Political Speech Essay

RWS 305W Online: Writing in Various Settings

Prompt for Project 1: Academic Writing

Political Speeches

Lecturer Jennifer Sager


For this project select two speeches by candidates who are running for President of the United States in 2020. Select one Republican and one Democrat from the following lists.


Donald Trump


Former Vice President Joe Biden

Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg

Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard

California Senator Kamala Harris

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders

Investor Tom Steyer

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang

Begin with a mission statement, using metadiscourse to explain your project’s goals from start to finish.

Provide some context on each politician and their speech. Construct a brief account of their argument for academic readers who are unfamiliar with these texts. Use the rhetorical précis as a guide.

Select several paragraphs by each politician, and analyze the claims they made, the rhetorical appeals and strategies they used, and which specific voters they targeted.

Evaluate the politicians’ use of rhetorical appeals and strategies. Critique how effectively you think they engaged voters.

Using what you learned from these two politicians/writers, propose an explanation of how you think politicians running for President of the United States should use rhetoric more effectively to engage voters.

Write a 3-5 page essay in which you achieve the goals of this project.

How to Structure This Project

1. Introduction: Using metadiscourse, explain your project’s goals from start to finish in a mission statement.

1. Provide context for the politicians and their speeches. Introduce the politicians, their speeches, and their arguments, using the rhetorical précis as a guide.

1. Analyze how each politician made claims, used rhetorical appeals and strategies, and targeted voters.

1. Evaluate how each politician used rhetoric. Critique how effectively they engaged voters.

1. Conclusion: Propose an explanation. Explain how you think politicians running for President of the United States should use rhetoric more effectively to engage voters.

1. Works Cited: Cite publishing information for any sources you cited within your project.

Criteria for Evaluation

Successful writers will

1. Answer all parts of the prompt.

1. Write a cohesive and well edited essay.

1. Upload their rough draft and final draft to Turn It In before the deadline

Sager 2

Project 1: Academic Essay

Handout with Sample Student Essays for 2016 POTUS Election

If you’re using MLA format, this is how your first page should look—with a 4-line heading, a header with your last name and page number, and a centered title. The font should be size 12 and a readable one. The entire paper should be double-spaced. There should be no extra spaces around the title or between paragraphs.

Ryan Taylor

RWS 305W, Section 79

Lecturer Sager

10 September 2018

Academic Writing Project 1: Political Speeches

Here are some examples of good, clear introductions that contain mission statement paragraphs using metadiscourse (language about language) to explain the project’s goals—from start to finish.


Throughout history, some of the most important moments have come from political speeches. In this essay, I am going to be rhetorically analyzing the speeches for two candidates that ran for president back in 2016. I will evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, and I will conclude with an argument regarding my opinion how politicians should use rhetoric in order to engage voters more effectively.


Political discourse and campaign trail speeches are rife with rhetoric, used to spur on the emotions of, play to the weaknesses of, and encourage the patriotic spirit of Americans, and in the broader world, to motivate voters to rally their voices to a cause. In the United States, the election of 2016 was a turning point for the use of these tools, ushering in a new, and arguably different, era of bombastically using rhetoric on a scale that had not been previously matched – and previously fueled – in other presidential races.

Throughout this paper, I will describe and analyze particular excerpts from speeches of the top two leading candidates for the presidency in 2016, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, in an attempt to break down and carefully analyze their use of rhetorical devices during some of their largest and most prominently impactful campaign speeches. I will focus in on the strengths and weaknesses of both candidates’ ability to address their audience through their presentations of their arguments, and lastly, I will present my own discussion about how presidential candidates should conduct themselves in a way that allows them the most broad, poignant reach to their voter bases.


For this project, I will begin by introducing two POTUS candidates along with the context and arguments of each of their election speeches from the year 2016. I will then rhetorically analyze each candidate’s speech on the basis of which rhetorical appeals and strategies they used to support their claims, along with specifying which group of specific voters they targeted. After identifying the specific rhetorical components used by each candidate, I will evaluate their effectiveness in reaching voters and leaving a resonating impact. Lastly, I will propose my own argument about how politicians should use rhetoric effectively to engage voters, backing it up with an explanation from research of this project.

