Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rhetoric and the State

If you missed tonight's State of the Union address by President Barack Obama, check out the full text from NPR here and visit the White House government site to find video of the speech and responses.

This is a great opportunity to talk about political rhetoric with your family. First, refresh your memory with this overview of classical rhetoric from the CiRCE Institute. Be on the lookout for these key elements, and analyze how effectively they were used:
  • Invention – discovery of matter
  • Arrangement – ordering of the matter discovered
  • Elocution – appropriate expression of the matter
  • Memory – retention of the matter in the speaker's mind
  • Delivery – the oral presentation of the matter

Also, check this list of classical rhetorical figures from the University of Kentucky. See how many you can identify in the President's speech! Was that an example of anadiplosis or antistrophe?

Finally, to practice thinking about the importance of words, visit SpeechWars.com and look at the number of times and instances in which Presidents over the years have used loaded words like "government," "debt," "investment," "constitution," "defense," and "honesty."

However you approach it, take advantage of this chance to share as a family some honest and open conversation about, first, what it means to participate in representative government; and second, what it means to use your words with wisdom and purpose.

Good night!

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