Monday, April 30, 2012

Joseph Kerwin's e-Portfolio

My name is Joseph Kerwin and I am currently an undergraduate at the Pennsylvania State University. I am enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts with a double major in Political Science and History. I am a member of the Nittany Lion Battalion as well, Penn State’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps unit. My goals are to serve in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard as an infantry officer and to attend the Dickinson School of Law at the Pennsylvania State University.

Being a student in LA 101H: Civics and Rhetoric, I became accustom to creating rhetoric as well as absorbing rhetoric into my academic mindset. LA101H gave me the tools to be able to take rhetorical situations and break them down to understand what makes rhetoric effective in persuading or forming opinions and distributing information. When I first began LA101H at the beginning of the Spring 2012 semester, I had a very general understanding of the importance of rhetoric and I did not understand how to create my own rhetoric.

As the course progressed though I was able to fully grasp the importance of both distributing and consuming rhetoric. I understood how concepts such as ethos, pathos, and kairos were effectively employed in writing as well as speech. I also learned how to decipher everything from advertisements to political rhetoric to understand what made these items so essential in disseminating information and forming as well as solidifying opens. Slowly I learned the components of rhetorical situations and how to effectively employ them in my own writing strategies. I was also able to further my speaking skills by preparing for and delivering to speeches in front of a live audience. Understanding how to deliver a message verbally is just as necessary as being able to write the rhetorical message on a piece of paper.

Without taking LA101H: Civics and Rhetoric, I would have been completely ignorant to how rhetoric is used and how it I witness its use everyday throughout all sectors of society. I now understand the major parts that form rhetorical situations and how to use these parts when developing my own rhetoric whether through speech or writing.
Link to Joseph Kerwin's e-Portfolio

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Rhetoric of a Killing

This is it! The last  post of the semester for Rhetoric and Civic life….we have conquered the multimedia project this week and made it to our last post. This week I would like to throw my input in on the rhetorical situation that the Trayvon Martin killing has created.  The slaying of the seventeen year old Martin has split the nation and caused an uproar about everything from gun control to racism. The background to the incident is that George Zimmeran, a Hispanic neighborhood watchman with a tendency to call 911 a lot, drew down on seventeen year old, un-armed Trayvon Martin with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol and killed him after running home him down. There is much that surrounds this incident so I am not going to post my opinion, I just want to show the rhetorical effect it has.
Riot have erupted after the shooter, Zimmerman claimed self defense. People across the country are infuriated that seventeen year old Martin was killed. Many think it was because he was an African American and he just looked “the wrong way”.
Politicians have seized the kairos of the situation to push for gun control and to advocate for their own personal policies that they want to see placed into law. A tragic event like this is the perfect trigger for politicians to try to enact legislation.  The symbol of Skittles and a container of ice tea along with a hooded sweatshirt have been the symbol of Trayvon Martin’s unfortunate death.
Representative Bobby Rush took special care to use the kairos of this situation by donning a hooded sweatshirt to make a statement about racial profiling in America. Rep. Rush used the sweatshirt to show that anybody can where a hooded sweatshirt whether they are black or white and that does not make them a killer or criminal.
The killing of Trayvon Martin goes to show how rhetoric whether involving crime, guns, or racism can get the people of this country upset and ready to take action. This event also shows that even the highest echelons of government will act after an event at a local level occurs.


"A Guide To The Trayvon Martin Killing | TPMMuckraker." TPMMuckraker. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Apr. 2012. <>.
"Rep. Bobby Rush's Hoodie Moment Recalls His Own Family Tragedy : It's All Politics : NPR." NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Apr. 2012. <>.
the. "Lawyers: Zimmerman whispered 'punks' before shooting Trayvon Martin -" - Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Apr. 2012. <>.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Convincing and Motivating the People

This week in LA 101H we discussed how to effectively persuade an audience in a rhetorical situation but we also talked about the difference between convincing and motivating an audience through a persuasive speech or essay. Convincing and motivating an audience are two very different areas when it comes to getting a persuasive opinion across. I found it very interesting how a speaker needs to work hard to not only convince an audience to accept an idea but also motivate the audience to take action and become inspired to take up the cause. I also found interesting how our class explored the factors that make up a good persuasive argument and persuade the audience to accept the idea. I never knew that there were two types if persuasion, I always thought that convincing and motivating were one in the same.
We examined several speeches to understand how to get the “crowd pumped up” or so to speak. To successful complete both the essay and speech portion of our assignment, we will need to speak and write with conviction and strive to motivate our audience to take up the challenge of our “struggle”.  When searching YouTube for motivational persuasive speeches, one can find countless examples of quality speeches. I have included several speeches for the class to examine and get an even better feel for what a persuasive speaker and possible writer tries to convey in his or her work. Check out this speech about gay marriage, the speaker uses emotion and appeal about the rights of gay people to motivate the audience.

A quality speaker will have the ability to sell even the dullest of ideas to his or her audience. Not all opinions and ideas used in a persuasive speech are shocking or controversial; some ideas are not known to the people and if they were not brought to the forefront most people would not care. Both logos and ethos are important in the persuasive process. Logos and ethos are imperative in getting the central idea across to the audience.
I have included some samples of speeches as well as tips on how to conduct a successful persuasive speech.
Videos obtained

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The effect images and font have on our opinions

Everything from images to font size and style can influence a person’s decision to look further into a topic or item. This week in class we explored how we can acquire different feelings or vibes from different styles of writing or unique images. Everybody can agree that an automatic feeling of seriousness can be associated with a professional font like Times New Roman or a light hearted, humorous approach can be taken with the font style, Comic Sans. Our own unique perceptions on an image or phrase can affect how we interpret a message, for instance, in a campaign ad or written slogan using different fonts or images.