Metadiscourse needs to be incorporated into the entire essay to serve as a way to transition from one idea to the next. You can think of it as a way of taking your readers by the hand and guiding them through your points, almost narrating your paper to them. Metadiscourse with transitional language serves to make the paper less choppy and more cohesive.

Here are some good examples of metadiscourse used in body paragraphs.

Ryan’s topic sentences with metadiscourse:

For the Republican candidate, I chose to analyze the rhetoric of Ted Cruz.

For the Democratic candidate, I am going to be analyzing the rhetoric of Bernie Sanders.

For Republican candidate Ted Cruz, I found that he used rhetoric well in a few different main ways.

Regarding Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, I feel that his rhetoric was strongly driven through concrete examples and statistics.

Zachary’s topic sentences with metadiscourse:

The first candidate I will discuss is Hillary Clinton, specifically a speech of hers nearing the end of the campaign trail in a last-ditch effort to try to rally her voters behind her – more forcefully than before.

Next, I will analyze a speech given by then presidential candidate, now our President of the United States, Donald Trump.

In discussing how effective these two candidates were in their speeches, it is important to acknowledge that Hillary Clinton’s tactics are reminiscent of general political jargon, at least early on in the campaign.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, kept the same focus on his arguments the entire time he was campaigning, and even after he assumed office, and this was an effective technique.

Alexis’s use of metadiscourse when transitioning from her argument analysis part of her paper to the critique portion:

Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton use the rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos and logos; however, each candidate has his or her own personal approach to using these appeals, and some forms of rhetoric are used more than others. On the basis of these different approaches, I will evaluate the effectiveness that each candidate had at engaging voters, supporting my critique with specific evidence from each candidate’s speech.

The rhetorical précis is a great way to introduce each candidate and his or her speech to your readers, provide some context for the particulars of the speech (the date, the location, the speaker’s credentials) as well as to provide an overview of the rhetorical components, like the main claim, the appeals and strategies, the purpose, the tone, and the target audience of voters.

Here are some examples of good rhetorical précis paragraphs and strong rhetorical analysis.


For the Republican candidate, I chose to analyze the rhetoric of Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. During his campaign launch speech at Liberty University, Cruz claims that he is running for president in order to lead courageous conservatives and bring America together to keep the country prospering. At the beginning of his speech, Cruz uses pathos by starting with a few personal anecdotes that talk about the American Dream and how religion transformed his family growing up. For example, he reveals to the audience that he was born in Cuba and started as a young boy making only 50 cents an hour washing dishes (Beckwith). His decision to include anecdotes at the beginning of his speech generates a sense of emotional connection and transparency with his audience. In addition, Cruz appeals to the voters’ emotions when he reveals that he would have been raised by a single mom if his father never found God and chose to come home and raise his son. Overall, Cruz’s tone is friendly and optimistic in order to engage voters that have strong faith and believe in the notion of the American Dream

Throughout his speech, Cruz also makes claims about protecting the Constitution and limiting the federal government by using rhetorical repetition. Cruz uses historical examples in order to establish his credibility and knowledge regarding protection of the Constitution. For example, Cruz uses ethos by citing Patrick Henry’s famous “Give me liberty or give me death!” in order to inspire millions of conservatives to do the same (Beckwith). Cruz uses these examples to highlight that the government should be held accountable for their actions through the Constitution and Bill of Rights. By mentioning the Bill of Rights, Cruz appeals to his target audience who have a passion to protect their First and Second Amendment rights.

Another major claim that Cruz makes during his speech is that the federal government should be limited. For instance, Cruz uses the rhetorical strategy of repetition by starting every sentence with either “imagine” or “instead.” Specifically, every sentence that starts with the word “imagine” proposes a scenario of an ideal situation with a limited government. In contrast, every sentence starting with the word “instead” reflects the reality how conservatives feel the government currently operates regarding major issues like education, the constitution, and health care. Cruz uses repetition in order to convey to his audience that this is a significant issue that needs to change immediately. Overall, Cruz’s tone is firm and hopeful that his conservative voter base can get behind him and reignite the promise of America.

