Lecture Series

Each year the RL program sponsors a nationally-known scholar of rhetoric -- the study and analysis of how symbols (e.g., speeches, visuals, letters, memos, social protest, opinion pieces, web postings) influence people and so exercise power -- to address an aspect of leading people through language and arguments rather than formal authority.


Morris with a bronze Lincoln

Upcoming 2013 Lecture

Join us for this year's Rhetorical Leadership Lecture on Friday, April 19, from 2:00-3:15 in Merrill 131. Professor Charles E. Morris III (Syracuse University) will present "Sunder the Children: Abraham Lincoln's Queer Rhetorical Pedagogy. Chuck Morris is Professor of Communication and Rhetorical Studies at Syracuse University. His research interests include rhetorical criticism, queer studies, and public memory. After the lecture, everyone is invited to a no-host social hour at North Star Bistro. Contact Kathryn Olson at 229-4261, kolson@uwm.edu. Photos of the 2013 event.

See event flier (PDF)

Modern inquisition posterOn March 11, 2011, Professor Catherine Palczewski, delivered the Rhetorical Leadership lecture “Taming Women’s Embodied Argument: The Transgressive Potential of Suffrage Advocates’ Body Argument and Social Responses of Recuperation.” She argued that, although the rhetorical enactment of political leadership by suffrage advocates' body argument played a powerful role in winning the vote and reconfiguring meanings of citizenship, it did not proceed unanswered. The answers came not only through overt responses on the part of opposing rhetors, but also through dispersed reactions in the popular culture. Much as the infamous “Don’t tase me, bro” video domesticated police brutality by making it appear funny or merely a prank, Dr. Palczewski analyzed how postcard images of police reactions to woman suffrage protestors made police brutality against them funny and contained the oppositional potential presented by their protesting, hunger striking, and suffering bodies. Her insights are relevant to contemporary political protests based on the “massing of bodies ” and she challenges the notion that humor tends to be politically benign or progressive. Access the lecture.

Dr. Palczewski is Professor of Communication and Affiliate of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Northern Iowa. She is also the 2010 NCA Women’s Caucus Francine Merritt Award winner and publishes in journals including Quarterly Journal of Speech, Argumentation & Advocacy, and Women & Language. Photos of the 2011 event.


John M. MurphyIn February, 2010, John M. Murphy, Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Illinois presented a lecture entitled "Barack Obama, the Joshua Generation, and Political Leadership." Professor Murphy argued that Barack Obama is unprecedented. Not only has an African American never before been elected to the presidency, but Obama did not possess the sort of military, political, or cultural experience that might have automatically qualified him for the office in the eyes of Americans. Murphy showed how Obama rhetorically adapted a powerful religious narrative, the Exodus story, and the roles available within it to assert his ability to lead the nation. In a series of speeches, Obama defined himself as a Joshua, Moses' successor, poised to lead Americans into the new millennium. In turn, Murphy claimed, citizens renewed their covenant as American citizens when they elected him president of the United States.

Professor Murphy's research focuses on American public address, with specialties in presidential rhetoric, the liberal tradition, and the Civil Rights movement. He is winner of the national Golden Anniversary Monograph Award and is a regular contributor to such select journals as Rhetoric & Public Affairs and Quarterly Journal of Speech. Murphy is especially well known for his work on the rhetoric of the Kennedys, Bill Clinton, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Photos of the 2010 event.


Martin J. Medhurst

Professor Martin J. Medhurst delivered the 2008-9 Rhetorical Leadership Lecture entitled "Presidential Speechwriting and the Nomination Acceptance Address, 1932-2004" on September 25, 2008. His lecture examined the formal, functional, and stylistic dimensions of acceptance addresses across 72 years in order to identify the ways in which presidential speechwriters have influenced the creation, development, and generic expectations of this staple of political discourse. Professor Medhurst argued that acceptance addresses are a transitional form that draws from the candidate's rhetorical past while creating space for a new rhetorical future.

Professor Medhurst is Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Communication and Professor of Political Science at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. His research centers on studies of rhetoric and the presidency with additional specialties in Cold War and religious rhetoric. He is the author or editor of eleven books and more than 75 articles or chapters. He is founder and editor of the journal Rhetoric & Public Affairs and of a scholarly book series of the same title published by Michigan State University Press. Professor Medhurst has earned numerous awards, including the National Communication Association's Distinguished Scholar Award and its Golden Anniversary Monograph Award. Photos of the 2008 event.


