S09                                                HCOM 342: America Speaks


Instructor:  Dr. John Reinard                                 Office:  CP Suite 420, Room 1

Phone:  278-3617                                                     Office Hours:  TTh: 8:45 – 9:45 am, 1 – 2 pm

e-mail:  jreinard@fullerton.edu                                                      and by appointment

Class web page: http://commfaculty.fullerton.edu/jreinard



Rohler, Lloyd, & Cook, Roger. Great Speeches for Criticism and Analysis (4th ed.) Greenwood. IN: Alistair Press. (R&C)

      And other readings on the web site

COURSE OBJECTIVES: This course is designed to introduce students to the story of America as told through the speeches that moved her. By far, the greatest emphasis is placed on the oratory of the 20th and 21st centuries.  A major theme of this course is that public communication both shapes and reflects the social, political, and intellectual health of the Nation. This approach to America takes a different focus (not superior focus--for all forms of knowledge have their own integrity) than typically is found in classes in history, political science, and even communication. This course attempts to help students understand what it would have been like to be a member of the audience during significant time periods in the development of the American republic. No other discipline takes an audience-centered approach to the examination of significant events. The impetus for this course is clearly interdisciplinary and celebrates the contributions that can be made by drawing on different sources to study and explain American oratory. Emphasis is placed on the ways persuasive communication and language influence society and, in turn, are affected by it. The specific objectives of the course are:

1.   To overview major trends in the development of American oratory and speech making;

2.   To identify the ways in which speeches have and have not significantly affected the of course the Nation;

3.   To identify ways in which speeches from members of all sexes, races, ethnicities, and creeds have played a significant role in America’s development;

4.   To develop students’ awareness of what it was like to be an audience member at the scene of significant speeches that affected the Nation, including what issues would have been on the minds of audience members, what values guided their thoughts, and how they would have responded to messages personally and in groups;

5.   To develop students’ abilities to think critically about public messages and evaluate them according to standards of excellence;

6.   To help students understand the elements that contribute to the effective practice of public communication.

By addressing these issues, students will learn to appreciate the contributions of speech making in the practical world and will acquire a sense of the ways in which the studies of communication. history, political science, and philosophy may converge to help explain the nature of the continuing public dialogue of issues in America.

COURSE FORMAT: The course is a survey of American oratory and the interrelationships it has had with the political, social, and historical development of the Nation. The emphasis is on placing students in the role of audience members who actually might have lived through experience of exposure to these significant messages. Therefore, attempts are made to cover speeches according to time periods in which common audiences can be found. For each focus, students will be expected to read assigned material in advance of attendance in class so that discussion will be facilitated. Each class session will feature the following presentation mode. First, presentation of background material helpful to understand the import of the speeches will be considered.  Second, when possible, demonstration or video taped materials related to the content will be presented. Third, evaluations and critical assessments will be led through the process of class discussion and activities.

GRADED COURSE REQUIREMENTS: The University has adopted a grading system including plus and minus grades. For instance, an A- is computed as 3.7 grade points rather than a 4.0. Hence, the following range of class cumulative grades will result in the following grades: 

96+ = A+;  88.5 to 95.9 = A;  86.5 to 88.4 = A-

83 to 86.4 = B+;  78.5 to 83.9 = B;  76.5 to 78.4 = B-

73 to 76.4 = C+;  68.5 to 72.9 = C;  66.5 to 68.4 = C-

63 to 66.4 = D+;  58.5 to 63.9 = D;  56.5 to 58.4 = D-

below 56.5 = F


A midterm exam will count 25% toward the total grade. The final exam also will count 25% toward the total grade. Both the midterm and final exams will include two parts: written interpretations and multiple-choice sections. The final exam will be a cumulative test the course.


There will be three papers in the class.

§         The first paper will be a short identification and explanation of the persuasive strategies employed in speeches assigned from the first one third of the class ending with speeches assigned through the announced deadline. The purpose is to identify persuasion strategies that any of us could use. The assignment requires students to: (1) identify and (2) define the general strategies of influence, and (3) offer at least one example from the message (in the form of direct quotations wherever possible) to support such claims. This “paper” will count 11% toward the total grade.

§         The second paper will be an extended explication of an aspect of American public communication selected by the student in consultation with the instructor. The topic selected should have sufficient depth so that it may be covered in a paper of approximately 10 (but no more than 20 pages) including references. The topics should focus on any of the following three matters:

1.   The life of an American orator, focusing on the elements that led to the preparation and delivery of significant messages;

2.   A critique of a significant speech using a standard set of categories as found in the first chapter of the Rohler and Cook book (e.g., the canons of rhetoric or the elements of Burke’s dramatistic pentad);

3.   The elements leading up to a significant speech and the short-term and long-term effects of the message on both immediate and secondary audiences.

      This assignment will count 18% toward the total grade.

§         A brief paper reacting to a movie in which significant speeches are portrayed. A list will be provided from which a selection will be made.  Consideration will be on the events leading up to the speech(s), effects of the message, rhetorical strategies used, and the role of the movie in portraying the importance of the spoken word.  This assignment will count 8%

All written assignments should be written in accordance with either the MLA or APA format.


Students will complete study sheets associated with class activities, including exercises alone and in groups. Though none of these matters is expected to be formally presented and typed, these activities will count 13% toward the total grade and will be taken as evidence of class participation and attendance. these activities will count 13% toward the total grade.

