Politicians are known to use figurative language in their speeches. Below is an excerpt from former president Thabo Mbeki's resignation speech. Comment on the the use of figurative language in the...

Politicians are known to use figurative language in their speeches. Below is an excerpt from former president Thabo Mbeki's resignation speech. Comment on the the use of figurative language in the speech.

Thabo Mbeki's resignation speech:

In this regard, it may be worth repeating what I said during the inauguration of the President of the Republic in 1999. Using the metaphor of the Comrades Marathon, I said then that:

"Those who complete the course will do so only because they do not, as fatigue sets in, convince themselves that the road ahead is still too long, the inclines too steep, the loneliness impossible to bear, and the prize itself of doubtful value."

Thabo Mbeki 

22 September 2008

Addressed to the nation by South African president September 21, 2008

 

Expert Answers
jerseygyrl1983 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Thabo Mbeki compares the work of political advancement to the Comrades Marathon, South Africa's annual race between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. It is also the world's oldest and largest ultramarathon race. The spirit of the Comrades Marathon is said to embody virtues such as comradery, perseverence, and ubuntu which, in Bantu, means "humanity toward others."

This comparison to the marathon is helpful because it is one aspect of nationalistic importance around which all South Africans can rally. Everyone can identify with the spirit of competitive sport. The spirit of the race be compared to the spirit of nation-building. Also, the metaphor of a marathon, a measure of one's endurance, can apply to politics.

In this case, "the course" is the path toward building a better nation. Nation-building is laborious work that causes "fatigue," both for those who lead and for those who are led. However, completion of the task requires one not to give up, though fatigue sets in.

Citizens and leaders do not convince themselves that "the road is still too long," or, in political terms, that the task will take too long to complete. "Inclines" could be a metaphor for progress, which is as challenging to achieve nationally as an actual incline is to mount. Finally, a marathon runner might feel "loneliness," or a sense of isolation in the completion of the race. Mbeki, as a leader whom everyone was watching and counting on -- in the way in which one might watch and count on a marathon runner -- might have felt this loneliness that was "impossible to bear."

Finally, he addresses the ways in which one might question the value of such arduous work: "the prize itself of doubtful value." Once the race is won, a marathon runner might not feel ecstatic about its completion, despite the accomplishment. His or her physical exhaustion might outweigh all else. In the same regard, a nation that exhaustively pursues a political goal might not sense its value once it is reached.

Mbeki tries to dissuade his listeners from taking this cynical view, arguing that the effort is always worthwhile, for a nation's foremost goal should be to propel itself forward and to challenge itself to achieve greatness.

Unlock This Answer Now