Every year also the speech that Jim Valvano gave in March of 1993 is played so everyone can remember whom Jim Valvano was, why it is important to laugh, think and cry everyday, and how important the work he established has become.
In March of 1993, Jim Valvano laid the groundwork for a program that has raised over 30 million dollars in the last eleven years for cancer research. Although Jim Valvano did not purposely use persuasion elements in his speech, he did persuade people to his cause and his hope. He died never seeing the success his program started. This social movement has started to work and it came because of his use in showing the need for cancer research and the response it brought forth. In the words of his daughter Jamie Valvano Howard, “The V Foundation for Cancer Research continues to be guided by the legacy of one man that refused to give up. The Foundation embraces Jim's call for action, his love of people, and the courage that enabled him to find hope even in despair. Jim Valvano remains an enduring example of the timeless influence that one individual can have in this world (V Foundation 1993).” Don't give up, don't ever give up.