Classroom Activities

  1. What were Day’s goals in this speech? Use the historical context and the speech text to support your argument.
  2. How does Day connect herself and others in the antiwar movement to those burning draft cards? Is her appeal effective?
  3. Do you think that Day’s call for pacifism is reasonable and realistic? Should the United States always have the option to use force against opposition? What are the conditions under which the United States should and should not consider the use of force?
  4. Consider the arguments Dorothy Day made for obedience to a higher law over the laws of the United States. Could she have made a convincing justification for pacifism without invoking a higher, moral law?
  5. Today’s American politics are criticized for being highly partisan. Political figures are often required to walk “party-lines” in order to have their voices heard. Day was both a radical socialist who believed in pacifism and a Catholic. Do you think that a speaker with views like Day’s would be more or less effective today? Do you think that there is opportunity for a variety of religious, political voices to be heard in today’s debates over war and peace? Explain your answer.

Student Research

  1. The Iraq War has inspired a variety of antiwar groups. Using the Internet, research an antiwar organization (go to websites such as and,12809,884056,00.html/). What are their main appeals? How are those appeals similar or different from those made by Day and the Catholic Workers? Identify potential explanations for these differences in rhetorical strategy.
  2. The antiwar movement during the war in Vietnam used a variety of escalating tactics as they gained momentum and approval. Using three different news media sources, locate three articles on the antiwar movement from 1965 to 1966. Then, locate three similar articles from 1970. Discuss the differences in protest tactics and discuss possible reasons for these changes.
  3. The Catholic Worker Movement is only one example of a religious movement that appealed to the Christian Left. Visit Sojourner’s website ( to examine one of the largest progressive Christian movements today. What are their arguments for a religious justification of social programs? What are their arguments against the War on Terror and the war in Iraq? How do these arguments contradict what you have read or heard from religious organizations on the Right? Whose voice do you think is more prominent in today’s political discourse? If you identify one side as more dominant, examine the reasons why that might be the case.
  4. The Vietnam War prompted draft card burnings, antiwar rallies, and marches against the government. Were the draft card burning protests an effective way of opposing the compulsory draft and the Vietnam War? More recently, in 2005, more than 300,000 people marched and protested against the Iraq War in Washington, D.C. (See How do the rhetorical strategies and strategies of protest in response to the Iraq War differ from those used by anti-Vietnam protestors?
  5. Write a research paper on a specific antiwar group or protest. Describe the strategies and tactics used by these protesters. Drawing upon your research and your knowledge of social movements, consider whether these tactics were the best available option for the movement.
  6. The Catholic Worker Movement and Pax Christi work with a variety of political and religious organizations to advocate change in our government. Specifically, the Catholic Worker reached out to secular organizations to further their goals of ending the Vietnam War and disarming the United States nuclear arsenal. Do you think this is an effective strategy? What might be some problems with this strategy?

Citizenship Resources

  1. Think of a political cause about which you are passionate. Like most political topics, it is most likely partisan in nature. Given the nature of that cause, consider: (1) what group or groups might be allied with or opposed to your own personal goals? (2) how might those groups assist and resist you in accomplishing your political goal? And (3) what problems might come from collaborating or negotiating with these different groups? Finally, sketch out plans for a public event that you think would bring together a number of different political groups to work towards a common goal.
  2. The Catholic Worker Movement still exists today. Find out about a Catholic Worker house in your area. Arrange to attend a meal at the house, or interview one of the members of the Catholic Worker community. How have the movement’s goals changed? Are they still actively involved in political activism, or are they more of a religious organization or charity?
  3. Write a newspaper op-ed column explaining your views on the current situation in Iraq. Send the column to your school’s newspaper or your local newspaper.
  4. Day makes the argument that the Catholic Worker pacifists must obey the higher law of Christ rather than government policies. What contemporary political topics inspire activists to claim they are abiding by “moral law” instead of earthly laws? How do these claims impact our public discourse and how effective are such arguments today?
  5. Many Catholics today believe that nuclear war is inherently an unjust form of warfare. Find out what you can on the effects of nuclear weapons and the potentials for deterrence and come to an opinion on whether the use of nuclear weapons could ever be morally “justified.” Be prepared to defend your answer.

Last updated March 24, 2016