Rhetoric & Homiletics: Don’t Leave This Tool Out Of Your Tool Chest


I wished I had seen and understood — at least more consciously — the power of analogy.

You may be good at wielding this rhetorical tool — consciously or unconsciously.  Fortunately, you do not need to consciously understand how it works in order to use it.

I have come to the table late in consciously grasping its strength.  Now, for years,  I heard the phrase — “Going from the known to the unknown.”  But it was only as I listened to men like Tony Evans, and began understanding what he was doing, that I consciously grasped the usefulness and process of analogy.


Screen Shot 2020-04-29 at 9.22.17 AM

Interesting — From Tony Evans  — Today


The use of “Analogy” can give clarity, further understanding, drive the argument being made, visualize a truth, and/or set up/frame the main biblical principle of the passage.

Maybe Gov. Cuomo’s use of it will highlight the importance of placing this valuable tool on the top of one’s rhetorical workbench and cause some to pick it up more often — consciously!

The Power Of Analogy & Analogical Illustrations!

— — — — — — — — —

Governor Andrew Cuomo has literally jumped onto the political scene overnight — Across America!

He is so effective, that there is a discussion about him needing to be the 2020 candidate for the presidency — replacing “Sleepy Joe.”


Not merely because he exudes more energy than Joe Biden.  That he does!

But his political popularity has skyrocketed* because he is an effective communicator.

Do not dismiss what a speaker-preacher can learn from Governor Andrew Cuomo — based on whether you like or do not like his political persuasion.  He is a good-to-great communicator!   As I previously stated, he stands in his father’s shoes in effectively communicating his liberal persuasion!  Don’t dismiss listening and learning.

At least part of his communication skills is his  . . . .

√  effective use of analogy
√  ability to call up argumentative “topoi” **  — (which I will examine in another post).


I have only taken excerpts from his daily press briefing during the COVID-Crisis, from March 30 to April 27.  This approximately 30 day period days was sufficient to . . . .

  • see the variety of analogies called-up
  • grasp how effectively they make his arguments
  • appreciate how the imagery drives his points
  • catch how analogies simplify & clarify an argument



Here are some of the analogous excerpts from his daily briefings . . . . .

March 30

Analogy To A War:

Thus far, they have not been successful. If that continues, we will take a mandatory action to close down playgrounds, as harsh as that sounds, but it can actually save peoples’ lives. That is mission one.

Mission two, and this will be more and more clear as we go on. The frontline battle is in the health care system. The frontline battle is going to be hospitals across the city, across the state, and across this nation. That is where this battle is fought. It is that simple. You know exactly where it’s coming. You know exactly where the enemy is going to attack. They’re going to infect a large number of people. That number of people descend on the health care system. The health care system can’t deal with that number of people. You overwhelm the health care system. That’s what’s happening. . . .

You know the expression, save our troops. Troops, quote, unquote – in this battle the troops are health care professionals. Those are the troops who are fighting this battle for us. We need to recruit more health care workers.


Analogy To A Storm:

I have done disaster work all across the nation. I can tell you this, if you wait to prepare for the storm to hit, it is too late, my friends. You have to prepare before the storm hits. And in this case, the storm is when you hit that high point, when you hit that apex. How do you know when you’re going to get there? You don’t.


April 4

Analogy To Helping A Neighbor Fight A House Fire:

And if you look at the projections, Oregon could have a significant problem towards May. Our problem is now. So it’s also smart from Oregon’s self-interest. They see the fire spreading. Stop the fire where it is before it gets to my home.

Somebody sent me a great quote from FDR, who had such a beautiful way of taking complicated issues and communicating it in common-sense language.

FDR was dealing with trying to get the lend-lease program approved and accepted by the public. Why would this country help another country fight its war? That was the lend-lease program.

His point was it’s a common enemy. We want to contain the enemy. That other country’s fight is actually our fight.

If we don’t stop the spread then it’s going to burn down our own country. But this is how he does it, right?

The concept is right, but how does he explain that?

