Political Speech Analysis

20 02 2012

Sydney Thomas-Ware
February 20, 2012
Neo-Aristotelian Criticism

Over a year and half ago an epidemic broke out that spread like a wildfire. It wasn’t swine flu or polio; it’s not contagious nor was there a medical cure that could prevent it. This epidemic was seven consecutive suicides within several weeks amid teenagers who were bullied for being homosexual or perceived as gay or lesbian. Bullying amongst children and teenagers dates back centuries ago, but it wasn’t until 2010 that as a society we decided to say, “enough is enough.” There was a lot of media coverage on the suicides amongst the Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) youth, but it was two gay men Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller who decided to go viral with the message “It Gets Better.” In their video they talked about their lives growing up, being gay, how they were bullied, and how they got through their hard times as teenagers. Their video was promoting to the GLBT youth that life does get better after high school. After Dan and his partner posted their video a swarm of viral videos started cycling onto YouTube promoting the same message to the GLBT youth. What began as a video message of hope for the youth soon turned into a non-profit campaign called the It Gets Better Project. This project is an online community where you can view millions of it gets better messages from people all around the world spreading their love, hope and support to the GLBT youth and anyone who is contemplating suicide.
One video that received a lot of media coverage for his heartfelt message was Fort Worth, Texas councilman Joel Burns. During a city council meeting Joel Burns gave a personal and heart-wrenching message to the youth about the recent events occurring with the teen suicides. Barely able to finish his speech through the pain and tears, Burns spoke about his youth, being gay, bullied, his family, feeling unaccepted, and how he made it through all those hardships. His message was simple but how he delivered it and what he said touched the hearts of millions, receiving him over 27 million views on YouTube to date. The media plays a significant role in how politicians approach delivering a speech. The topic and how the media portrays the event affects how a politician will use the five canons to comment. It’s important for us to find answers about how the media affects a politician’s speech so that we can discover how the media affects how we portray politicians. Using the five canons from a Neo-Aristotelian criticism, I’ll be analyzing Joel Burns’ it gets better speech to demonstrate how the media affected his speech.
Before Joel Burn’s gave his speech on October 12, 2010, the It’s Gets Better Project and Dan Savage’s video had been posted several weeks earlier gaining a lot of media attention. Dan was being interviewed on top news networks, thousands of people all over the world including celebrities, politicians, and President Obama were beginning to post video messages on YouTube and the campaign’s website. The first canon Invention is what gave Joel Burns the courage to speak about the topic. Invention involves a speaker’s major ideas, lines of argument, or content. With the media success of the It Gets Better campaign already in motion this gave Joel Burns a reason to make his speech. Without the media coverage on the suicides and the success of the campaign Burns’ logos or rational evidence as to why he is speaking publicly on such a touchy issue would diminish. To begin his speech Burns displayed a picture of one of the seven teens that committed suicide, thirteen-year-old Asher Brown. As the picture displayed Burns told Asher’s story of how he was bullied in school and how his father found Asher dead with a gunshot wound to his head. Burns uses an inductive approach, telling specific stories of several of the recent teen suicides for evidence as to why he is speaking on the issue. The visual images that Burns displays tries to make his audience feel sympathetic to what is happening. It makes then question why would anyone want to bully such a sweet and smiling looking kid? The most important reason for the success of Burns’ speech is his form of ethos. Barely able to talk through some of his speech because of the emotion and tears, Burns generated a feeling on sympathy and sadness to his audience. In a part of his speech while trying to hold back his tears Burns said, “I think I’m going to have to hard of a time with the next couple of sentences that I wrote and also I don’t want my mother and father to bare the pain of having to… hear me say them.” By publicly showing his pain this created an emotional proof to his audience that Burns truly meaning what he has to say and he does know what these young GLBT teens are going through.
