Study of Public Advocacy

R396 — Spring 2019

Robert E. Terrill
Days and Times
4:00 - 5:15p TR
Course Description

Topic: “Crises in Public Leadership”


In this course we will focus our attention on key moments in the history of the United States that have seemed to call out for a public response. These are moments in which individuals in positions of public leadership have been expected to say something that addresses the crisis. Their words might have put the situation into historical perspective, calmed jittery nerves, encouraged steely resolve, motivated action, or have resulted in any number of other effects, both intended and otherwise. We will concentrate on select case studies from among these examples of public address and examine their context, tactics, and outcomes.

Students will come away from this course with a rich vocabulary, drawn from the 2000 year old tradition of rhetorical studies, through which to describe and evaluate speeches delivered by public leaders in moments of crisis. Students also will develop, and put into practice, a deep and expansive repertoire of rhetorical strategies that they can use themselves. In this way, this course will help to prepare students for their future careers as well as for their lives as engaged and effective citizens.

Speakers we study may include: Abraham Lincoln, Booker T. Washington, Angelina Grimké, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ronald Reagan, Steve Jobs, Emma Watson, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton.

Students will be evaluated primarily through a series of analytical papers, designed so that in completing them students fulfill the requirements of an Intensive Writing course. In some of these papers students will analyze the rhetorical strategies of public leaders; in others, they will produce examples of advocacy that make use of the strategies illustrated by the course readings.