Suppose my neighbor’s home catches fire and I have a length of fire hose 400, 500 feet away. If he can take my garden hose and connect it with his hydrant, I may help him put out his fire.

Now what do I do?

I don’t say before that operation, neighbor, my garden hose cost me $15, you have to pay me $15 for it.

What is the transaction that goes on?

I don’t want the $15.

I want my garden hose back after the fire is over.

All right, if it goes through the fire all right, intact without any damage to it, he gives it back to me, and thanks me very much for the use of it.

But suppose it gets smashed up? Holes in it during the fire.

We don’t have to do too much formality about it.

But I say to him, I was glad to lend you that hose. I see I can’t use it anymore. It’s all smashed up. He says how many feet of it were there?

I tell him 150 feet of it. He says, alright, I will replace.

Now, if I get a nice garden hose back I am in pretty good shape.


April 7

Analogy To  Strategy In Chess :

It’s not a surprise to me. We know that no one had the number of ventilators that were going to be required here. These ventilators sort of came out of the blue of just for this pandemic and this particular respiratory disease. We have been scrambling with ventilators. We move them all over the state like pieces on a chess board literally whatever hospital has the greatest inflow that night we move ventilators around the state.


April 10

Analogy To A Light Switch:

First of all, the key to reopening is going to be testing. I’ve said that from day one. It’s not going to be a light switch where you flip this economy like you flip a light switch. It’s not going to be everybody goes back next Thursday. It’s not going to happen that way. It’s going to be a gradual phased process

Analogy To Warning Sounds & Signs:

Also, let’s make sure we are learning from what we just went through and are going through. Because there are lessons I think we should all be aware of over the past few months. And before you take a step forward, let’s make sure we know what we are stepping into. A question I had from day one, when you look back at this, where were the horns that should have been triggered back in December and January. Where were the warning signs? Who was supposed to blow the whistle?

Analogy To Ships & Waters:

There was a first wave, there was a second wave. The second wave was worse than the first wave because the virus mutated. Third peak  . . . .

But, we know the questions and we should have the questions answered before we take a step forward. Yes, no one has been here before. These are totally uncharted waters. . . .

let’s make sure we study the waters ahead and proceed with caution before we set off on the next journey.

Analogy To A Bank Robbery:

In the meantime, here you’re going to have many people who are struggling, businesses who are struggling. We have government programs, but trying to access a government program is like trying to break into a bank sometimes. It’s not that easy.


April 13

Analogy To  A Fire & Embers:

We were worried about the spread from New York City to suburbs upstate and we have been very aggressive when we get a little cluster spot that’s acting up. We jump on it. This is like watching a fire going through dry grass with a strong wind and it’s blowing the fire and a couple of embers wind up on one side of the field. The embers start to catch fire and that’s a cluster and you have to run over to those embers and stamp them out right away before they grow. You see the stabilization there. That has been good too.

Why New Rochelle, because in New Rochelle one person or two people who were infected were in dense gatherings with hundreds of people and it spread like wildfire.

Analogy To A Light Switch:

When is it over? It’s not going to be over like that. It’s not going to be we flick a switch and everybody comes out of their house and gets in their car and waves and hugs each other and the economy all starts up. I would love to say that’s going to happen. It’s not going to happen that way. It can’t happen that way.


April 16

Analogy To A Dry Grass Fire:

One person infects one. When you have a really situation out of control is one person infects two people or more because then the increase is just exponential, and that’s fire through dry grass. This is what they were all trying to project. And this is what we have to control as we start to reopen the economy.


April 19

Analogy To Dry Grass:

Nursing homes are still our number one concern. The nursing home is the optimum feeding ground for this virus. Vulnerable people in a congregant facility, in a congregant setting where it can just spread like fire through dry grass.

Analogy To 9/11 & Sandy Hook:

It is not just reopen. It is not just build it back. It is advance. Use this as a moment in time where they look back, when they write the history books and they say oh boy, they went through a terrible time but they actually learned from it and they improved from it. They moved forward. We had 9/11. Yes, we built back.

