Verbal persuasion is an empowering skill. If you know how to speak persuasively, you can shine both professionally and personally. There is nothing quite like the feeling of speaking well and being heard.
This blog, and our book, “Tongue-Tied America: Reviving the Art of Verbal Persuasion,” examine how rhetoric works. We are law school professors from the University of Virginia who teach advocacy, rhetoric, and negotiations. But our interest in oratory is not limited to the world of lawyers. We believe that anyone can — and should — learn to speak effectively.
Verbal persuasion also plays an essential role in the proper functioning of a healthy democracy. Government “by the people” requires that the people be involved — that they possess some basic understanding of how to speak to one another, and how to evaluate what others are saying. Debate — even sometimes contentious, unpleasant debate — is the way we hash out ideas.
The 2016 presidential campaign season is upon us, offering the perfect laboratory for examining the inner workings of verbal persuasion. The party conventions, political debates and various campaign speeches are exercises in rhetoric. The candidates and their supporters will try to persuade you of the wisdom of their positions; you may engage in a little political debate of your own with friends and family. If you understand rhetoric, you will be better positioned to evaluate the political campaigning that you hear, and to make successful arguments yourself.
What can you learn about rhetoric from the 2016 presidential race? Has this race changed all the rules? Our answer: No.
From time to time, we will offer rhetorical analysis on this blog. The point of this exercise is not to express opinions about the candidate’s political positions; instead, we will evaluate how the candidates express and explain their ideas.
Molly Shadel spoke to NBC29 news about the rhetoric of the first Presidential debate. You can watch the interview here.
In the midst of protests at the American embassy in Egypt and violence on the American embassy in Libya that left four people dead, including the American ambassador, Mitt Romney made news of his own. He spoke out about what he described as the Obama administration’s reaction to the crisis, pointing to a release by the American embassy in Egypt. His statements have gotten him into trouble, illustrating the importance of accuracy to effective rhetoric. …
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There were a number of rhetorically powerful appeals that aired before prime time that are worth watching:
Molly Bishop Shadel and Robert Sayler, authors of Tongue-Tied America spoke March 23rd on the topic of effective public speaking.
In their presentation Shadel and Sayler give several examples of poor public speaking taken from recent Republican primary stump speeches. They then follow with examples of many great speeches including the one in which Lou Gehrig moved a nation with his speech about the disease that now bears his name. You will learn why “It’s a bird, it’s a plane it’s Superman!” is so memorable. Learn how presidential candidate Al Gore transformed himself from a poor to an excellent speaker. And, you’ll hear Robert Kennedy speak on the night Marten Luther King was assassinated.
An audio recording of the presentation is available on the Charlottesville Podcasting Network, and video is available on Vimeo.
Professor Shadel spoke today to the Insurance Law Forum of the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia. The topic was effective communication skills for female lawyers. In her speech, titled “Advocacy and Gender: Women, Speech and Power,” Professor Shadel discussed gendered behaviors women may exhibit while speaking in public.
More information can be found at the DC Bar web site.
Professor Molly Shadel will be available for live Q&A after an encore presentation of a public speaking course she presented last October. The course, titled Public Speaking and Oral Advocacy: How To Do It Well! was originally presented live via webcast for ALI-ABA. The course qualifies for CLE credit. Visit the course page at ALI ABA to sign up.
Tongue-Tied America has been confirmed to be released to the public in February 2011. The book will be available at select bookstores and Amazon.com. Free copies will be available for teaching faculty. Please fill out our contact form to learn more.