For the Democratic candidate, I am going to be analyzing the rhetoric of Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. During his campaign launch speech in Vermont, Sanders explains that he is running for president in order to “transform the country economically, politically, socially, and environmentally” (“Bernie’s Announcement”). Sanders claims that he stands for the common people and the millions of working families who care about American democracy. For instance, Sanders uses logos with statistics when he reveals that “99 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent” when talking about the wage gap (“Bernie’s Announcement”). Sanders also appeals to voters’ emotions when he calls the wage inequality an “immoral” situation. He uses these rhetorical appeals in order to acknowledge that the wage gap is a significant issue that needs improvement. Sanders’ tone is fearless and sympathetic to his target audience of middle-class families that are being impacted every day by these major issues.

Another major claim Sanders makes during his speech focuses on climate change. Sanders explains that science has spoken and America must take action before it is too late. Specifically, Sanders uses logos when he mentions examples that the warming of our planet will result in “more drought, more famine, more rising sea level, more floods…and more human suffering” (“Bernie’s Announcement”). Through these concrete examples, he wants to educate voters that many of these problems will soon get worse if we fail to take action and fight against it. Sanders’ tone is firm in order to convey to his voters that this is a serious issue that needs to be resolved.

In the middle of the speech, Sanders makes one of his strongest claims regarding bringing jobs to America. Sanders states that the United States needs to have a federal jobs program that could help rebuild a crumbling infrastructure. He incorporates statistics by explaining that he would introduce a $1 trillion legislation over 5 years that would “create and maintain at least 13 million good paying jobs” (“Bernie’s Announcement”). Sanders connects with his target audience by revealing that this program should help reverse the decline of the middle class who are failing to find decent paying jobs. His tone is promising and optimistic that if elected he would help lead this legislation into law.

In addition, Sanders makes another claim regarding his stance on health care. He starts by mentioning that the United States remains as the only major country that doesn’t guarantee health care for all. Sanders uses logos and pathos regarding an emotional statistic that “35 million Americans continue to lack health insurance” and more are under-insured (“Bernie’s Announcement”). Ultimately, Sanders believes that there is still a lot of work that Americans have to guarantee that health care becomes accessible for all people. Sanders speaks from his heart about this issue and his tone appears thoughtful for his target voters that may be one of the millions who lack sufficient health insurance.


The first candidate I will discuss is Hillary Clinton, specifically a speech of hers nearing the end of the campaign trail in a last-ditch effort to try to rally her voters behind her – more forcefully than before. The speech she gave has been considered highly controversial, and many political journalists credit the speech as one of the large reasons Clinton was unable to win the election, but whether or not the speech has such a condemning action is not the focus of this paper. Rather, Clinton wanted to make an effort in her short speech to encourage her voters to side with her more strongly, and in doing so helped to polarize the political field with her hyperbolic comments. Clinton also employed other rhetorical devices in her speech, specifically bringing forth a call to action on the part of her voters by appealing to their emotions, as well as using her voters anger towards Donald Trump as a pathos-based motivation for them to campaign harder on her behalf.

In her speech Clinton claims that a large group of Donald Trump’s supporters are, what she called, “a basket of deplorables.” Her broad, hyperbolic comment served to help polarize the political landscape even further – but as a rhetorical device it served its purpose very well. Americans responded aggressively to her boisterous claim, verifiably demonstrating the power of the use of hyperbolic rhetoric. Furthermore, Clinton also proved her ability to rally her voters to her cause by appealing to their emotions, claiming that Donald Trump “tweets and retweets offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric.” This questioning of her opponent’s, and also her voter’s, ethical morality shows that one of Clinton’s most useful tactics during her campaign was a combination of ethos and pathos-driven arguments, showing her own ethical scale, and encouraging her voters to do the same, less they fall back on their own moral compass. Lastly, Clinton stoked the anger of her voters, another common practice she had on the campaign trail. By firing up her audiences with comments about “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic [people that Donald Trump]…has given voice to,” Clinton shows the reliability of playing towards people’s anger – purely based in pathos-driven arguments.