We built back different, we built back smarter. We had Hurricane Sandy, devastated Long Island. I was governor. I didn’t say we want to replace, I said we’re going to learn how to do a new grid system. We’re going to learn how to do better infrastructure. And we did. Long Island, today, is better for having gone through Hurricane Sandy as terrible as that was.

We have to do the same thing here. How do we come back even better?


April 21

Analogy To Watching A Fire:

We’ve been watching the spread all across the state because this is like stamping out a brush fire. You need to run to where the fire is and put it out there. So we were watching for a spread of the fire from downstate New York towards upstate. Whenever we see a small fire starting, we jump on it right away.


April 22

Analogy To A Fox Hole:

Because who really cares how I feel or how he feels? Who cares? Get the job done. I don’t care if you like him or he likes you. We’re not setting up a possible marriage here. Just do the job.

When you’re at war, you’re in a fox hole. Nobody says, well, do you like the person you’re in the fox hole with? Who cares? You protect the other person in the fox hole, then you get out of the fox hole and you take the hill, charge up the hill. And that’s how we should be operating now. I don’t care what your politics are, I don’t care what you think about my politics. We both have a job, let’s do the job. And that was the spirit of the meeting yesterday. And it was very productive on what were very contentious, unclear issues. So it was very good.

Analogy To Red Lining A Car Engine:

So that’s, if you put your foot to the floor, you brought the engine up to maximum RPM, up to the red line, you brought it up to 6,000, assuming the red line was 6,000, and you held it there, 7 days, 24 hours a day, at red line, how many tests could you do? 40,000. Now, there’s a lot of buts and ifs in there. But the machine has to stay together for 7 days, 24 hours a day. You have to have enough people feeding the machine. But that is our maximum potential. So where did we set the goal? At our maximum potential. Why? Because we need to. “Well, it’s unrealistic.” Might be a little unrealistic. But I’d rather set the bar high and try to get there, and whatever we get is what we get.

Analogy To Rolling In Ocean Waves:

So, I’ve said to them look, if you look at any of the facts, the 1918 flu, they’re talking about it now. There can be waves to this, right? You walk out into the ocean, you get hit with that first wave, oh great, I’m done. The wave hit me, I’m still standing. Beware, because there can be a second wave, or there could be a third wave. So, don’t be cocky just because you got hit by a wave and it didn’t knock you off your feet. There can be a second wave and if you’re not ready for the second wave, that’s the wave that’s going to knock you down, because you’re not ready for it. So, that’s what I’m worried about.


April 24

Analogy To A Sport’s Game: 

People are also talking about a second wave, potential of a second wave. People are talking about potential for the virus to come back in the fall which means the game is not over which means the game could be just at halftime so let’s make sure we’re learning the lessons of what has happened thus far and let’s make sure we are being truthful with ourselves. Not that we are deceiving anyone else but let’s be truthful with ourselves. I don’t think we’re deceiving anyone else but let’s make sure we’re not deceiving ourselves. What has happened, what should we learn from as far as what has happened thus far so we make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again and let’s do that now.

Analogy To Meeting Someone Nice In Easy Times:

Last point I want to make and this is personal, not factual, my grandmother on my father’s side, Mary, was a beautiful woman but tough. She was a tough lady. She was New York tough, gone through the depression, early immigrant, worked hard all her life. And she was a little roughhewn. She was roughhewn. I would say to her, “you know grandma, met this girl, met this guy, they’re really nice.” She would say “nice, how do you know they’re nice? It’s easy to be nice when everything is nice.” I said grandma “what does that mean?” She said “you know when you know they’re nice? When things get hard. That’s when you know if they’re nice. And I never really got it.

But her point was it’s easy to be nice and kind and affable when everything is easy. You really get to see people and get to see character when things get hard, and when the pressure is on is when you really get to see true colors of a person and see what they’re made of. It’s almost as if the pressure just forces their character and the weaknesses explode or the strengths explode and that’s what we’ve gone through. This is been hard. It’s put everyone under pressure and you’ve really seen what people are made of. And you’ve really had a snapshot of what individuals are made of, and what we are made of as a collective. And personally, I’ll tell you the truth. Some people break your heart. They just break your heart. People who I thought would rise to the occasion. People who I thought were strong, under pressure they just crumbled. They just crumbled.


