“A Whole Europe, A Free Europe”

On May 31, 1989 President George H.W. Bush delivered a major address on U.S. foreign policy, “A Whole Europe, A Free Europe.” In that speech, he described his vision of a free and unified Europe, one that would result in lasting peace in the region. More than twenty years later, we still have not realized that vision, and with the recent Russian military intervention in the Ukraine, we seem in danger of returning to the divided and unstable Europe of the Cold War era.

Video courtesy of the George Bush Presidential Library & Museum

The Voices of Democracy unit on President Bush’s speech provides valuable pedagogical resources for stimulating classroom conversations about Russian-Ukrainian relations and the future of European politics. For example, to promote better understanding of international affairs in the classroom, instructors could use this assignment from the teaching and learning materials that accompany Bush’s speech:

Locate two recent news articles and two recent opinion pieces about NATO’s role in the world. How has NATO’s mission changed since the end of the Cold War? Is it still relevant today? What role should it play in contemporary international affairs?

These questions afford an opportunity to discuss the enduring legacy of Bush’s address, along with questions about possible responses to the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. Other VOD units classified under the deliberative themes of War and Peace and U.S. Internationalism might also be used to encourage classroom discussion and student research on current developments in Europe and elsewhere around the world.

Almir Hodzic, Undergraduate Intern at the Center for Democratic Deliberation, Penn State University.

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The Importance of Delivery

While content is essential to an effective speech, delivery is what can take a speech from “good” to “great.” The smallest variations in timing, intonation, or gestures can greatly influence the meaning and impact of a speech, so it is important that we study and practice the art of delivery

Voices of Democracy contains video or audio recordings of a number of great speeches in history. These videos can be used to learn about the importance of pauses, pronunciation, body language, and other aspects of effective delivery. Among those are videos of several U.S. presidents who scholars have praised for their delivery skills. Although Reaganconsidered a weak speaker in his youth, John F. Kennedy is now regarded among the best presidential orators. Likewise, we still remember Ronald Reagan (left) as “The Great Communicator,” and Barack Obama’s political success is often attributed to his speaking skills—by supporters and critics alike. What is it about the delivery of these three presidents that warrants such praise? Watch these videos and judge for yourself:

John F. Kennedy’s “Inaugural Address” – Jan. 20, 1961
Ronald Reagan’s “Address to the National Association of Evangelicals (The Evil Empire)” – March 8, 1983
Barack Obama’s “Notre Dame Commencement Address” – May 17, 2009

On VOD, each of these speeches is also accompanied by Teaching & Learning Materials, including some questions that encourage you to reflect further on the importance of delivery and its relationship to the content of great speeches in history.

Samantha Baskin, Undergraduate Intern at the Center for Democratic Deliberation, Penn State University.

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Harvey Milk’s “You’ve Got to Have Hope” and the Rhetoric of Gay Rights

The Sochi Winter Olympics have been surrounded by excitement and anticipation, but not all the press has been positive.  Russia’s controversial anti-gay laws have sparked debate, protest, and even violence within both Russia and the international community, even spurring some world leaders to boycott the games in Sochi.

MilkThis is not the first time gay rights has been a hot-button topic, nor will it be the last.  The Voices of Democracy unit on Harvey Milk’s 1977 speech, “You’ve Got to Have Hope,” provides users with a look back into the tumultuous history of gay rights politics, specifically as they existed in late-1970’s San Francisco.  Accompanying the unit is an interpretive essay, in which the authors examine Milk’s theme of hope and how it served to unite gay community members with straight allies.

The speeches and interpretive essays on VOD are useful for both instructors and students interested in gaining a deeper understanding of an important speech and its enduring legacy.

Samantha Baskin, Undergraduate Intern at the Center for Democratic Deliberation, Penn State University.

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Teaching Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” Speech

EisenhowerEncouraging thoughtful discussion in the classroom can be challenging, but Voices of Democracy makes the task a little easier by providing instructors with discussion starters and additional classroom activities to use when teaching notable speeches form American history.

For example, in honor of the sixtieth anniversary of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace,” delivered before the United Nations in December of 1953, you might consider using the following prompt to discuss this speech in your classroom:

“Identify and discuss President Eisenhower’s use of metaphors in the speech. How do his metaphors differ in relation to the Soviet Union versus the United States and its allies? Why do you think that he used nature metaphors to talk about atomic energy development? Do you think such nature metaphors represent a strategic choice for President Eisenhower? Why or why not?” 

Atoms for Peace StampThis question and others, along with additional activities that encourage student research and civic engagement, may be found under the “Teaching-Learning Materials” link located in the “Atoms for Peace” VOD Unit.

Want to check out classroom activity ideas for a different VOD Unit?  Browse through the  list of VOD Units, select the speech that interests you, then click on the “Teaching-Learning Materials” link for that address.

Samantha Baskin, Undergraduate intern at the Center for Democratic Deliberation, Penn State University.

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Anniversary of LBJ Oratory: “Let Us Continue”

A1029-11AFifty years ago this month, Lyndon B. Johnson delivered one of the most memorable speeches in American history. Just days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, he delivered a speech featured on Voices of Democracy: “Let Us Continue.”

At times of crisis presidents often try to restore the people’s confidence and rally them behind a new vision of the future.  During this time of uncertainty, President Johnson masterfully spoke in a calm and reassuring fashion. In the speech, he both eulogized Kennedy and established his own legitimacy as president.  President Johnson vowed to JFKcontinue Kennedy’s initiatives, voicing his support for President Kennedy’s stance on the Vietnam War, his welfare program, and his goals in regards to civil rights. Supporting elements of Kennedy’s plans and introducing a few of his own, President Johnson both appealed to Kennedy’s supporters and tried to rally the nation behind his own vision of national unity.

For more on President Johnson’s notable speech, visit the VOD unit on “Let Us Continue.”

Almir Hodzic, Undergraduate intern at the Center for Democratic Deliberation, Penn State University.

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Campaign Speeches on VOD

With the campaign between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney concluded, the campaign speechmaking ends as well. Campaign speechmaking as a separate or unique type of rhetoric is analyzed by some VOD contributors. Check out these units on specific campaign oratory:

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Abraham Lincoln Sesquicentennial

Just having marked the sesquicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address on March 4th and having recently celebrated the bicentennial of his birth, much consideration has been given to the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln. For those interested in learning more or in integrating some Lincoln materials into your rhetoric and public address courses, check out VOD’s unit on Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and its partner unit on Edward Everett’s Gettysburg Address.

We’d also encourage interested scholars to develop a unit on either of Lincoln’s inaugural addresses.

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JFK 50th Anniversary

Today marks the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. It also marks the anniversary of one of the most remarkable speeches in American history.

For those celebrating this anniversary or teaching this speech, VOD‘s teaching unit on JFK’s Inaugural Address is worth a visit. There you will find the speech itself, teaching and learning resources, suggested classroom activities and assignments, and an interpretive essay by Sara Ann Mehltretter that emphasizes the foreign policy dimensions of the Inaugural Address.

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Coming Soon to VOD

New units analyzing important public oratory will soon come to Voices of Democracy, including:

  • Eugene Debs, “Canton, Ohio Speech” (1918)—by James Darsey
  • Lyndon B. Johnson, “Renunciation Speech” (1968)—by David Zarefsky
  • Abraham Lincoln, “House Divided Speech” (1858)—by David Zarefsky
  • Harvey Milk, “The Hope Speech” (1978)—by Charles E. Morris III & Jason Edward Black
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