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2020 | Presidential Speeches and Rhetoric

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February 6, 2020 @ 12:00 am - February 25, 2020 @ 12:00 am

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.

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.

This series is co-sponsored by the University of Kansas Department of Communication Studies, the Department of History, and the Department of Political Science.


Five Great Presidential Speeches

“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 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.


The Craft of the Presidential Speechwriter

Dr. Craig Smith served as a full-time speechwriter for President Gerald Ford, as a consulting writer to George H. W. Bush and as a consultant to CBS News for convention, election, and inaugural coverage. He has also explored presidential speeches as a Professor at Cal State Long Beach. Dr. Smith will engage in a dialogue about speechwriting, presidential and otherwise, sharing his unique knowledge as an award-winning scholar and also a renowned practitioner, who can provide an inside perspective on the role played by the speechwriter, how that role varies with different presidents, and how speechwriting has evolved.

Dr. Craig R. Smith has won the Ehninger Award for contributions to rhetorical theory and the Gronbeck Award for political communication, both from the National Communication Association. He has won that organization’s Robert O’Neil Award three times for scholarly papers on the First Amendment. He has won the Outstanding Professor Award from the National Speakers Association. After completing a Ph.D., Dr. Smith taught at San Diego State University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Alabama Birmingham, where he founded the Communication Studies Department. He also served as a full-time speechwriter for President Gerald Ford, as a consulting writer to George H. W. Bush and as a consultant to CBS News for convention, election, and inaugural coverage. He served as founding president of the Freedom of Expression Foundation in Washington, D.C. from 1983 to 1988. He then became a full professor at California State University, Long Beach until he retired in 2015. He has published 18 books and over 65 scholarly articles.


Comparing and Contrasting Two Powerfully Eloquent Presidents—Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama

Reagan and Obama. Conventional wisdom would contend that these two presidents had little in common. The actor versus the scholar. The grandfather versus the father. The Republican versus the Democrat.

Presidential rhetoric scholar Dr. Robert C. (Robin) Rowland, of the department of Communication Studies at KU, has written extensively about the rhetoric of both President Ronald Reagan and President Barack Obama. Rowland, who presented the keynote on rhetoric at the Reagan Centennial celebration at USC and the Reagan Library and has won national awards for his research in both rhetoric and argumentation, argues that the rhetoric of Reagan and Obama is more similar than has been recognized. In a dialogue, Rowland will explore the similarities and differences between the rhetoric of Reagan and Obama.


Social Media & Contemporary Presidential Rhetoric

Few events have more radically reshaped the public sphere than the rise of mass media. From radio to television to social media, the past century fundamentally altered how presidents in the United States communicate with the electorate, and how those leaders were perceived by the people. Dr. Denise Bostdorff of Wooster College has studied presidential rhetoric for more than thirty years and produced some of the most influential books and articles on that topic in that period. In a dialogue, Dr. Bostdorff will discuss key moments in the development of presidential rhetoric over the last several decades, the role of presidential rhetoric in shaping American politics, and the drastic changes in presidential rhetoric associated with the rise of social media and the presidency of Donald Trump. This series is co-sponsored by the University of Kansas Department of Communication Studies, the Department of History, and the Department of Political Science.

Denise M. Bostdorff is professor and chair of Communication Studies at The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. She has published two books—The Presidency and the Rhetoric of Foreign Crisis and Proclaiming the Truman Doctrine: The Cold War Call to Arms, which won the Bruce E. Gronbeck Political Communication Research Award. In addition, she has published essays on presidential rhetoric about race, foreign policy, political campaigns, and war in outlets such as Quarterly Journal of Speech, Presidential Studies Quarterly, and Rhetoric & Public Affairs.


February 6, 2020 @ 12:00 am
February 25, 2020 @ 12:00 am
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