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.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Make a good thesis statement!

Whether you are a politician, lobbyist, commercial designer or a college student who has to deliver a speech, you must be able to appeal to your audience. Starting with an attention grabbing thesis is a great way to capture your target audience’s attention. When preparing a speech, the speaker needs to keep his or her audience in mind and make sure he or she has a perfectly crafted thesis statement.
One of the biggest flaws a speaker can have is not being able to hold the audience’s attention. I am talking about this topic because in less than a week our class will begin to give speeches about commercials. I for one am nervous about this undertaking so I thought I would write about an important facet of public speaking—using a solid thesis to grab the listeners’ attention.
Not only will a well prepared, well thought out thesis be imperative to a grabbing an audience’s attention, it will also help them understand the point you are trying to get across. In class, we looked at several examples of written speeches. With the good speeches we were able to quickly understand what the writer/speaker was talking about and the thesis grabbed our attention (well at least mine). Having my audience’s attention will make my presentation go so much easier than if they were bored out of their minds.
So as we make our final preparations on our speeches, it is essential that we use a good thesis. It is also important that we establish our thesis in the beginning and not in the middle or end of the speech. Without a carefully prepared thesis, our audience will not have the foggiest clue about what message we are trying to get across. This thesis will need to be delivered quickly and have a clear and concise point that everybody will be able to understand.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ethos In the Advertising Industry

With the recent super bowl as well as American advertising industry, the people of this country are told everyday what products or services are good and worth buying. Everywhere we turn we are faced with advertisements for everything from cars to silly inventions like the Sham Wow. These ads draw us in subliminally and make us want to invest substantial money into the offered products. What makes us want to buy these products? Why do we go out of our way to spend money on foolish things that we do not need? The answer is simple, rhetorical methods make us lust for these items.
When one watches a car commercial he or she is immediately thrust into a world of style and luxury. The individual automatically thinks, “Wow that could be me in the car picking up the attractive man or woman, and driving through the big cities or beach areas.” Commercials like these use ethos to establish their message and promote their product.  The ethos makes the viewer develop a mindset and encourages the development of new character in the viewer. Commercial that establish a good ethos, use intelligence, sophistication, and try to be emotionally and visually pleasing to the audience.
In Clint Eastwood’s Chrysler commercial (“Its Half Time America”), ethos is used extremely effectively as well as at the right time. It is played during half time of the Super Bowl when many Americans are watching television. The producers of this commercial knew how and when to use rhetoric to bring out the emotions of the American people. As an American, when I watched this commercial I felt inspired and confident that America is going to be stronger than ever in the future and the once dilapidated American automobile industry is now on the rise.
The ethos of this commercial resonated deep in my mind as I had feelings of national pride an hope for this country. This commercial also made me think of buying American goods (especially cars) instead of spending money on foreign products. Ethos can make or break a commericial and the ethos of Eastwood commercial displayed intelligence, passion for the continuation of America as a power, and the revival of the Detroit auto industry.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Kairos and American Politics

When the word rhetoric comes up, we, the American people, always think of a shady politician trying to convince the public about one thing or another. Since we began exploring the topic of rhetoric and how it ties in with our democratic society, it has been hard for me to not separate rhetoric from politics. As the campaign for the 2012 presidential election heats up, I have been watching closely. A great example of a rhetorical device being used is “kairos.” Before reading the chapter about kairos in our Rhetoric and Civic Life book, I had not the slightest clue about what “a kairos” was.
Now that I know what kairos is, I can see it all around me, especially in the political realm. Kairos is used a way to make a point at the most effective moment. For example, when there is  a spree of violence in a city, officials automatically want to tighten controls on weapons and impose stiffer penalties for criminals. In the political realm of the United States today, kairos is used all the time. It is often used at the right rhetorical time to establish a spearhead for a political campaign as well as to gather support for a politician or his or her policies.
Whenever President Barack Obama seems to fail or make a mistake on something such as the economy or universal health care, his opponents are very fast to step up and criticize him and propose their own methods that they claim will work better than what the President did. Democrats and republicans are both guilty when it comes to using kairos to bash their opponents and propose their own ideas. Kairos is extremely commonplace in the political world, you can just turn on the television and watch public figures use it. As race for the Whitehouse heats up, we are most certainly guaranteed to see kairos used to a large extent.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Communicating through Writing

 In Chapter Four of our Rhetoric and Civic life book, the process of communicating through written work is explained as well as peer editing. In addition to speaking, written material can be a very effective means of establishing rhetoric to an audience.  Both the reader and writer need to follow a specific plan to get the most out of a written piece. Although I am not a fan of reading aloud in a public setting, I love to write to get a message out. Writing to introduce an idea, (like our “this I believe essay”), is one of the most effective ways for me at least to allow to express an idea or a thought.
            When I read an essay or any other written work, I always need to find something that interests me, even if I am not particularly interested in what the writer has to say in doesn’t take much to get me interested.  Good writing tactics like using descriptive verbs and adjectives is a great way to grab a reader’s interest from the start. If the writer is trying get rhetoric across a short, concise written piece will certainly grab a reader’s attention as opposed to a long, drawn out piece which tends to “bore a reader to death”.       
An example of written rhetoric, that captures my attention is a newspaper article that is able descriptive and to the point and doesn’t take three pages to get the message across.  A writer needs to capture the reader’s imagination immediately because if the reader isn’t interested they are extremely likely to not continue with the reading. In today’s world of rhetoric the message needs to be delivered quickly or the writer’s message will go unnoticed.
            Rhetoric in written work is all around us. We can find written rhetoric in magazines, billboards, political pamphlets, books, and so many other written forms. Next time you are walking around campus just take a look around to see all the rhetoric in written forms. It can be seen everywhere!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What makes a public speaker effective?

Rhetoric is used all around us on a daily basis. It can be used by politicians or just friends talking over an event. Speeches given to the public are an important vehicle used in delivering rhetoric to a large audience of voters, concerned citizens, or even college students.  In chapters two and three of Rhetoric and Civic Life, many aspects of effectively communicating through public speech are explained. Public speakers need to be prepared, engaging, and confident when delivering a speech to a crowd whether it be a classroom of college students or thousands of political supporters.  Public speaking is essential in guaranteeing a democratic country because allows anybody to voice their opinion.
                Good public speaking skills are required to effectively deliver a message to a large audience. For example the past few days, I have been watching the various Republican presidential candidates deliver speeches.  Like many others, I quickly lose interest in what the candidates are talking about if they are presenting the material (no matter how interesting to me) in a monotone and simplistic manner.
              A good public speaker needs to be able to grab the listeners attention immediately because today our society focuses on sound bytes and quick news clips to get our information on a political figure head.  A speaker needs to capture a listener’s attention and hold  for the duration of his or her speech and focus on the audience.
                I find myself sitting down and tuning into a speech on the television or computer, when I hear a person deliver a speech with rhetorical questions that make me think more in depth than I normally would about the topic of the speech. A confident speaker who uses emotion in his or her speeches also draws me in to listen to their message. I have tried to understand what makes a good public speaker effective at what he or she does.  Like most LA 101H students, I want to know how to prepare a good speech and then carry it out without being nervous or underprepared.

Friday, January 13, 2012


Welcome to my rhetoric and civic life blog for LA101H Spring semester 2012.