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6-12 > U.S. History

Presidential Speeches

A Few Choice Words

Select one of the presidential speeches listed on the Presidential Speeches Media Page. After listening carefully to the speech, answer the following questions. Present your findings to the class. You may even wish to compose your own speech in the style of the speech you selected.

  1. Who was the president’s audience for this speech?
  2. What were the main topics of the speech?
  3. Was this a persuasive speech? Did it summarize anything?
  4. If the president’s mood was detectable, what was it? Was humor incorporated into the speech? If so, how was it delivered? Was it appropriate? Was it funny? If not, how could humor have been effectively used in this speech?
  5. On which points did you agree with the president? On which points did you disagree? Defend your position.
  6. In your own words, state one principle or belief held by the president which was either implied or stated explicitly in the speech.
  7. Was there any “dated” information in the speech (i.e. references to historical events in the present tense). Is it possible to discern when the speech was made? Explain how someone might be able to determine the date of the speech just by listening to it.
  8. If applicable, describe an instance of over-generalization during the speech. Why would the president exaggerate?
  9. Is there an appeal to the emotions of the listener during the speech? Is this appeal effective? What purpose does it serve?
  10. Did the president quote anyone? If so, how was the quote used? Was it effectively placed?
  11. Does the president have a detectable accent? What words or phrases does he use that might be considered colloquialisms? Does this help or hinder the appeal of the president? Describe how the president uses voice inflection.

Reelection Simulation

Choose a political party and hold an election with the presidents featured in Modern Presidency Week as candidates.

  • Start by holding a nominating convention.
  • Once the candidates are chosen, organize a campaign with commercials, posters, speeches and debates.
  • For the culmination of the activity, invite other classes or other schools to vote for their favorite past president and celebrate by holding a mock re-inauguration.

Presidential Scavenger Hunt

Have each student choose a president from the week to research. Compile a class list of topics and facts about each president. Then, hold a trivia contest using the compiled list as the source for questions. Here are a few topics to get started:

  • Bank on it: the state of the U.S. economy during the chosen president’s term
  • Happenings: pivotal events which shaped the president’s decisions and actions
  • Formative years: the early life of the president
  • Political Resumés: the number of public offices held prior to election as president
  • Presidential Pull: descriptions of instances in which executive power was exercised to counteract the decisions of the legislature
Back to Presidential Media Page