Next, I will analyze a speech given by then presidential candidate, now our President of the United States, Donald Trump. During his speech shortly after the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting, Donald Trump, a staunch advocate for stronger border control, made many claims, employing rhetorical devices that became commonplace on his campaign trail. Donald Trump has always appealed to fear and a sense of patriotism in his speeches, rallying his voting demographic of proud Americans who worry for their livelihood and the livelihood of their families. Trump’s fearmongering claims that there is a “growing threat of terrorism inside of our borders,” and that we must re-establish law and order, showcase just how effectively he used pathos to convince people to be worried, ready to fight, or both. Furthermore, he consistently appeals to the emotional and family values that many of his voters have, empathizing with “The families of these wonderful people [the victims], and saying that “they are totally devastated, and they will be forever.” Trump uses all of these tactics with the included strategy of not apologizing for his bombastic, masculine, no-holds-barred personality, which, while it might upset many people who view that attitude as toxic or unprofessional, has a way of garnering attention in the political landscape for being so different from the other candidates’ temperaments.


In his speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention, candidate Donald Trump accepts his POTUS nomination and claims that he will “Make America Great Again” by keeping the American people safe (Gorman, Newsweek.com). Trump supports and strengthens this claim through the use of logos by including a great array of historical facts that encompass past politicians and the results of their policies on the economy and society as a whole – which provide a contrast to the improvement of policies and plans he anticipates and promises to have during his candidacy; with ethos by promising to honor America with nothing but the truth, which establishes credibility and trust; and with pathos by reinforcing the importance of being all-inclusive, regardless of a person’s background, on the same team with each and every American, and being their voice. By using these specific rhetorical appeals and strategies, Trump hopes to reach the voter that yearns for a brutally honest and tell-it-how-it-is leader, who is just another average-American ready for a stronger and more successful country. This is done in order to win votes from the silent majority, and ultimately to win the election. Trump’s tone is assertive, benevolent, and frank, which helps resonate his messages with low, middle, and high-class Americans who want nothing more than a confident, well-meaning leader who tells people the direct and honest truth.

In her speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, candidate Hillary Clinton accepts her POTUS nomination and makes her claim that by working together, she as the President of the United States can be the voice for all Americans and create the opportunities, jobs, and wages that are needed. Hillary Clinton emphasizes her claim using pathos by appealing to the emotions of people with families, women who feel underrepresented, and those who feel they do not have a voice; with ethos by establishing her credibility by listing the job titles she has held in the politics; and lastly with the use of logos by referring to past factual data of her opposing candidate, Donald Trump, to position her voters to think and feel negatively towards his capability and potential of being president of the United States. With the rhetorical appeals and strategies used by Hillary Clinton, she hopes to create a friendship-type relationship with her voters, in order to create a deeper connection, stronger voter-base, and essentially, win the election. Clinton’s tone is warm and sympathetic, as she connects on a deeper level with her voters – specifically, women and the middle class – yet, it is also cautionary and condescending when positioning herself against her strongest opponent, Trump.

Here are good examples of how to do the critique portion of this project.


For Republican candidate Ted Cruz, I found that he used rhetoric well in a few different main ways. Specifically, Cruz is a very comfortable extemporaneous speaker onstage and did not use a teleprompter during his speech. Therefore, I feel that Cruz’s speech felt smooth and his pauses were effective when he made a strong claim he wanted the audience to think about. In addition, Cruz used a variety of rhetorical appeals, including pathos, ethos, and logos –while primarily relying the heaviest on emotion through pathos. I believe that Cruz effectively engaged his voters because he covered several main points that his voters could connect with –including the Constitution, faith, and the American Dream. However, I felt that one of Cruz’s weaknesses is that he could have provided more statistics and examples to support his claims on major issues. Cruz’s persona and appearance show a good family man that voters can trust with their vote. Overall, I believe that Cruz engaged his audience through the power of faith and instilled confidence for his courageous conservative base.

