My Rhetoric essay


How to Approach the Assignment

Excellent speeches have changed the world. How or why do prepared remarks affect listeners so deeply? For this assignment, you’ll choose a speech to analyze, evaluating its rhetorical strategies to judge how successful or unsuccessful the author is in achieving his or her purpose. By breaking the text down into its parts, you can see what lines of reasoning connect facts and opinions, as well as understand what assumptions underlie the argument as a whole. Being able to ascertain whether or not a text “does its job” is important for students, workers, and citizens.

Rhetoric is the art of using language to persuade. Read pages 121-125 in your OER for a thorough explanation of why and how we study rhetoric. You’ll struggle to write a rhetorical analysis without first understanding the basics of rhetoric.

For your analysis, you will choose a speech from among the ones listed here. Three of these are from the American Rhetoric website, which catalogues some of the best speeches made by politicians and other historical figures. One is from the Dayton Literary Peace Prize event which took place right here at the Schuster Center. The TED Talk is delivered by a deaf man, and makes a very solid argument. You should try to watch/listen to them all (all of them include transcripts, so you can skim the content that way as well to see which appeal to you). When you pick one to write about, try to choose something you’re open minded about, the better to assess the speaker’s persuasive strategies.

Mary Fisher, A Whisper of AIDS.

A young mother with HIV addresses the 1992 Republican National Convention.

George W. Bush: Address to Joint Session of Congress Following 9/11 Attacks

The president addresses Congress and the nation nine days after the attacks.

Barack Obama: A More Perfect Union

Then-candidate Barack Obama addresses the role race played during the 2008 campaign.

Bryan Stevenson: Acceptance remarks at the 2015 Dayton Literary Peace Prize Ceremony

A noted activist and author of Just Mercy calls for criminal justice reform.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

Martin Luther King’s Acceptance Speech, on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, December 10, 1964

Keith Nolan: Deaf in the Military

In this 2011 TED Talk, a deaf man makes a strong argument for allowing deaf people to serve in the military.






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The essay should be:

  • 3-4 pages in length (which is 750 to 1,000 words)
  • 12-point font in Times New Roman or Arial
  • In MLA manuscript format (double-spaced, etc.

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