Presidential candidates and presidents make lots of speeches. On the campaign trail a candidate will deliver her or his stump speech dozens of times, often multiple times a day. If a candidate wins his party’s nomination, he makes a formal acceptance speech on the last night of his party’s national convention. And if he’s fortunate enough to win the general election, he will make a victory speech (typically on election night) and deliver a formal inaugural address the day he’s sworn in as president. Once in office a president will make innumerable speeches to various audiences, but his most widely watched each year is usually his State of the Union address, in which he reflects on the state of the nation, outlines his administration’s accomplishments over the past year, and outlines his agenda for the year ahead.
For this assignment you will select two or more speeches by presidents or presidential candidates to compare and contrast in a comparison essay. Use one of the analytical approaches described below to help determine which speeches you will analyze. After you have selected an analytical approach and identified appropriate speeches to compare and contrast, use the compare-contrast graphic organizer to record the ideas you will include in your essay. Below are links to instructions for writing a comparison essay, to the compare-contrast graphic organizer, and to the rubric that your instructor will use to score your essay.
Instructions for writing a comparison essay
Compare-contrast graphic organizer
Compare-contrast essay rubric
Example: Obama stump speech vs. 2009 State of the Union address (video, text)
Example: Ronald Reagan’s 1984 nomination acceptance speech vs. Walter Mondale’s 1984 nomination acceptance speech
Example: FDR’s “Day of Infamy” speech vs. George W. Bush’s address before Congress on the U.S. response to the terrorist attacks of September 11
Example: Inaugural Addresses -- Washington’s first inaugural address, Grant’s first inaugural address, T. Roosevelt’s inaugural address, Wilson’s second inaugural address, Johnson’s inaugural address, George W. Bush’s first inaugural address
Example: John Kerry’s 2004 nomination acceptance speech vs. George W. Bush’s 2004 acceptance speech
American Presidency Project Resources
American Presidency Project audio & video from Hoover to Obama (includes various speeches)
The New York Times: 2008 stump speeches & nomination acceptance speeches (video & text)
The New York Times Interactive: Inaugural Addresses from 1789-present
Other Interesting Websites
National Constitution Center: Write a six-word stump speech
New Yorker article: "The Speech: Have Inaugural Addresses been getting worse?"