The next three canons Organization, Style and Memory aren’t as significant to Burns’ speech as the other canons are, but I’ll still discuss them for this criticism. Organization deals with the order in which a speaker presents their speech. Burns used the method of problem solution organization. At the beginning of his speech he states the problem in which he is addressing, which is the problem of bullying and teen suicides. He says in his speech, “teen bullying and suicides has reached an epidemic in our country especially among gay and lesbian youth, those perceived to be gay or kids who are just different.” As Burns continues his speech he discusses the solutions that we can do to stop the bullying and suicides. By telling his personal story of how he was bullied, gay, and how he made it through those adversities gave his audience the solution that things do get better. He uses himself as an example of how it’s possible to overcome the hardships of bullying and how life does get better after high school. “To those of you who are feeling very lonely tonight, please know that I understand how you feel. Things will get easier. Please stick around to make those happy memories for yourself.” Burns also provides the resources, thetrevorproject.org that people can go for support and to help stop the bullying and he also gives his own phone number that people can call for support or help.
Style deals with the form of language a speaker uses. Burns approaches this canon using a personal form of language. Being an openly gay city councilman and sharing his own story and struggles in his speech personalizes his message and lets his audience know that he can personally relate to what they’re going through. Through his tears Burns says, “I have never told this story to anyone before tonight. About my family, about my husband, about anyone, but the numerous suicides in recent days have upset me so much and have torn at my heart.” By making this statement he is showing his audience that he has the strength and courage to tell his story in front of other city councilmen, which distills in his audience that they can have the same strength and courage to talk to someone about their struggles instead of committing suicide. Using a personal approach breaks down the wall of Joel Burns being a city councilman just making a statement on recent events, and allows his audience to see him as someone who went through the same struggles as the teens who recently committed suicide. The canon memory involves how much of the speech the speaker memorizes. This canon doesn’t have that much significance because most speakers today don’t memorize their speeches. As Burns delivered his speech he mostly looked down at his paper and read what he wrote. In an interview he gave with Ellen Degeneres, Burns said that he wrote his speech the night before the council meeting and he didn’t practice once as to what he was going to say. With Burns reading straight from his paper and him saying himself that he didn’t practice what he was going to say gives proof that he didn’t memorize his speech.
What caused Joel Burns’ speech to become a viral success was his form of delivery. The final canon Delivery deals with the methods of how the speaker presents their speech and is the most important canon of Burns’ speech. Constantly moving in his seat, hesitating before making statements, slouching forward in his chair, having a hard time making eye contact, his face turning red, the weakening in his voice and his emotional crying and tears are all substantial reasons as to why Burns’ delivery is what gave him media attention. As a politician I’m sure that you need to have control over your emotions and personal beliefs when it comes to discussing certain issues, but for Burns this wasn’t the case. He even states, “and even though there may be some political repercussions for telling my story. This story is not just for the adults who choose or not choose to support me. This story is for the young people who might be holding that gun tonight, or the rope, or the pill bottle.” Burns was willing to accept the political repercussions just so that he could give his message. By letting everyone see how the recent suicides really pulled at his heart, left his audience with awareness that what he is talking about is an issue that needs to be paid attention too. If Burns’ wouldn’t have delivered his speech with as much emotion as he did I don’t think it would have caused as much up an uproar in the media as it did.
If it weren’t for the massive media coverage on bullying and the recent teen suicides as well as the success of Dan Savage’s video and the It Gets Better Project, Joel Burns probably wouldn’t have the courage or a good reasoning to give such an emotional speech during the city council meeting. Through his moving delivery, methods of invention, and great use of style, organization and memory made his it gets better message a viral sensation. His video created national news for himself landing him interviews on Ellen Degeneres, CNN, Good Morning America, and The Today Show. Burns’ video also raised awareness for teen bullying and suicides and also help promote the It Gets Better campaign and other resources out there helping to stop teen bullying.

