Prompt for Academic Writing Project, Option 1: Political Speeches


For this project select two presidential campaign speeches to analyze. Select one Republican and one Democrat from the following lists.


  • Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (2023 POTUS announcement speech)
  • Former presidential nominee and Senator John McCain (2008 RNC speech)
  • Former vice-presidential nominee and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (2008 RNC speech)
  • Former presidential nominee and current Utah Senator Mitt Romney (2012 POTUS announcement speech or RNC speech)
  • Former presidential nominee and current Florida Senator Marco Rubio (2016 POTUS announcement speech)
  • Former vice-presidential nominee, former Speaker of the House, and Catholic Paul Ryan (2012 RNC speech)
  • Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (2023 POTUS announcement speech or 2012 RNC speech)
  • Former First Lady Melania Trump (2016 or 2020 RNC speech)
  • Former presidential daughter Ivanka Trump (2016 or 2020 RNC speech)
  • TV news personality, former San Francisco, CA prosecuting attorney, California Governor Gavin Newsom’s ex-wife, and Donald (“Donnie”) Trump, Jr.’s current girlfriend Kimberly Guifoyle (2020 RNC speech)
  • Former Vice President Mike Pence (2023 POTUS announcement speech or 2016 or 2020 RNC speech)
  • Former President Donald Trump (2016 or 2020 POTUS announcement speech or RNC speech)


  • Spiritual guru and author Marianne Williamson (2020 or 2023 POTUS announcement speech)
  • “Nuns on the Bus” Catholic Sister Simone Campbell (2012 DNC speech)
  • California Representative Sandra Fluke (2012 DNC speech)
  • Secretary of Transportation and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (2020 POTUS announcement speech)
  • Former President Barack Obama (2004 DNC Keynote Speech, 2008 POTUS announcement speech, or 2008 or 2012 DNC speech)
  • Former First Lady Michelle Obama (2008 or 2012 DNC speech)
  • Former President Bill Clinton (1992 POTUS announcement speech, or 1992 or 1996 DNC speech)
  • Entrepreneur, attorney, and lobbyist Andrew Yang (2020 POTUS announcement speech or DNC speech)
  • Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (2016 POTUS announcement speech or 2016 DNC speech)
  • Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (2016 POTUS announcement speech or 2016 DNC speech)
  • Former presidential nominee, former Secretary of State, and current Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry
  • Current President Joe Biden (2008 or 2020 POTUS announcement speech or 2020 DNC speech)
  • Vice President and former California Senator Kamala Harris (2020 POTUS announcement speech or 2020 DNC speech)
  • Former presidential nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2008 or 2016 POTUS announcement speech or 2016 DNC speech)

Begin with a mission statement, using metadiscourse to explain your project’s goals from start to finish.

Provide some context on each politician and their speech. Construct a brief account of their argument for academic readers who are unfamiliar with these texts. Use the rhetorical précis form as a guide.

Select several paragraphs by each politician, and analyze the claims they made, the rhetorical appeals and rhetorical strategies they used, and which specific voters they targeted.

Evaluate the politicians’ use of rhetorical appeals and strategies. Critique how effectively you think they engaged voters.

Using what you learned from these two politicians/writers, propose an explanation of how you think future politicians running for president and vice president of the United States should use rhetoric more effectively to engage voters.

Write an essay that is 3-7 pages, double-spaced, in which you achieve the goals of this project.

How to Structure This Project

  1. Introduction: Using metadiscourse, explain your project’s goals from start to finish in a mission statement.
  2. Provide context for the politicians and their speeches. Introduce the politicians, their speeches, and their arguments, using the rhetorical précis as a guide.
  3. Analyze how each politician made claims, used rhetorical appeals and strategies, and targeted voters.
  4. Evaluate how each politician used rhetoric. Critique how effectively they engaged voters.
  5. Conclusion: Propose an explanation. Explain how you think future politicians running for president and vice president of the United States should use rhetoric more effectively to engage voters.
  6. Works Cited: Cite publishing information for any sources you cited within your project.

Criteria for Evaluation

Successful writers will

  1. Answer all parts of the prompt.
  2. Write a cohesive and well edited essay.
  3. Upload their rough draft and final draft to Turnitin before the deadline.

Tips for Writing the Academic Essay

Search for transcripts and recordings of speeches online. Some good sources include NPR, YouTube, and C-SPAN. You may select a speech announcing the candidacy, a speech accepting the party’s nomination at the Republican or Democratic National Convention, or any other full speech given on the campaign trail.