Regarding Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, I feel that his rhetoric was strongly driven through concrete examples and statistics. For example, Sanders did a great job providing factual evidence to back up his major claims regarding the economy, health care, and the environment. In addition, Sanders delivered a speech that felt genuine and did not appear robotic or over-rehearsed. Sanders speech was organized and constructed in a way that was easy for his audience to follow along. However, Sanders could have used more pauses in his speech in order to emphasize his major claims. Overall, though, I feel that Sanders effectively engaged his voters because he tailored his speech to their specific demographic, income, and support of a progressive agenda.


In discussing how effective these two candidates were in their speeches, it is important to acknowledge that Hillary Clinton’s tactics are reminiscent of general political jargon, at least early on in the campaign. She took to questioning the morality and ethics of Donald Trump only when she became the democratic nominee, and while that is an effective strategy, to encourage voters to act on their own morality, it didn’t work early on. Early on, Clinton used many more logos-based arguments, citing policy reform, specific figures, and statistics, in contrast to her political opponents at the time, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. Both of these ways of addressing her opponents were effective because they were tailored to the individual needs of what she was trying to accomplish (unless, of course, you subscribe to the theory that the comment about the “basket of deplorables” was ultimately her downfall).

Donald Trump, on the other hand, kept the same focus on his arguments the entire time he was campaigning, and even after he assumed office. His practice of appealing to fear, anger, and harming the personal reputation of the people he was campaigning against apparently served him well enough to earn the presidency. His arguments are considered by some to be immoral and lacking in verifiable accuracy or general fact checking, but his call to rally his supporters by homing in on their innate sense of nationalism and self-preservation has proven to be very effective. Clinton even stated in her speech that “He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people, [and] now have 11 million.” And while this argument tries to showcase the horrific nature of giving a voice to people that would use that authority to impose on civil rights and spread hate speech, from a purely numbers perspective, Donald Trump has made effective arguments, allowing for these platforms to grow.


Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton use the rhetorical appeals and strategies of ethos, pathos and logos; however, each candidate has their own personal approach to using them, and some forms of rhetoric are used more than others. On the basis of these uses, I will evaluate the effectiveness each candidate had, supporting my critique with specific evidence from each candidate’s speech.

When rhetorically analyzing Trump’s speech, I identified the rhetorical appeals of logos, ethos, and pathos. After analyzing and compiling the statements made during Trump’s election speech into these three categories, I notice that the most heavily used rhetorical appeal by Trump was logos – appealing to the audience’s logic by using facts, hard evidence, and reason. This stands as a huge strength, as many politicians fail to use hard evidence within their arguments, debates, discussions, etc. Using facts can be extremely effective in persuading an audience, as it makes the person delivering the facts seem much more credible, which ties into using ethos. Trump furthers his use of ethos by stating that “we cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore” (Gorman, Newsweek.com). This statement can be effective by making his voters trust him, as he is letting them know up-front that he will not hide or be secretive with any information, nor will he lie. Conversely, this statement can become a potential weakness. When people know every move that is made by America, fear can begin to set in. Although it is important to let the citizens know that they will be told the truth, it is equally important to have them confide in a leader who they trust to handle any type of situation and/or crisis that he or she may be dealt. This idea ties in to Trump’s use of pathos. He addresses the “legacy of Hillary Clinton” as “death, destruction, terrorism, and weakness” (Gorman, Newsweek.com). He then follows this statement with his plan to “put America First” by “beginning with safety at home” (Gorman, Newsweek.com). This effectively appeals to a shift in voter’s emotions from feeling unsettled and fearful of another potential candidate running in the election, to feeling that their voice matters and that their basic need of safety will be met.

When rhetorically analyzing Clinton’s speech, I also compiled the statements she made into the ethos, pathos, and logos rhetorical appeals. I noticed that Clinton’s rhetorical strategies involved mainly pathos – the feelings and emotions of voters. She effectively appealed to her voters, especially women, in many ways, including references to a time “when there are no [glass] ceilings” and there will be equal pay opportunities for the “working mother, wife, sister, and daughter” (Benjamin, Politico.com). She did also appeal to the emotions of voters who have families, as she shared many personal family stories and experiences she has had; this is effective, as it makes her appeal to be