April 26

Analogy To Manual Transmission:

There are gears that intermesh. You can’t turn one gear without turning the other gears. That’s how you strip gears. Keep trying to explain to my daughters.


Analogy To Dials & Valves:

How do you monitor it? You have three basic dials.

Number of hospitalizations. . . .
The number of positive antibody tests . . . . .
The third dial is the diagnostic tests . . . .

Those are the three dials that you are watching. Take these activities, watch those three dials.

You have your hand on the valve, the activity valve. So you open the valve a little bit, phase one, watch those dials like a hawk, and then you adjust. That’s called the RT factor, rate of transmission factor. What is the rate of transmission of the virus? We’re now at about .8. You cannot go above 1.2.  1.2, you see that number go right back up again.

Analogy To A Past Project – The NY Tunnel:

With that, I want to end on just sharing a story that me a lot.

There’s a tunnel in New York called the L-train tunnel. People in New York City know it very well. It’s a tunnel that connects Manhattan and Brooklyn, and 400,000 people use this train and this tunnel. 400,000 people is a larger group than many cities in this country have, okay. So they had to close down the tunnel because the tunnel was old and the tunnel had problems and everybody looked at it and they said, we have to close down the tunnel. 400,000 people couldn’t get to work without that train, and they had all these complicated plans on how they were going to mitigate the transportation problem and different buses and different cars and different bikes and different horses, the whole alternative transportation. And this went on for years.

Everyone said, you had to close the tunnel and it was going to be closed for 15 to 18 months. Now when government says it’s going to be closed for 15 to 18 months, I hear 24 months to the rest of your life. That’s my governmental cynicism. But that was the plan. We’re going to close it down, rebuild the tunnel, 15 months to 18 months, the MTA. This was going to be a massive disruption. I heard a lot of complaints. I get a few smart people, Cornell engineers, Columbia engineers, we go down into the tunnel. And we look at it. And the engineers say, you know what? There’s a different way to do this. And they talk about techniques that they use in Europe. And they say not only could we bring these techniques here, and we wouldn’t have to shut down the tunnel at all. Period. We could just stop usage at nights and on weekends and we can make all of the repairs. And we can do it with a partial closure for 15 months.

The opposition to this new idea was an explosion. I was a meddler, I didn’t have an engineering degree, they were outside experts, how dare you question the bureaucracy, the bureaucracy knows better. It was a thunderstorm of opposition. but we did it anyway, and we went ahead with it. And we rebuilt the tunnel, and the tunnel is now done better than before, with all these new techniques. It opens today. It opens today. And the proof is in the pudding, right? We went through this period of, I don’t believe it, this is interference.

It opened today. And it opens today not in 15 months, but actually in only 12 months of a partial shutdown. So it’s ahead of schedule, it’s under budget, and it was never shut down. I relay this story because you can question and you should question why we do what we do. Why do we do it that way? I know that’s how we’ve always done it, but why do we do it that way? And why can’t we do it a different way? Why not try this? Why not try that? People don’t like change, you know. We think we like change but we don’t really like change. We like control more than anything, right?

So it’s hard, it’s hard to make change. It’s hard to make change in your own life, let alone on a societal collective level. But if you don’t change, you don’t grow. And if you don’t run the risk of change, you don’t have the benefit of advancement. Not everything out there has to be the way it is. So we just went through this wild period where people are walking around with masks. Not because I said to, but because they understand they need to. How do we make it better? How do we make it better? And let’s use this period to do just that. And we will. And we’ll reimagine and we’ll make it a reality because we are New York tough and smart and disciplined and unified and loving and because we know that we can. We know that we can. We showed that we can.


April 27

Analogy To Cinema:

We’ve now tested 7,500 people statewide so that’s a very significant number and it gives us a snapshot of where we are. Just a snapshot, but snapshot, snapshot, snapshot. You look at the different pictures and you have a movie at one point and you can track what is happening.

