The following four speeches explore the tensions found within the American ideals of individual liberty and universal equality. Each speech argues a position in regards to how these ideals should relate to the application of civil rights within a nation that struggles to come to terms with its radical declaration that all people are created equal and endowed with the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Studying the four speeches – three given in the 1960s in the midst of the civil rights movement and one contemporary speech – will allow students to explore how the speakers use rhetorical strategies to present their ideas on a topic that continues to be relevant today.
Lesson Goals and Overview:
Students will read Malcolm X’s “Racial Separation” and Lyndon B. Johnson’s “The Voting Rights Act” together, and George Wallace’s “Segregation Now, Segregation Forever” and Barack Obama’s “Keynote Address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention” together in order to compare and contrast the way the speaker’s use different rhetorical strategies. Students will use both the College Board’s SOAPS technique and a T-chart graphic organizer to help them identify and compare these different strategies. They will then choose three speeches and write a compare and contrast essay exploring how the speakers use rhetorical strategies.
George C. Wallace, “Segregation Now, Segregation Forever” (1963)
Malcolm X, “Racial Separatism” (1963)
President Lyndon Baines Johnson, “The Voting Rights Act,” (1965)
Barack Obama, “Keynote Speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention
Students will need to be familiar with the rhetorical appeals (logos, ethos and pathos) and be able to differentiate between arguments of fact, policy and value.At the end of the unit, students will be able to write an essay analyzing how speakers use different rhetorical strategies to support their claims.This lesson includes handouts for the SOAPS worksheet and T-chart, and a sheet defining different rhetorical strategies.
Before assigning homework, have students respond to the following journal question: Is it more important for the American government to ensure that individuals have the liberty to do what they want, or ensure that society gives everyone equal opportunities? Be sure that students have some historical context on the civil rights movement of the 1960s and who the speakers are before assigning them Malcolm X’s “Racial Separation” and Lyndon B. Johnson’s “The Voting Rights Act” for homework. Here are a few major resources on the Civil Rights Movement:
- Larry Dane Brimmer, Black and White: The Confrontation Between Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and Eugene Bull Connor (2001)
- J.L. Chestnut, Jr., Black in Selma: The Uncommon Life of J.L. Chestnut, Jr. (2007)
Matthew J. Countryman, Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia (2006)
- Russell Freedman, Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott (2008)
Patrick Jones, The Selma of the North: Civil Rights Insurgency in Milwaukee (2009)
- Jill Karson, ed., Civil Rights (2003)
- David Rubel and John Lewis, The Coming Free (2005)
Bruce Watson, Freedom Summer: The Savage Summer that Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy (2012)
Day 1: Students should come to class having read both speeches and filled out a graphic organizer for both using the College Board’s SOAPS technique:
Subject: Students summarize what the speech is about
Occasion: Students explain the context that inspired the speech
Audience: Students explain to whom the speech was delivered
Purpose: Students explain the reason the speech was given
Speaker: Students explain what they know about the speaker based on both internal evidence from the text and external evidence
Students work in groups to compare their homework responses for both speeches, then as a class guided by the teacher work to get a consensus on the two texts so the class has a shared understanding and the teacher can respond to any misunderstandings or fill in any necessary information. The teacher will call on students to offer their responses to the homework, and will then write appropriate responses on the board as a classroom example. Review the concepts of ethos, pathos and logos, as well as arguments of fact, policy and value
Day 2: Students return to their groups to compare their homework responses, then work as a full class to create a consensus for the chart for each speech, as done the day before. In groups, students work to compare and contrast Wallace’s arguments in favor of individual freedoms pursued separately as a “united of the many” with Obama’s arguments in favor of equality of opportunity pursued “as one American family…Out of many, one.” Place these arguments next to each other in a T-chart.As students list the arguments, they will indicate whether they appeal to ethos, pathos or logos, and whether they are arguments of fact, policy or value
In groups, students work to compare and contrast Johnson’s arguments for
the government to enact civil rights legislation to ensure equality of
opportunity with Malcolm X’s arguments to reject civil rights
legislation and pursue freedom separate from the government’s
interventions. Students place these arguments next to each other in a T-chart. As
students list the arguments, they will indicate whether they appeal to
ethos, pathos or logos, and whether they are arguments of fact, policy
or value. The two
contrasting arguments side by side will allow students to easily compare
and contrast the speeches when they write their essays.
Assign George Wallace’s “Segregation Now, Segregation Forever” and
Barack Obama’s “Keynote Address at the 2004 Democratic National
Convention” for homework and have students complete the SOAPS chart for
Day 3: Return to the journal prompt that started the lesson. Have students write a journal responding to this question again, this time with the arguments from the speeches in mind. After the students finish writing, the teacher conducts a classroom discussion exploring which arguments students found most convincing in relation to the question, and why. As a class discussion, compare and contrast various rhetorical strategies used within the speeches to prepare for an essay they will write. See below for possible guiding questions. Students then choose any three of the speeches and in a well-written essay compare and contrast how the speakers use rhetorical strategies to support their arguments. This can be done as homework outside of class or as an in-class essay on a fourth day.
Questions to Guide Discussion of the Speeches:
- How does each speech allude to other speeches or texts?What is the goal of this rhetorical strategy?
- How is religion invoked in each of these speeches as a rhetorical appeal?Is this appeal still convincing beyond the speech’s specific audience?
- How is the emotional appeal to hope used in each speech?Does the historical context of the speech affect this appeal?
- Does the speaker appeal primarily to logos, ethos or pathos?Do you think the speaker would make a different choice if this were a written document rather than a speech?
- How does the speaker’s public role affect the speech’s appeal to ethos?Would this appeal work differently for different audiences?
Nathan Hale High School, Seattle, Washington