Course Title The Power of Persuasion and the People Who Persuade

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					Course Title:
     The Power of Persuasion and the People Who Persuade
          EXP- 0048 – S
          Spring 2010

        Jeffrey Simon
        978-502-7717 - cell


I appreciate your interest in this class.

We hear people talk to us a lot. But when great words are powerfully delivered, it can
make us laugh, cry or want to give up our job go to work for the speaker.

The goal of the class is to develop appreciation for the power that words can have. We
will do this by looking at some very significant speeches from Abraham Lincoln at
Gettysburg to Barak Obama and John McCain on election night. We’ll look at how these
great speeches evoke passion, commitment and connection between each of the speakers
and their intended audiences. We’ll take that examination a bit further, looking at some
of the tools of speech that help make that connection and how delivery can influence the
message the we each receive. Poetry, humor, religion and history all make contributions
and we’ll look at the influence of these elements.

This class exists for you and it depends on you. In all cases except for Abraham Lincoln,
there is a video or audio clip of the speech that we will discuss. You are expected to
come to class having watched or listened to the speech, to have done the reading and to
have written in an electronic journal that I am asking you to keep for this class. You will
be required to forward the journals to me before each class. Journal entries should be
sufficient to address the issues raised and should not be more than a page or two for each
week. Journals must be in my electronic inbox at 7 am the day of class. Comments will
be given to you either electronically on paper by the following week’s class. If additional
feedback is required, I will make arrangements for us to meet and talk. Journal entries
are graded and count for 20% of your grade.

Three papers are required and will be graded. The requirements for these papers will be
distributed three weeks in advance of the due date of each, so you should have plenty of
time. Due dates are at classes 5, 9 and May 6. The first two papers should be 5-6 pages
each and will each count for 20% of the grade. The third paper should be 7-10 pages
long and will count for 40% of the grade.
The Power of Persuasion and the People Who Persuade   Syllabus                 Jeffrey A. Simon

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I am glad to meet with students before or after class or at other times if that is not
convenient. Please make an appointment with me if you’d like to talk with me. I enjoy
talking with you and encourage you to make an appointment if there is anything that
you’d like to discuss. I also encourage you to email me or to call. If I can’t talk with you
right when you call, I will get back to you shortly.

Thanks again for your interest. I know that this will be a great class.

The Power of Persuasion and the People Who Persuade   Syllabus                  Jeffrey A. Simon

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Course Syllabus
Class 1
The Power of a Speech.
Election Night. The Winner. The Loser. Both needing to convey Great Thoughts but
the intent, the goals, the audiences are very different.

In class videos:
Barak Obama Election Night Speech: Yes We Can

John McCain Election Night Speech: The End of a Long Journey

   1) How does each speech make you feel? Is there a cerebral connection and an
       emotional connection?
   2) What is each candidate trying to accomplish?
   3) Describe a situation where a person whom you did not know (politician,
       graduation speaker, community leader) compelled you to do something simply
       through the power of what he/she said.
   4) If you have heard a great speech, think about how you react physically to listening
       to a great speaker. Describe those reactions. If you have never heard a great
       speech, describe your reactions to a really bad speech.
   5) What this course is (the power of speech) and what it is not (a public speaking

Class 2
Setting Lofty Expectations. Defining the person and motivating toward the dream.

In class video: John F. Kennedy inaugural: “Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for
You, But What You Can Do for your Country”

1) read Chapter 4, “White House Ghosts” Robert Schlesinger, 2008
2) What was JFK trying to do with that speech?
3) Who was his audience and what was he trying to get them to do?
4) How does this speech reinforce the JFK legend?
5) Is there anything that you notice about the construction of the speech?
6) How does JFK’s presentation add or detract from the written speech?
7) Discuss the interplay of the establishment of policy and the presentation of policy.

The Power of Persuasion and the People Who Persuade   Syllabus                  Jeffrey A. Simon

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Class 3
The Mechanic: Thoughts into Words

In class discussion: The speechwriter. Is this an up-front job, creating words for someone
else to say? How do the speechwriter and the deliverer relate? How does good policy
translate into great rhetoric?

Guest Speaker:                David Passafaro, VP and Director of Business Development,
                              Wm. A. Berry Construction

                              Former Chief of Staff to Mayor Tom Menino

                              President of the Host Committee for Boston Democratic National

Assignment/Journal: Read Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 9 of “The Lost Art of the Great Speech:
How to Write One and How to Deliver One” by Richard Dowis. Read pages 3-45 of
“On Speaking Well” by Peggy Noonan.

Read “A candid interview with a presidential speechwriter” Colorado Springs Business
Journal, Oct 17, 2003 by Marylou Doehrman at

Class 4
Uplifting Rhetoric in a Time of Tragedy

In class video: Ronald Reagan, Challenger Speech
Handout: Wikipedia: John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Assignment/Journal: Read pages 46-140 in “On Speaking Well” by Peggy Noonan. Read
Chapter 7 of “The Lost Art of the Great Speech: How to Write One and How to Deliver
One” by Richard Dowis.
Find out who John Gillespie Magee, Jr, was and how he relates to the speech.
1) What is Reagan trying to accomplish? 2) Are there conflicting goals? 3) A poem and a
speech seem to be opposites. Comment on this conflict. 4) Relate Dowis comments on
the structure of a speech to Noonan’s comments great speeches reflecting great policy. 5)
What are your thoughts on the intersection of politics and poetry in this speech?