at the same level as average, middle class Americans. Clinton also established her credibility through ethos by stating the job titles she has held in politics; this is a strength, as it gives voters the impression that she has real life experience and is capable of a smooth transition into the position of presidency. However, the references she makes to past positions she has held could be a weakness as well. Some voters may recall mistakes she made in the past and/or situations that led to disaster when she was in charge, which could lead to further animosity and a negative feeling towards her potential presidency. The last appeal Clinton used was to logic. The statements that stood out the most in terms of fact included those of attack against her opponent Donald Trump; this can be just as effective as ineffective. Making the factual claims to attack the credibility of Trump can be effective in terms of getting voters to turn away from supporting that candidate, thus making Clinton look more attractive in terms of a potential candidate; however, some voters could see this as unprofessional, thus making Clinton look less attractive in terms of a potential candidate. Aside from the logical approach of factual data and events of Trump’s past, Clinton did not provide much more information that served as evidence, which is a weakness.

Here are examples of strong conclusions with the writer’s own argument given focus.

(FYI: This is my favorite part of this project.)


After analyzing two candidates from different parties, I have gained a better understanding about how politicians can effectively engage voters. I think that politicians should construct a speech that contains a balance between ethos, pathos, and logos. First, candidates should establish credibility that they are fit to run for president by using ethos and thereby gain the voters’ trust on key issues. In addition, I believe that it is valuable for candidates to use pathos in order to engage voters’ emotions. Finally, after establishing credibility and trust, and connecting with voters’ emotions, I think that it is important for candidates to validate their claims by using logos with concrete examples and statistics that support their overall argument. As a result, politicians should use rhetoric that engages voters and establishes trust that they are the most qualified candidate for the position.


In our politically polarized country, it becomes more and more clear that the best way of influencing voters and drawing attention towards problems that could be solved by policy, regulation or deregulation, and government oversight is by convincing voters through facts. It sounds arbitrary, but as this election has shown, fighting with feelings does nothing to usher in compromise, but also that facts and logical-based arguments with clearly defined stipulations have oddly fallen out of favor with American voters – and frankly American politicians. There needs to be a reform – a shift back to logical fact-based arguments, employing logos and the credibility it offers, to encourage voters to make decisions that truly do fit their best interests.


Throughout this project, I was able to hear from and analyze two candidates of opposing political parties. Although it is a given that their thoughts and arguments will more likely not match up – hence, “opposing” – it was helpful and thought-provoking to read (and hear) each candidate’s personal rhetorical style in appealing to their intended audiences. After exposure to both Trump and Clinton’s speeches, I am convinced that an argument based on facts is more effective than one made with mere emotions and that it can really resonate with voters. Although it is crucial to include rhetorical appeals in all

three categories of ethos, pathos, and logos in order to persuade an audience, having the majority of the information be factual evidence is key. Personally, I found that Trump came across as more credible and trustworthy, as he appeared to knew his facts. His use of proof (logos) made him appear more credible (ethos), and to top it off, he appealed to the emotions of his voters (pathos). Clinton, on the other hand, appealed mostly to the emotions of her voters. Although this can be effective in creating a large voter-base, emotions can only go so far. Knowledge of factual historical data is needed to demonstrate a potential candidate’s awareness of the past situation, current situation, and what is to come and/or avoid in future situations. Without communicating this knowledge to voters, politicians will find it difficult to showcase their full potential. Being as it is the year 2018, the results of how this election played out are clear. Facts trumped emotion. Trump beat Clinton. As humans, our ways of being persuaded are ever-changing, as are our lives. The key part of any potential politicians running for candidacy is recognizing how the voters are influenced and in which ways the politicians can reach them most effectively.

Here is an example of how your Works Cited page should look if you’re using MLA format. The title should be Works Cited, and the entries should be arranged alphabetically, with all necessary detailed included in the citations.


Works Cited

Beckwith, Ryan Teague. “Orlando Shooting: Read Donald Trump’s Speech.” Time. 13 June

2016. www.time.com/4367120/orlando-shooting-donald-trump-transcript/.

Montanaro, Domenico. “Hillary Clinton’s ‘Basket of Deplorables,’ In Full Context of This Ugly

Campaign.” NPR. 10 Sept. 2016, www.npr.org/2016/09/10/493427601/hillary