Analogy to Valves & Dials:

And then we need a regional control room, I call it. We have to be monitoring what happens when we start to reopen, and that entire region has to have a control room function where we are watching what’s happening.

For those friends who are more graphic, we are going to turn the valve on reopening, turn it a little bit, start to reopen, and then you watch the dials. What are the dials?

Hospitalization rate, which we know now, we have been watching that.

What does the antibody testing tell you? Antibody testing is important because it tells you the people who were infected, the infection rate, and now resolved because they have antibodies.

What is the diagnostic testing, which is different type of testing, tell you? Positive and negative. But what’s happening on the diagnostic testing?

Those dials will give you the fourth dial, which is the infection rate, what’s called the RT rate, the rate of transmission. so turn that valve a little bit for a region, watch those four gauges very carefully every day, see what’s happening on those gauges. You can either close the valve, open the valve a little bit more or leave the valve where it is.

Analogy To Other Disasters (Chicago Fire / San Francisco Earthquake / Shirtwaist / Mississippi Flood / Great Depression / 9/11 / Sandy ) :

So, reimagine New York means don’t replace what was, build it back better and we have done that in the past.

  • Chicago fire, 1871, killed 300 people, but we learned stricter fire safety laws.
  • San Francisco earthquake, 1906, the same thing was devastating, but that led to better construction and earthquake standards.
  • Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire here in New York, 1911, started a whole workers’ rights movement and safety in the workplace.
  • Mississippi flood 1927, that’s when the Flood Control Act started and we woke up and started building levees and dams, etcetera.
  • Great Depression, FDR pivoted from that crisis to an entire new economic structure.
  • We went through 9/11 and we are better and safer as a society for it. Department of Homeland Security was formed on the federal side, which has been the single largest innovation in the federal government.
  • Even Superstorm Sandy that we went through, 2012, I was part of that. It was devastating, but New York is better for it. We have a power grid that’s now better. We raised all of our electric stations. We changed our infrastructure along the waterfront. We built houses back to different code.

So, it’s that process that we have to go through here. What did we learn? How do we change? How do we improve?



* And what goes up may well come down when it comes to this crisis.

** Topoi are agreed upon arguments, in a truncated format, which the audience agrees with, consciously or unconsciously.  I can call them up with a simple statement, and pull the audience along with me.  For instance, if I were to say, “He said that to his mother, his own mother.”  There is an understood societal and/or cultural agreement that we are to respect and regard our mothers — even drop the gloves if some makes a comment about our mother.  Therefore, when I say, “He said that to his mother — his own mother.”  I am calling that “agreed upon/jointly held” belief in a truncated format.



Two Other Cuomo Analogies:

Analogy To Groundhog Day

it’s only been days on the other hand I know it feels like a lifetime it’s been so
disruptive . . . so we’ll  . . so frightening so this or anything but it’s only been 
 days right everything in context and everything in perspective I know it’s tough to get up every day and this is like Groundhog Day living through this bizarre reality that worry it’s even more difficult I think with the weather changing and you feel the seasons changing and it’s getting nicer and you start to open a new book of possibilities and you know now the weather is getting nice and I should be getting outdoors and I should be doing this and I should be doing this I get it but it’s only been 

. . . . this terrible situation that we’re in also you come up with testing and rapid testing not only do you get up and get the economy run you end the anxiety the anxiety is what is most oppressive here not knowing not knowing if I’m positive if my friend is positive if my loved one is positive not knowing when this is going to end the anxiety of dealing with this isolation day after day after day it’s like a bad groundhog movie you know day after day after day when does it end how does it end I don’t know

Analogy To A Movie

so you’re just seeing the evolution of this whole story you’re seeing their
narrative unfold right we’re all watching a movie — we’re waiting to see
what the next scene is and as the movie unfolds you start to understand the
story better and better rush of infection rate rush of people into the hospital system hospital system capacity explodes more people are in but more people are coming out.




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