The Power of Persuasion and the People Who Persuade   Syllabus                     Jeffrey A. Simon

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Class 5

Humor as a Scalpel

In class video: Ann Richards, Democratic National Convention, 1988
Read Chapter 11 in “The Lost Art of the Great Speech: How to Write One and How to
Deliver One” by Richard Dowis.

Assignment/Journal: 1) Does Governor Richards alienate or capture more people with
her speech? 2) What does the reference to Barbara Jordan mean? 3) What does the
reference to Franklin Roosevelt do for the speech? 4)What points does she make with
humor and how else could (perhaps less effectively) could she have made the same

Class 6

The Shortest Greatest Speech

In class discussion: The structure of the speech, breaking new ground for the times,
healing a nation.

Assignment/Journal: Read “Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Made America” by
Gary Wills.
1) What makes this such a powerful speech? 2) Think about the intersection of great
mechanics with lofty thought. Do they complement or conflict? 3) Is such a short speech
a fitting tribute to the thousands who died? 4) Put yourself into the expectations of public
speakers at that time. How would you rate Lincoln’s speech? 5) Why do you think this
speech is so enduring?

Class 7

The Real World: A Conversation with a Massachusetts Oratorical Legend

In class discussion: Guest speaker - William M. Bulger, former president of the State
Senate, former President of the University of Massachusetts

Assignment/Journal: Boston Magazine article on William Bulger, October 2007,
available at
1) Mr. Bulger studied classical Greek and Latin. Does that influence show in his style?
How? 2) Is there a conflict between the writing/speaking style of Mr. Bulger and the
largely blue collar district he represented in the State Senate? How do you think that his

The Power of Persuasion and the People Who Persuade   Syllabus                  Jeffrey A. Simon

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constituents reacted to his speaking style? 3) Is a politician elected to reflect the opinions
of his/her constituents or to use his/her own best judgment independent of the opinions of
the constituents? Justify your position and look at Mr. Bulger’s record in this regard.

Class 8
Delivery1: Great words, mediocre presentation or mediocre words, great presentation

In class video: President Gerald Ford, Speech Pardoning President Richard Nixon
Read Chapter 15 in “The Lost Art of the Great Speech: How to Write One and How to
Deliver One” by Richard Davis. Read pages 143-191 in “On Speaking Well” by Peggy

Assignment/Journal: 1) What was the background of this speech? 2) Did Ford make a
compelling case that he was right to pardon Nixon? 3) Were you convinced? 4) How
does Ford’s delivery stack up with Noonan/Dowis’ requirements for presentation? 5)
How could Ford have improved his delivery?

Class 9

When Hope Dies: The Concession Speech

In class video: Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Concession Speech at the 1980 Democratic
National Convention

Assignment/Journal: 1) Is Kennedy giving up or trying to position himself for another
run for president? 2) What is the significance of the poem at the end? 3) is the poem
more effective at the end as a summary statement or would it have been better to set the
stage with it at the beginning? 3) What is the effect of the Tennyson quote? 4) How does
this use of poetry compare to Regan’s in the Challenger speech?

Class 10

The Ordinary Person In Extraordinary Circumstances

In class video: Jessica Lynch testifying before Congressional Oversight Committee

Assignment/Journal: Read articles on Jessica Lynch:,2933,82923,00.html,9171,1101031117-538846,00.html
1) Is Private Lynch a hero, a victim or an accomplice? 2) Can an ordinary person with
little formal training and without a stable of speechwriters create compelling speech? 3)

The Power of Persuasion and the People Who Persuade   Syllabus                    Jeffrey A. Simon

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Does she do it or is it the circumstances that are so compelling? 4) Is she believable? Are
you sympathetic to her? Why?

Class 11

In class exercise. Details to be given out at Class 10.

Class 12
The Call to Arms: Motivating the public in a time of Attack

In class audio: Winston Churchill: First Speech to Parliament as Prime Minister

Assignment/Journal: Read handout from “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: The Dire
Warning: Churchill’s First Speech as Prime Minister” by John R. Lukacs 1) Describe
the political context of this first speech upon being named Prime Minister 2) Is the
imagery appropriate to wartime? 3) How were the English people likely to react and

Class 13

Creating a vivid vision that inspires action.

In-class video: Martin Luther King speech – “I Have a Dream.”

1) At the time of this speech what was going on in the country with regard to the civil
rights movement? 2) After defining King’s audience, discuss the implications of the 2
biblical references and the spiritual song reference to King’s ability to connect with his
audience. 3) Find rhetorical or stylistic reflections of King’s style in speeches we’ve
looked at that followed King’s. 4) Is King’s use of anaphora too much? Does it
strengthen or weaken the speech?

The Power of Persuasion and the People Who Persuade   Syllabus                   Jeffrey A. Simon

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