For better reading view you can view this paper in my Google Docs

Its Been Awhile

13 02 2012

Its been awhile since I’ve been on WordPress because I’ve been living life…BUT NOW IM BACK. I’ll catch you all up to date on what I’ve been doing during my absence later…BUT FIRST. I must stop procrastinating and start homework!


17 04 2011

The MovieScores of my Life in College

13 04 2011

These are moviescore that I created for my senior presentation that represent what I went through each year I was a student at Slippery Rock University. I mashed up different sayings from a variety of movies to create a message of what I went through each year.

My Freshman Year

My Sophmore Year

My Junior Year

My Senior Year

Two Of My All Time Favorite Songs Just So Happen to Have the same Title!

11 04 2011

Skin Deep

6 04 2011


MY Love For Lady Gaga!!

31 03 2011

Ok! So Here it is people..My official post about Lady Gaga. Buckle your seatbelts because this is going to a blog entry that is going to take you on a journey. So people are constantly asking me why do you LOVE Lady Gaga soo much? What is it about Lady Gaga that makes you orgasm everytime we mention her name? Well I give them a sweet short answer saying something like ‘Because she is AMAZING.She is the BEST” but there is way more to the story I just didn’t have a half an hour to explain to them my love for Lady Gaga, so I’ve decided to try and explain it all in a blog. Some of it I may leave out because there is so much but lets start from the beginning…

When Lady Gaga first came out with “PokerFace” I couldn’t stand her!! (Im sorry Mother Monster) but anyways I couldnt stand her because I thought to myself “this is sooo stupid, this pokerface sh*t’ and the fact that the song was everywhere made me hate her even more. I didn’t get her fashion sense. I JUST DIDN’T GET IT all together. and when Lady Gaga came out I was freshman at Slippery Rock, so everyone and their mother was blasting the song, remixes where everywhere I just couldnt get away from this damn LADY GAGA!. Then I saw the “JUST DANCE” video. I liked the song and the video was fun, so I downloaded the song because it was a nice track to dance to. And if you know me, then you know that I love to dance. So for almost three years Just Dance was the ONLY Lady Gaga song that I had on any of my devices. I watched her videos and saw her at the award shows and I just thought she was an absolute lunatic. I thought she was doing all this fashion stunts and all this crazy stuff for paparrazzi. I didn’t think she could sing. I just tried to stay away from Lady Gaga as far as possible!!.

Then something happened. I think the heavens opened and  shined a light on me, opened my eyes or something, but one night in the summer of 2010 I was browsing YouTube and I decided to watch the Papparazzi Music Video..I don’t know what happened but something about that video hypnotized me because I watched that video I was like O.M.G. LADY GAGA!. I don’t know if it was the song, the way she looked, the video, the dance..I have no idea what it was but ever since I watch that video I’ve been hooked. After I watched the video I actually watch a CNN special that was on YouTube and they interview Lady Gaga. I was like a two and half hour segment and I watched every minute of it. I was so intrigued by Gaga’s philosphy on life, the way she spoke, her tea cup, how she appreciates her fans, what she does for the LGBTQ community. Just everything about her was memsmorizing that I just fell deeper and deeper in Love with Lady Gaga!. At that point I downloaded ALL of her music, even her unreleased tracks in one night. I wanted to know everything Lady Gaga was about, how to become a Lil Monster. EVERYTHING!.

   Then after more then several solo concerts of me singing in my room at the top of my lungs to Lady Gaga tracks while my cats meowed with me I decided to see if there were any more Lady Gaga Monster Ball tickets for sale for her Septemeber concert. At this point it was July and I was getting ready to go into my senior year at SRU. I asked my friends if anyone wanted to go the the Lady Gaga concert with me, but all my friends were like NO, NO NO, I dont have that type of money blah blah blah. and one of my bestfriends, who I would text EVERYDAY during my break about something about Lady Gaga asking her questions like “What’s your favorite Lady Gaga song? Do you want to have a Lady Gaga concert with me tonight? she was going to go, but I was like forget it I don’t need anyone I’ll go by myself. One thing that gave me the courage to just say “You know what I don’t need anyone”.Is Lady Gaga’s music. Her music is so empowering to be yourself, embrace your inner monster, go against what people think about you and just be yourself. and that’s what I did. People asked me why would you go to a concert by yourself. and I just said BECAUSE I WANTED TO GO, AND I DON’T NEED ANYONE TO HAVE A GOOD TIME! So I bought my ticket for her Feburary show, bc she decided to have another concert in Pittsburgh bc her September show sold out in like 5seconds. But anyways I bought my ticket for 200$ but I got a GREAT SEAT. I got a club level seat in the new Consol Energy Center in section 112 row D seat 20 (which is an end seat) Now before you go putting your panties in a bunch about a 200$ ticket, and for someone like me WHO IS VERY CHEAP. I had great reason for me of buying the ticket. My 1st reason was my new crazed obsession with Lady Gaga. 2nd I considered it an early graduation present for me because I was graduating a couple month later 3rd. I had the money 4th. I believe that there are some experiences that are priceless, and I knew that going go to the Lady Gaga concert by myself would be one of those PRICELESS experiences and trust me IT WAS…(but we’ll get back to that later.) Ok, So I buy my ticket and am SUPER EXCITED.I mean from July to January I talked to my mom constantly about how I can’t wait until the Lady Gaga concert. I mean atleast 5 times a month I mentioned the Lady Gaga concert either to my mother, my friends or anyone who would listen. Then when Febuary 1st 2011 caim around it was an everyday occurance of me mentioning something about Lady Gaga. I calmed myself down about the excitement by not trying to listen to her music and it help BUT THEN “BORN THIS WAY” came out and it was all down hill from there AGAIN!

