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Critical Essay: 5-7 page rhetorical criticism
Task: You have three options for speaker analysis: 1) Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “Verbal assault against women not
new. And that is the problem” (July 23, 2020); 2) President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Ukraine) “Can You Only Imagine?”
(March 15, 2022)3) President Ronald Reagan “Normandy Speech: Ceremony Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the
Normandy Invasion, D-Day” (June 6, 1984).
In this essay, you are responsible for exploring how the speech builds an argument and influences an audience using
various strategies. Pay attention to the way language and visual rhetoric help reflect and create reality. You will need to do
additional research about the topic and rhetor for this assignment. There are three main questions you should answer in
1. What is the relationship between the rhetoric and its context?
2. How does the message construct a particular reality for the audience and the rhetor?
3. What does the rhetoric suggest about the rhetor?
Be creative in your analysis; ultimately this paper must present an argument about what the text does. Fully research and
support the claims you make throughout your paper. Be sure to clearly state your position and support it by making sense
of why the rhetor made the choices s/he did, or why the text did (or did not) have an effect, or how the text participates in
a larger set of symbolic actions.
Assignment Due Dates: Peer edit drafts due Thursday, April 21 at 5pm on Moodle; first submission for grade due May 3
at 5pm on Moodle; final revisions due May 12 at 5pm. As an advanced writing course, students are required to hand in
drafts of a paper, with major revisions and edits completed for the final paper. You will be graded for both content and
writing skills. Your final paper grade for the critical essays is an average of the content and writing grades for drafts and
final revisions. Rewrites are mandatory unless you have earned an “A” or “A-“on your first draft. Any second-draft paper
that is turned back into the professor without major revisions will receive an “F.” In other words, you cannot just reprint
the same paper and turn it in the second time assuming you will get the same grade as you did on the first draft.
Things to remember for this paper:
• A complete bibliography must be included in your essay (using the MLA style for all citations). Number your
pages, use proper documentation, and above all, edit your work!
• Be aware of sentence and paragraph structure, vague use of pronouns (this, that, we, our, you, it), and the use of
contractions. Every paper needs a thesis statement; you do not necessarily need to write your research question in
a question format. Refer to Hacker’s Pocket Style Manual to help with your writing.
• Late papers will not be accepted for any reason.
Honor Code Pledge It is expected that all students enrolled in this class support the letter and the spirit of the Academic
Honesty Policy as stated in the college catalog. “Dishonest conduct includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarism,
unauthorized collaboration, forgery, and alteration of records, along with any lying, deceit, bribery, coercion, or
intimidation for the purpose of influencing a grade or for any other academic gain.”
Clark Learning Center:
The Learning Center professional and student staff offer several different services to help you strengthen your
strategies for academic success. Located in 103 Feinberg Library (1st floor), students are able to make an
appointment with a writing tutor to discuss assignments for CMM 416. Walk-in appointments are also available
at specific times. Phone: (518) 564-6138/Email: email@example.com. The Learning Center writing tutors
will be available for remote tutoring via Zoom. You may also contact the online tutoring via STAR-NY
(https://www.starny.org/tutoring_schedule). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Spring 2022 Dr. Kirsten Isgro
Writing A Critical Essay ala Dr. Sonja Foss
Dr. Sonja Foss gives detailed instructions as to the procedure one can use to write a rhetorical critique:
1. Introduction: Offer the reader a captivating introduction. Discuss the contribution of your essay to our
understanding of the importance of rhetoric. Provide a clear thesis in the first two paragraphs.
2. A description of the artifact/speech and its context (e.g. who is the rhetor, what is the occasion, who is the
audience?). You will need to do outside research for this section.
3. A description of the central theme of the speech and the main argument the speaker makes. What concepts
from Rhetoric in Civic Life will be helpful in your analysis? Be sure to cite specific pages/themes from the
4. A report of the findings of the analysis (draw on your own research to help analyze the speech).
5. Conclusion: Discussion of the contribution the analysis makes to our understanding of the importance of
rhetoric and politics in contemporary United States.
6. Works Cited page must include Rhetoric in Civic Life and any additional sources used. Use MLA format for
in-text citations and reference page.