Professor Parry-Giles

The 2007-8 Rhetorical Leadership Lecture entitled "Mediating Hillary Rodham Clinton: The News Media as Arbiters of Political Authenticity" was given by Professor Shawn J. Parry-Giles on April 16, 2008. Dr. Parry-Giles is Professor of Communication and Director of the Center for Political Communication and Civic Leadership at the University of Maryland. Her research centers on the study of rhetoric and politics. This lecture drew on research for a book project examining the U.S. news media's coverage of Hillary Rodham Clinton as First Lady from 1992 through her U.S. Senate campaign in 2000 culminating in her bid for the presidency in 2008.

Professor Parry-Giles is the author or co-author of three books: The Prime-Time Presidency: The West Wing and U.S. Nationalism, Constructing Clinton: Hyperreality and Presidential Image-Making in Postmodern Politics, and The Rhetorical Presidency, Propaganda, and the Cold War, 1945-1955. Her research has garnered numerous awards, including the Eastern Communication Association's Everett Lee Hunt Award. She regularly publishes in top journals for political rhetoric and was guest co-editor for a special issue of Rhetoric & Public Affairs on Campaign 2004. Parry-Giles also serves as Co-Project Director for Voices of Democracy: The U.S. Oratory Project and co-edits the on-line academic journal Voices of Democracy. Photos from the 2007 event.


Bonnie Dow

Professor Bonnie Dow, Associate Professor of Communication and Women's and Gender Studies at Vanderbilt University, delivered the 2006-7 Rhetorical Leadership Lecture. The lecture, entitled "Rhetorical Leadership, Movements, and Media: The Difficult Case of 1970s Feminism in the U.S.," was delivered on March 28, 2007. Professor Dow's research interests include rhetoric and representation of the first and second waves of feminism in the United States. This lecture drew on research for her new book tentatively titled Framing Feminism: Television News and the Women's Liberation Movement.

Professor Dow is the author of Prime-Time Feminism: Television, Media Culture, and the Women's Movement Since 1970, which won the prestigious Winans-Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address as well as awards from the Organization for the Study of Communication, Language, and Gender and the Popular Culture/American Culture Association. She recently co-edited (with Julia T. Wood) The Sage Handbook of Gender and Communication and co-edited The Aunt Lute Anthology of U.S. Women Writers, Volume One: 17th-19th Centuries. Professor Dow also has served as co-editor (with Celeste Condit) of both Critical Studies in Media Communication and Women's Studies in Communication. Photos of the 2006 event.


James R. Andrews

In February, 2005, Professor James R. Andrews of Indiana University presented "Rhetorical Leadership and the Struggle for an Ethical Culture." This lecture was based on the premise that civic and social values are largely shaped by history, tradition, sacred texts, and practical experience -- all of which are interpreted and negotiated through the art of rhetoric. Therefore, Professor Andrews argued, rhetorical leadership can be said to have played a singular role in defining the shifting, elusive "American identity" as well as the ethical code that both molds and reflects this identity. He developed these ideas and their implications for an ethical society using the illustrations of the 1963 March on Washington and President Woodrow Wilson's position on issues of race.

Professor Andrews, who is Professor Emeritus of Communication and Culture, American Studies, and Victorian Studies, is the author or co-author of seven books and scores of essays, many of which focus on the historical-critical investigation of American and British public discourse. His other research interests include the role of rhetoric in forming an "American" national identity and rhetoric and imperialism. The National Communication Association has honored Professor Andrews with the NCA Distinguished Scholar, the Douglas Ehninger Distinguished Rhetorical Scholar, and the Winans-Wichelns Award. He also earned the Paul Boase Prize for Scholarship, a lifetime achievement award. Photos of the 2005 event.


G. Thomas Goodnight

On March 17, 2004, Professor G. Thomas Goodnight of University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communication presented the inaugural lecture entitled "Rhetoric and Risk: Problems, Puzzles and Paradoxes." He argued that the concept of risk structures public argument in the modern age. Professionals have to communicate with the client, institutional, and public levels to help people and institutions avoid, cope with, or change the nature of hazards. Before we can "manage" risk, Goodnight said, we must understand the role and flexibility of "risk" in contemporary public discourses. His presentation explored the communication strategies of initiative and containment and the challenges that they present. The examples used to illustrate centered on post-9/11 proof standards in discourse regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction and terrorist attacks.

Professor Goodnight publishes widely on argumentation and the public sphere, rhetorical theory, history and criticism, and argumentation and foreign policy debates. He has won the National Communication Association's prestigious Woolbert and Golden Anniversary Monograph Awards for his scholarship. In 1999, the American Forensic Association named him one of the top five scholars in argumentation for the latter half of the 20th century. He has edited the journal Argumentation and Advocacy. Photos of the 2004 event.