  The first time I heard BORN THIS WAY I just wakened up, and I was getting ready for my first class of the day and I sat down at my MAC put my headphones on listened to the song, and half way through the song I was crying. YES I WAS CRYING.not just because I’m sensative and cry easily but because the WORDS and that song TOUCH MY HEART so much that it was overwhelming. Lady Gaga telling me to love myself.to be who I am. to not care what other people say.to dont be a drag just be a queen. EVERYTHING about that song I got completely and I was just in shock of how amazing that song was. I listened to it 3 times in a row, and was almost late for class because I kept listening to the song! When Born This Way came out. My Love went from here ALLLLL THE WAY to there!. I mean I knew that I will never be the same in a way after listening to the song, and honestly I havent. Then she primered at the GRAMMYS and did a performance of the song, and my LOVE for her just kept getting deeper and deeper. to the point were when someone just mention her name I would just gasp because I just love her THAT MUCH!. So Born This Way and the Grammy Performance all came out just a few weeks before GAGA would be in Pittsburgh. So I knew I had to do it big for the MonsterBall. I couldn’t JUST GO to the MonsterBall I had to dress up or do something. I had so many ideas going through my head, but the most practical one was making a jacket just like GAGA’s which will be the cover of the BORN THIS WAY Album. I was still in SRU when I got the idea, and I knew when I came home for the MonsterBall I would only have 2 Days to make the jacket, but guess what I DID IT.

  With a little help from my mom and sis, and creativity I made a BORN THIS WAY JACKET. and it looked AWESOME!. So the day of the MONSTERBALL it was hard to contain myself all day. I honestly can not explain EVERYTHING that happened at the MONSTERBALL because I swear on everything that I love. A Lady Gaga concert is something that you have to experience. You can’t talk about it in words. There’s just way to much. but what I can say is that at a Lady Gaga concert, Lady Gaga takes you to church and you stand there and praise her for everything that she gives to you at her concert” I mean every word that I say!. I tried so hard to get drunk and have a good time at the show, but I was on such a different high that after 4beers and 2mixs drinks I wasn’t even TIPSY. I was on this entire different high at the show that I couldn’t even GET drunk. I danced.shouted.screamed.laughed.cheered the entire show. It was THE BEST EXPERIENCED that I’ve ever had with myself. When I left that show I felt so changed. I Loved Myself More. I Loved People More. I Loved LIFE MORE. and I know you’re probably thinking..”ALL THIS FROM A LADY GAGA CONCER?T”

  YES!  I did get all that from a Lady Gaga concert. She gives SO MUCH TO HER FANS. AND SHE LOVES HER LIL MONSTERS SO MUCH, and you know that she is coming from a genuine honest sincere place when she says it. I Love Lady Gaga, but I know that She Loves Me SOO MUCH MORE!. May 23rd her new album BORN THIS WAY comes out and who knows what adventures that album will take me on. And then the BORN THIS WAY BALL is coming soon too!!. Im already saving up for it. and to be honest I don’t think that I will be able to go to a GAGA concert with anyone, the experience I had with myself was so overwhelming that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get the same feeling like that again if I went with someone. Going to a Lady Gaga is my own Private Get Away, surrounded by other Lil Monsters who are just like me.  So Here it is people. My explaination of my LOVE for my Mother Monster, My Lady Gaga!. You can laugh at me. Think Im crazy. Say what you want. I know who I am and who I love. and my Love for Lady Gaga will NEVER CHANGE. It will just grow and grow as long as she continues to make music. There’s so much more I can share with you but this is where I’m going to stop for now.

Love Yourself and your set because Baby You were Born This Way!,

Thank You for Reading,