September 9, 2009
WOOSTER, Ohio - Fearing that young people were missing out on much of the nation's rich
rhetorical heritage, an interdisciplinary group of scholars, including College
of Wooster Professor of Communication Denise Bostdorff, created an online
reference site that provides access to some of the most important and
influential speeches in U.S. history.
"Voices of Democracy," a website that debuted last
week, was created "to promote the study of great speeches and public
debates with an emphasis on the actual words of those who, throughout American
history, have defined the country's guiding principles, debated the great
social and political controversies of the nation's history, and shaped the
identity and character of the American people," according to the
organization's mission statement.
Topics range from freedom of speech, civil rights, and citizenship to religion, morality,
economic justice, and war and peace. From Lyndon Johnson's historic "Let
Us Continue" address to the nation following the assassination of
President John F. Kennedy in 1963 to Ida B. Wells' lesser-known but equally compelling
"Lynch Law in All Its Phases," delivered in 1893, each entry includes
a text of the speech and an interpretive essay. There are also additional
resources and teacher-learning materials with each listing that are appropriate
for both undergraduate and advanced high school students. Some materials even include various drafts of the speech leading up to the final version.
"This is an excellent resource for students, teachers, and anyone else with an
interest in rhetorical history," said Bostdorff, who is a member of both
the advisory board and the editorial board. "There are many themes in these
speeches that relate to what is happening in the world today."
Hosted by the University of Maryland and supported by a grant from the National
Endowment for the Humanities, "Voices of Democracy" is a joint
venture of Maryland's Center for Political Communication & Civic
Leadership, and Penn State University's Center for Democratic Deliberation. The
site currently houses 45 speeches, including Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg
Address," J. Edgar Hoover's "Speech Before the House Committee on
Un-American Activities," and George W. Bush's address to a joint session
of Congress and the American people following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Also
featured are speeches by activists Stokely Carmichael, Shirley Chisholm, and
Gloria Steinem, as well as addresses by former Presidents Franklin D.
Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, and Harry Truman, whose
discourse about the Truman Doctrine is examined by Bostdorff.
Additional speeches and analyses will be reviewed by the editorial board and regularly
added to the site. Eventually, Bostdorff expects that every U.S. President and
many other orators will be represented. "There is a vast history of democratic processes that can be better understood through a study of the rhetorical process," said Bostdorff. "We believe that many will find great value in this new resource."
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