For example different fonts can convey different opinions:




 Also an image of the president smoking a cigarette while wearing casual clothing will be taken differently than image of the American president signing an important piece of legislation into law with a fresh suit and tie on. When we see the picture of President Obama smoking, this seemingly innocent action (tons of people smoke, right) turns the President into some kind of super villain.  Seeing the President smoke, at least for me, does not convey a positive image. President Obama’s critiques have used this image to their advantage to show that the President is malicious and irresponsible because of his smoking habits.
                The second image of President Obama signing a bill, portrays a positive image. This picture shows President Obama working hard on a bill as other people look on in approval. This image can be used to make President Obama look like a good leader because he is diligently working at a piece of legislation that could possibly help out the American people. Critics can not argue with the picture of Obama working hard because the picture does not offer any leverage for criticism.

Images obtained from

Both of these images can be used to convey different messages about the president to certain groups of people. They both have different meanings, one is meant to cast a negative light while the other seeks to put the president in a positive light.
Check out some of these links for negative and positive images. Describes How a US Marine used images and words to negatively display the President and his works. In this New York Times article, positive images are explored in advertising and how companies use them to sell products.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Information and Citing

When trying to get rhetoric across for a certain point or idea, one must back up his or her ideas with solid and reliable information. This information must be accurate and acknowledged by others as true to be used to write a speech or essay. The author of the speech or essay must also make sure that he or she properly cites the information so a charge of plagiarism cannot be made towards the author. As we begin our multimedia group projects in LA 101H, our group must make sure to properly cite information and give credit where credit is due. Plagiarism is a serious violation of academic honesty that can destroy a student’s grade point average as well as his or her academic record and cost countless opportunities.
This week in class we learned how to use library databases and how to make sure sources were properly cited. Learning how to research and cite will be an important part of carrying out the “History of a Conversation” project. Making sure you have adequate amounts information will be paramount in creating a quality multimedia presentation and project. Also, our groups will need to be sure to always cite and give proper credit to all information that is obtained through other sources.
When a person tries to establish a rhetorical point and disseminate information, one cannot just go off of what he or she knows but the author needs to incorporate others ideas into our work to make the point clear and concise and understandable to an audience. Whether it be a book about ancient Egyptian history or a English textbook, the author always tries to use other sources of information to get their thesis across. The author also has to acknowledge where this information comes from.
Every good speech, paper, essay, story etc. is written not only with what the author knows but also with what the author is able to find through diligent research in digital and text sources.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Controversy, do you like it?

Controversy is all around us, it can come in big forms from gun control, abortion, and gay rights and it can also come in small forms like should students be required to take standardized tests or should we have to worry about brain cancer from the radiation in our cell phones. In LA101H, we are about to begin our “History of a Controversy” multimedia projects. This project will certainly be interesting since it is the first time we have worked in groups this semester and we will also be using substantial amounts of technology to complete this assignment.  
What makes a controversy stand out? Why do people get so upset over controversies? The answer is simple controversies are caused when the values and ideals of people clash and one group thinks they have the moral high ground over another group. Well that’s at least what I think controversy is. We are going to explore the rhetorical situations that controversy presents and how to address a controversy. We will also look into the two opposing sides of a controversy. Today in America, we see controversy and debate everywhere from presidential candidates to the lowest levels of civil arguments.
Controversies can be found in our lives as college students too. For instance how do we feel about the tuition hikes Penn State is supposed to receive? Some of us may be very angry and want to riot while others may not mind paying more for a quality education. We also can experience controversy on even the smallest level like arguing with your roommate over what television show, Family Guy or American Dad, is better. I actually had this argument with my roommate. I have also included in this post a controversy that is on the other level of importance. The controversy is over California’s Proposition 8 which bans gay marriage. Check it out, see what makes a controversy.
Link to Prop 8 debate:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Get ready to succumb to persuasion!

Persuasion. We are subject to it every single day no matter where we go. It is present everywhere in our country today. Companies, organizations, politicians, celebrities, and your friends all are trying to persuade you to do activities or purchase something or invest your precious time into doing something. America is full of persuasive speech and advertisement in the media, television, and everyday life. What makes a good persuasive argument? What makes you want to partake in something that you would not normally do? What sells that product to you over anything else you might buy?
These questions are trivial in figuring out how somebody buys something. I see persuasive tactics everywhere I go whether it is in a store or something else like an amusement park or political advertisements. I am not easily persuaded into buying frivolous things unless the salesman or the advertisement makes an irresistible offer. Most Americans are like me and need to be completely sold on an item before they spend their hard earned money on the said item.  A great example of a persuasive tactic is trying to draw somebody by promising them that an item, whether it be a deodorant or drink, will automatically make them popular and draw members of the opposite sex closer.
Let’s take a look at the persuasiveness of an Axe commercial now that we are on deodorants. In this commercial the producers use the situation of one man who lures thousands of beautiful women in with several quick sprays of Axe deodorant is aerosol form. Wow pretty persuasive, eh? I would say so this ad uses persuasiveness to appeal to man’s greatest weakness women. The commercial is basically saying no matter what you look like use Axe, it will bring the women to you in droves!

I find the persuasive rhetorical techniques used in this commercial as well as many other commercials completely ridiculous but yet they work. People are willing to buy an item just to try to relive the moment that the commercial or advertisement promises. link for the axe commercial.