In your mission statement make sure that you clearly explain your project’s three goals:

  1. to rhetorically analyze
  2. to critique
  3. to make your own argument

In your early body paragraphs make sure that you clearly explain candidates’ main claims (for example, they should be elected president because they have ___ and they will ___). Use the rhetorical précis as a guide. It works well because it introduces the candidates with context about their speeches and breaks down the rhetorical components of their speeches.

Incorporate metadiscourse (using language about language) throughout your essay for smooth transitions and clear connections between ideas. (See the handout with sample student essays for help.)

Pinpoint which specific voters the candidates are targeting. Don’t just say that they are targeting “their base,” “the general public,” or “all Americans.” When critiquing candidates, also consider the specific target voters. Target voters can include the following: Democrats, liberals, progressives, working class families, Republicans, conservatives, moderates, independents, libertarians, small business owners, swing voters, etc.

Since your essay should have three goals, those parts of your essay should be separated for clarity. Separate your rhetorical analysis body paragraphs from your critique body paragraphs. Critique candidates separately in different paragraphs. Separate your critique paragraphs from your own argument in the conclusion.

Include your own argument in the conclusion about how future politicians running for POTUS and VPOTUS should use rhetoric more effectively to engage voters.

Include a works cited page with full publishing information.

Avoid long quotes (more than three lines) in short essays such as this one. Make sure you integrate your quotes into your analysis instead of merely inserting them to take up space. Quotes and paraphrased parts of text should complement your own writing, not overshadow it.

Know the difference between rhetorical appeals and rhetorical strategies. Rhetorical appeals are ethos (credibility/character), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic). Rhetorical strategies include tone, organization, diction, etc. (You can use the term “rhetorical devices” to include both rhetorical appeals and rhetorical strategies.)

Rhetoric is a noun. If you are discussing rhetorical appeals and rhetorical strategies, don’t call them “rhetoric appeals” and “rhetoric strategies.” When you are placing a word before the nouns “appeals” and “strategies,” that word needs to be an adjective, so use “rhetorical” (adjective), not “rhetoric” (noun).

Don’t say that a candidate “appeals to” ethos, pathos, or logos. You can’t appeal to an appeal. You can appeal to a reader, your audience. Ethos, pathos, and logos are rhetorical appeals. They are not synonyms for credibility, emotion, and logic. Instead, you could say that a candidate “incorporates,” “uses,” or “employs” ethos, pathos, or logos.

Avoid excessive comparing and contrasting in this short essay. The prompt does not ask you to compare and contrast. You can incorporate a little comparing and contrasting in your transitions between the candidates, but don’t let it take over your essay. Furthermore, the prompt also does not ask you to choose one candidate over the other or to pit the candidates against each other. It also does not ask for your mere opinion (as in “I like this candidate’s policies” or “I disagree with these candidates’ policies, for example). Instead, it asks for your well-researched argument.

Rhetorical Précis Form

To describe the argument and context an author presents in a text in quick and effective manner, use a format called the rhetorical précis. This form is a highly structured, four-sentence paragraph that records the essential rhetorical elements in any spoken, written, or visual discourse. The précis includes the name of the creator (speaker/writer/filmmaker), the context or situation in which the text (written, spoken, or visual) is delivered, the major assertion (argument, main claim, thesis), the mode of development or support of the main idea, the stated and/or apparent purpose of the text, and the relationship between the creator and the audience.

The following is a breakdown of the information you should include in each one of the four sentences:

Sentence 1: What?

Name of creator, a phrase describing the creator, the type and title of the text, the date of the text (inserted in parentheses), a rhetorically accurate verb (examples: to assert, to argue, to posit, to suggest, to imply, to claim, etc.) that describes what the creator is doing in the text, and a “that” clause in which you state the major assertion of the text.

Sentence 2: How?

An explanation of how the creator develops and/or supports the thesis (examples: comparing and contrasting, narrating, illustrating, defining, using humor or sarcasm, relating personal experience, etc.) and rhetorical appeals (ethos, pathos, logos) and rhetorical strategies (tone, organization, diction, dynamics, repetition, etc.) the creator employs. Your explanation is usually presented in the same chronological order that the items of support are presented in the text.

Sentence 3: Why?

A statement of the creator’s apparent purpose, followed by an “in order to” phrase in which you explain what the creator wants the audience to do or feel after reading the text.

Sentence 4: Who?

A description of the tone and intended audience and/or the relationship the creator establishes with the audience.

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