Before posting, listen to the Mere Rhetoric podcast: “The Rhetorical Situation.”
Since the components of the rhetorical situation are intertwined and interact with each other, as one aspect shifts so too must the others. In other words, as writers we must consider how shifts in purpose or context might impact reader-users and adjust our writing appropriately.
For this week’s discussion, I want us to watch a video clip of a Robert Kennedy speech and discuss how he addresses the change in rhetorical situation. Let me begin to set the rhetorical situation with some background information.
In 1968, Robert Kennedy, then a New York senator, was on the campaign trail as part of his presidential bid. He was scheduled to deliver a campaign speech on April 4, 1968 to a group of supporters in Indiana. As some of you may recognize the date, he found out not long before his scheduled appearance that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated. Since this was in a time before mobile devices, Twitter, Facebook, etc. no one in the crowd was aware of the events that had occurred. Additionally, it was at the height of the civil rights movement. The purpose, or issue, of Kennedy’s speech suddenly shifts from one of rally and support to one of breaking the horrible news.
As you make your initial contribution to the weekly discussion, consider the following questions: In what ways does Kennedy address the shift in rhetorical situation? What might he have done differently? Does he effectively communicate his purpose to this audience? If we think about this speech as it relates to the definition of technical/professional communication (from Chapter 1), in what ways does he manage information that allows people to take action? Overall, do you think his speech is appropriate for the rhetorical situation? Explain?
When posting your response, make connections with Chapter 2, the Mere Rhetoric podcasts, and the definitions of rhetoric and professional communication (from Module 2).