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PRESIDENTIAL LECTURE SERIES | Five Great Presidential Speeches

February 6 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

“Ich bin ein Berliner.”

“Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

What makes a presidential speech great?

Three renowned experts, with decades of scholarship on presidential rhetoric and countless award-winning articles and books published between them, will answer that question in this the first of Presidential Lecture Series at the Dole Institute of Politics. This program will feature a conversation about five great presidential speeches with leading experts on presidential rhetoric: Dr. Mary Stuckey from Penn State, Dr. David Zarefsky from Northwestern, and Dr. Robert C. Rowland from KU. The discussion will focus on what makes a presidential speech “great,” why they chose the works they did, and what great presidential rhetoric tells us about American democracy. This series is co-sponsored by the University of Kansas Department of Communication Studies, the Department of History, and the Department of Political Science.

This program is free and open to the public. No ticket is required.

Mary E. Stuckey specializes in political and presidential rhetoric, political communication, and American Indian politics. She is the author, editor, or co-editor of fourteen books and author or coauthor of roughly 80 essays and book chapters. She has received the Michael M. Osborn Teacher/Scholar Award, the Rose B. Johnson Award (with Zoe Hess-Carney), the Roderick P. Hart Outstanding Book Award, the Marie Hochmuth Nichols Award, the inaugural Carl Couch Center, Bruce E. Gronbeck Political Communication Award, and NCA’s Distinguished Scholar Award. She has served as editor of the Southern Communication Journal and the Quarterly Journal of Speech and as book review editor for Rhetoric and Public Affairs. She is Interim Editor of the Rhetoric & Public Affairs. She co-edits Peter Lang’s series with Mitchell McKinney, The Frontiers of Political Communication. Her current book project is on the history of controversial elections.


David H. Zarefsky is an American communication scholar with research specialties in rhetorical history and criticism. He is professor emeritus at Northwestern University. He is a past president of the National Communication Association (U.S.A) and the Rhetoric Society of America. Among his publications are six books and over 70 scholarly articles concerned with American public discourse (both historical and contemporary), argumentation, rhetorical criticism, public speaking, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and the rhetoric of the war on poverty during the Johnson administration. His lectures on argumentation and rhetoric can be heard in a course for The Teaching Company.

Robert Rowland’s major teaching and research interests are in rhetorical criticism, argumentation, and the public sphere. Dr. Rowland and his debate colleague were the 1976 National Debate Champions for KU. He is a former director of forensics at KU and at Baylor University. Dr. Rowland received the Louise Byrd Award for Graduate Teaching in May 2000. He also is a recipient of the William T. Kemper Teaching Fellowship and the Bernard Fink Award for outstanding teaching, and is a two-time HOPE Award finalist. He also has received an Outstanding Service Award from the Kansas Bar Association based on his work in Continuing Legal Education on legal advocacy. In November 2006, he was honored by the National Communication Association with the Donald H. Ecroyd Award for Outstanding Teaching in Higher Education. The same organization honored him in 2011 with the Douglas W. Ehninger Rhetorical Scholar Award. He is one of two people in the discipline to be honored with lifetime awards for scholarship and teaching. His co-authored book with David Frank, Shared Land/Conflicting Identity in 2002 was honored in 2003 with the Kohrs-Campbell prize in rhetorical criticism. A recent survey of journals ranked him among the fifty most published scholars in the discipline.

The Presidential Lecture Series

Each Spring, the Dole Institute presents a series of programs focusing on a particular aspect of U.S. political leadership, typically the U.S. Presidency. These events feature nationally-known individuals, including public servants, historians, top strategists, award-winning journalists, and political operatives. This year’s Presidential Lecture Series, created and developed by award-winning presidential rhetoric scholar Dr. Robert Rowland, focuses on presidential speeches and rhetoric, from the greatest speeches, to the process of speechwriting, to changes in presidential rhetoric in the age of social media. Join us for this compelling journey through the words that defined presidencies.

Accessibility: Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend University of Kansas sponsored events. If you require a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this event, please contact the Dole Institute of Politics at least four business days prior to the event date by calling (785) 864-4900 or emailing To learn more about accessible offerings at the institute, please click here.

Parking: The Dole Institute is located in KU’s West District, just west of the Lied Center of Kansas. Plentiful free parking is available in the adjoining lot. No permit is required.

Video: A free live stream of this event will be available through the institute’s YouTube channel. Following the conclusion of the program, the event will be archived to YouTube. If any technical issues occur, the video will be re-uploaded within two to three business days.

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