POLICIES: Late written assignments will be penalized by 15% the first day and 5% each subsequent day. No late work can be turned in after the last class session. If you are ill please leave a message on the instructor’s voice mail prior to class. Students who have unexcused absences from more than three class sessions will have their cumulative final grades lowered by 4 percentage points from the final course cumulative grade. Additional unexcused absences will be penalized at the rate of an additional 2% per day. Attendance will be determined by collection of study sheet work and by asking students questions in class. Of course, emergencies happen to everyone. Students may be excused from attendance due to illness, emergency, or observance of a religious holiday (students must telephone the instructor before class when there is a difficulty so that appropriate arrangements can be made). Written assignments submitted ahead of the deadline may be revised and resubmitted to meet the deadline. According to the University Catalog, a grade of “incomplete” can be given only when a student who is doing otherwise acceptable work is unable to complete a course because of illness or other conditions beyond the control of the student. But any requirements to make up the course “shall not include retaking the course.”  By University regulation, following the University Census date, students cannot drop a class without documentation of a medical, family, or personal emergency that prevents completion of the course.

STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES: Please let the instructor know if you have a disability that might affect your participation or studies in this class. The instructor will keep this information in strict confidence, of course. Often, however, immediate and simple steps can be taken by the instructor to improve your learning environment in this course. Your instructor and the Office of Disabled Student Services will cooperate to help meet your needs. If you have not yet contacted Disabled Student Services, you should do so very soon because the Office must identify student-clients prior to providing services.


                                                       Course Outline

DATE       TOPIC                                                                                           READINGS

                                                                                                                          Additional website

                                                                                                                          materials not listed here

1-27     I.    Introduction to America Speaks                                                     

                  A.  Introduction to the Course: The Interdisciplinary Field               

                  B.   A Sweeping Look at the Role of Persuasion in

                        American History

   29           C.  Writing a Critical Paper: The Difference Between                  Website: “Resources that

                        Analysis and Description                                                           Matter to You”

                        --What are Communication Strategies?                                     R&C: ch. 1

                  D.  The Age of Obama                                                                       Website: “The Age of Obama”

2-3             E.  The Arguments in the 2008 campaign                                        

   5/10        F.  The 2000 and 2004 campaigns

                        The Age of Terror                                                                         Website: “The Age of

   12     III.       Clinton, Johnson, and Impeachment                                         

                  --The Promise of Clinton--A New Democrat?                               

                  --The Hidden Codes of the Inaugural Address                            R&C: 277-288

  17            --The Clinton Legacy                                                                        Website: “Clinton”

  19           --Impeachment !                                                                                  R&C: 165-184 , 348-349


  24      IV. The Age of the Great Communicator                                              Website: “Reagan”

                  A.  The Use of Media by the “Best Trained?”                              R&C: 302-303

  26            B.   No Longer Silent: The Emergence of Women                         R&C: 36-38

                        and Latinos as Political Forces

3-3/5        V.    Vietnam, Dissent, and Richard Nixon                                       

                  A.  A World Gone Mad?

   10           B.   Richard Nixon and the Modem Campaign

                  C.  Apologia Gone Wrong: Nixon’s Defense in Watergate          R&C: 141-156, 304-314,

   12                 (cont.)
                  D.  Interim Presidencies: Ford and Carter                                      

                        --Strategies in Debates and Campaigns                                     R&C:   53-90

   17     VI. The Kennedy Years and the l960s

                  A.  Campaign Persuasion                                                                   R&C:   26-35

                  B.   The Camelot Image                                                                       R&C:   264-276, 136-140

 3-19/24            (cont.)                                                                                                 320-321

                  C.  The Great Society and Johnson’s Triumph that Should          R&C: 192-219

                        Have Been


    26    VII.The Civil Rights Era

                  A.  The Centralized Phase: Dr. Martin Luther King’s                      

                        Nonviolence                                                                                    R&C:   350-363

                  B. The Rhetoric of the Emerging Latino Movement

            VIII. The Post-War Tensions

4 - 7           A.  Eisenhower and the Control of a Media Image                          R&C:   232-254, 316-320

                  B.   The Fascinating Rise of Richard Nixon                                       R&C:   116-135

                  C.  Truman and the General                                                                 R&C:   108-114, 224-231

    9            (cont.)

    14/16     IX. World War II and the Post War Era                                             R&C:   92-105,260-263

                  A.  War Leadership                                                                       

     21   X. The Roaring Twenties

                  A.  The Republicans Return to Normalcy

                  B.   The Rise of the New South and the Demagogues

     23               D. Logic and Rhetoric in Dayton, Tennessee

     28               (cont.)

            XI. The Start of the American Century

                   A. Woodrow Wilson: Inflexibility Incarnate                                   

                   B. Theodore Roosevelt: The Bully Pulpit                                       

     30   XII. The Western Migration You’ve Never Heard About

                   A. Labor Flexes Its Muscle in the Age of Robber Barons              

5-5              B   Chautauqua

      7    XIII.     Disunion and Civil War                                                            

                   A. The Speaking Career of Lincoln

     12           B. The Lincoln - Douglas Debates

                        --Growth via Uneasy Compromises

     14   XV. The New Nation

                    --.      Revolution!                                                                        

                        Patrick Henry, the Adams Boys, Thomas Payne                       

    19  9:30-11:20    Final Exam