These questions should stimulate (not constrain) your effort to understand a speech. The flow of questions here is from questions that simply describe rather obvious characteristics toward questions that set the speech into its context in the history of public discourse. If there are terms you do not understand, the hypertext will define.
Situation: What in the situation calls forth the leader's speech? Why is a speech called for? What elements of the situation must the speaker address? What elements of the situation provide opportunities that the speaker can exploit?
Speaker: Who was the speaker? What do we know about his/her life and experiences?
Audience: Who was the immediate audience? Why were they gathered? Are there other audiences?
Occasion: Describe the speaking situation. Is the speech part of a program? Is the occasion institutional? If so, are there expectations which follow from the institutional setting? What were the events on the audience's mind as the speaker spoke?
Medium: What is the medium that is shaping the speech? Is this a dominant medium of the time? How does the medium affect the speech?
Purpose: Why is the speaker speaking? What does s/he wish to achieve with the speech? Is the speaker speaking on behalf of some group or himself/herself?
Audience: Could the speaker choose his/her audience? If so, why did they choose this audience? What common experience does the speaker use for the substance of the speech? What mood in the audience does the speaker wish to trade upon? What attitude does the speaker wish to establish with the audience? Leader? Challenger? Inspirer?
Public: What public does the speaker see himself/herself engaging or creating? What are the experiences of the public the speaker wishes to call upon?
Strategy: How does the speaker intend to achieve his/her purpose? How does that strategy account for the audience? How does that strategy account for the occasion? Does that strategy exploit the medium?
When seeking these elements of the text, conceptualize them in terms of rhetorical strategy, that is, consider them as products of the choices that the speaker makes in shapiing the speech.
Subjects to address: What does the speaker choose to talk about? More importantly what do they choose not to talk about? What will the articulations and the silences achieve?
Vocabulary: Why were those particular words chosen? What alternatives did the speaker not choose? Are the words chosen ideographs? Do they have meaning within American rhetorical culture? Are there particular metaphors central to the speech? What are the sources of these metaphors? Why do they carry force in this public?
Organization: How does the speaker choose to order the subjects they address in the speech? Does that order have any purpose? What is the goal of the choice?
Framing: How does the discourse frame the experience? What categories are energized by the terminology of the speech? Who are the people in the discourse? How do they relate to each other? Who is weak? Who is strong? Do they struggle? Does the speech build upon a hierarchy among some categories? If so, who dominates whom? On what basis? Is there a narrative? If so, what name is given to the action? Does the discourse fix responsibility for the action? If so, upon what or whom? What language strategies frame the event?
Motivation: What are the material conditions being transformed or given meaning in this discourse? What social reality is invoked? Is the speech framed in a motive with recognizable power in American rhetorical history? If so, describe the motive. What are the roots of this power? How powerful is this motive?
Argument: Is the discourse organized into claims and reasons? If so, are those "good reasons"? For what public? Is proof important in this speech? If so, how does the text construct proof? What is the basis of authority in the discourse? How does the text construct it? Does the speaker posit a counter-arguer? Does s/he refute those arguments?
Style: Does the speech employ a stylistic genre? Does the speech posture to persuade? to inform? to celebrate? Is there something that stands out in the oral delivery? Why did the speaker choose this mode of delivery? Did it have the desired power?
Medium: Did the speaker get to choose the medium s/he used to deliver the speech? What was the goal in making that choice? Did it succeed? Why? Why not?
Rhetorical: Are there themes in the discourse that you recognize from earlier traditions? Are there stylistic characteristics? Are well established frames or motives employed? If so, how are they adapted this situation?
Historical: Describe the history constructed by the discourse? Is this construction a strategy for historicizing that you have seen in earlier traditions? Does the framing strategy of the speech have antecedents?
Public: What community(s) contextualizes the speech? Describe the speaker's view of the public's needs, wishes, or problems? Does the speaker operate from within this public or in resistance to it?
Impact: Did the discourse in which this speech participated alter our lives? If so, in what way? Do you see the impact of this discourse in our discourse today?
Attitude: The term speaks not so much of a mental predisposition as a particular relationship to the audience. It is closer to the attitude of a space capsule -- a positioning.
Context: The events, history (including rhetorical, social, political and cultural history), and ideas that surround the speech. The thing to remember is that a speech selects certain elements of the context to make them important to the speech's moment. It then explains to the audience how those elements relate to the subject matter of the speech. Thus, we say that the text constructs the context for the speech.
Category: A term which cuts-up reality a particular way. Thus, "race" is a category which asserts that biological differences among human groups matter -- it marks differences in behavior, attitude, or whatever along racial lines. Typically, discourse names the categories that matter in understanding the experience that is the substance of the speech.
Common Experiences: Speeches are about experiences. Speakers typically unite their audience by constructing references to experiences that all members of the audience can relate to.
Good reasons: Reasons that are grounded in the general acceptance of the public as defining the good. Thus, "good reasons" are (1) accepted by the public to justify claims, and (2) deal with values which define the "good."
Framing: Discourse presents the events of an experience in this way rather than that. There is an assertion of how an event should be understood. This is "framing."
Genre: A style of speaking that carries particular expectations in the audience. For example, a eulogy carries certain expectations about the mood of the speaker, the things that will be said about the dead, the length of the speech, and the purposes of the speaker.
Hierarchy: Is the framing of the speech built on one group, idea, nation, or other category being superior to another?
History: History is not some truth existing prior to discourse. A discourse narrativizes events into a flow of other events reaching long before and long after the moment. This is the process in which a history is engaged or created and the experience nestled within it.
Institutional: Was the speech delivered as part of a pattern of activity that normally includes speeches? Speeches given in Congress would qualify. So would inaugurals. Eulogies are part of the funeral institution. And so on.
Medium: The mechanical means of transmission of messages, such as radio, television, face to face communication.
Motivation: Here not necessarily an internal state in the audience. Here we seek symbolic motivation. How is the event framed in such a way that it constructs the experience as a public experience and thus serves to coordinate response to it? A motive is thus a particular way of talking about events that makes the event part of a familiar framework of action in which the public can become participant. Thus, framing a situation as "war" is a powerful motive that regiments a public for total commitment in stern opposition to the enemy, concentrates power in the leadership, and dictates sacrifice and killing (either real or symbolic).
People of an Experience: The terms that a speaker chooses to define the people in an experience, define those people a particular way. Thus, a term like "enemy" takes a group of people and asserts their hostility to the speaker's public, thus preparing the public for opposition.
Public: A construction of people that serves as a reference for the socialization of experience. It is a people who cooperate to seek common ends, who associate to respond to their experiences. Thus, it is a context of people with which the speaker will make his/her public life (as opposed to private life).
Refutation: A counter-argument in which the speaker states the arguments of others and explains why they are wrong.
Rhetorical Theme: Any characteristic of speeches that becomes a repetitive characteristic of many speeches from the time or over time. This is a term that allows you to generalize about approaches by different speeches and what they have in common.
Strategy: A selection of means to accomplish a purpose in a speech. The term is a general term used to describe any choice that shapes the text of a speech.
Thesis: A single, simple, declarative sentence that captures the entirety of the speaker's point (or your point if you are writing a paper). A good thesis: (1) tells the audience where the speech is going, (2) helps to sort out material that should be included and material that should be left out, and (3) defines success in the speech.