Spring 2022 Dr. Kirsten Isgro
ESSAY GRADING CRITERIA
Synopsis of Speech, Rhetorical
Situation and Rhetor
Coherence and Organization
Clear thesis that addresses topic, introduction
that catches your reader’s attention and prepares
them for your paper. A solid thesis statement
reveals an aspect of the speech you will be
A brief synopsis of the presentation, describing
the speaker, date, audience, topic, rhetorical
Original thinking and synthesis; sufficient
evidence and examples that student understands
rhetorical analysis, using course readings to
frame the analysis.
Well formulated conclusion that synthesizes not
summarizes. Again, demonstrates a full
understanding of course concepts about rhetoric.
Organized and coherent paragraphs, logical
progression, smooth transitions between
paragraphs and ideas
_____ / 10
______ / 25
______ / 10
______ / 20
Grammar, punctuation and spelling. Formal
language, interesting style, avoidance of slang,
mixed metaphors, and clichés
Accurate in-text citation of (MLA or APA style).
Bibliography that includes citations from
Rhetoric in Civic Life, speech, + any other
Paper is within assigned 5-7 page limits with the
proper font size and margins
Spring 2022 Dr. Kirsten Isgro
______ / 10
______ / 5
_____ / 100
7 April 2022
The speech that I am interested in researching and analyzing is Can You Imagine by
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The speech was delivered on the 15th of March 2022 through video to the parliament of
Canada. The speech was deliberately delivered by the president of Ukraine to the Canadian
parliament to convince them to increase sanctions against the Russian government and its
supporters who have been identified as the Russian oligarchs. The speech was given almost three
weeks after Russia started invading Ukraine on 24th February 2022. According to the Ukrainian
president, increasing sanctions will cripple the Russian government and affect the continuation
of the war. The speaker says that Russia will not have the important dollars to fund the war it has
started. The main point that the speaker tries to argue here is that Russia has various assets and
money spread across the world. Therefore, by freezing all the Russian government assets
including those oligarchs that support President Putin’s war efforts, nothing will be available to
continue supporting the war activities. The speaker goes to the length of detailing all the impacts
that war has already caused in less than one month. He puts the Ukrainian situation into the
context of the Canadian people.
Additional research that I might need to understand the rhetorical situation is finding out
the volume of assets that Russia has in Canada and other countries. This will help in
understanding how sanctions will help Ukraine win the war or Russia lose it or even stop due to
the financial ramifications. Normally, wars are very costly. They require massive amounts of
money to support logistical operations. It is also important to understand whether Russia can feel
the impact of sanctions. Up to now, the sanctions that have been implemented have done nothing
but affect the world economy. Fuel shortage is being felt across the world due to the war. Since
Russia produces a significant volume of petroleum, sanctions have had a ripple effect.
Initial Reaction to the Speech
My initial reaction to the speech is a pity. The way President Zelenskyy presents the
problems and situation of Ukraine to the Canadian parliament makes me imagine the problems of
war and pity the people of Ukraine. The idea that Russia is not only attacking the Ukrainian
military but also targeting and killing children is shocking and inhumane. According to the
speaker, by 15th February, 97 innocent children had been killed. He says that Ukrainians are in a
state of constant fear and alert not knowing when and where the next bomb will hit. Schools,
hospitals, and memorial places where people could hide are bombed. This means that Russian
forces are directly targeting and killing civilians. I imagine being in the same situation and I fear
despite being far away from Ukraine.
Some of the aspects of the speech that are interesting include the emotionally convincing
language used by Zelenskyy. There is also the use of imagination and situational comparison. He
explains that Russia attacked his country and threatened its sovereignty. There is nothing as
important to independent countries as sovereignty. It is a shared principle among progressive
countries. Although Ukraine is not yet a member state of NATO whose aim is to stand for each
other, Zelenskyy tries to convince them to at least sanction Russia. They cannot join the war. He
also says that Canada has been a good friend to Ukraine but needs to do more by sanctioning
Russia. It is a powerful and interesting rallying cry in the speech. Another interesting thing is the
comparison of the situation in Ukraine to other countries. He asks questions including what
Canada could have done if another country invaded it and killed innocent people. To me, this is
an interesting way of making the audience understand the situation and do what the speaker
wants them to do.
Can You Only Imagine? March 15, 2022. https://prorhetoric.com/can-you-only-imagine/?
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