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Raging Rhetoric

Harnessing the Political Power of Words

Presidential candidates know that it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Advisers and speechwriters shape their statements for maximum effect.

A vendor sells pins to supporters of Democratic contender Hillary Clinton at a May 26, 2016, rally in San Jose, Calif., shortly before that state's primary.

Sheila Fitzgerald/iStockPhoto
A vendor sells pins to supporters of Democratic contender Hillary Clinton at a May 26, 2016, rally in San Jose, Calif., shortly before that state's primary.

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OBJECTIVE: Students will be able to identify, analyze and evaluate rhetorical techniques that presidential candidates use, with a focus on political slogans.

MATERIALS: Copies of the case study handout, one per student (download); Organizing Evidence worksheet, one per group (download); access to case study artifacts; NewseumED Pinterest board of related resources (optional)


  1. Ask students how they hear about campaign news? What sources do they use for updates on the candidates and election events?
  2. This case study is one of four in the Campaign Messages section of the EDCollection that looks at communication strategies in speeches, news coverage, ads and all-encompassing campaign trail events. Explain that the case study they will be looking at will raise questions about the strengths and weaknesses of each source for the public.
  3. Read the Explore the Debate question aloud and/or write it on the board. Read them the overview that sets the scene for group work. Tell them they will use historical and contemporary examples to reach a consensus in small groups on an answer to the debate question.
  4. Pass out copies of the case study and the Organizing Evidence worksheet. Have the groups read each of the four Election Essentials and use the Questions to Consider to help guide the discussion. They should complete sections 1 and 2 on the worksheet.
  5. Have the students look at the Pages From History artifacts for the case study on and complete section 3 on the worksheet. Give the groups 15 minutes to collect and organize information to formulate evidence-supported arguments for their answer to the debate question. (If time is an issue, skip the artifacts or assign as homework.)
  6. Ask the groups to share their conclusions and reasoning. You may want to use the Questions to Consider again to push and expand the debate.

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Overview PDF DOC
Worksheets PDF DOC
Extensions PDF DOC
Full Packet PDF DOC

To request a large print or Braille version, call 202.292.6650.

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