Begin by simply reading through the speech. Make quick notes about things you observe as a person encountering the speech for the first time. Notice this is not the last step but the first.
What events at the historical moment were calling for leadership? Research the Speech's Context. You may need to go the library for this one. Some information is available in the commentaries in your textbook or in other material assigned in the syllabus.
Contemplate the Speaker's Purpose. What did the leader seek to accomplish in the speech? What public response to the situation did s/he wish to create?
What elements of the time can the speaker call upon? What are the relavant material conditions creating the historical demand? What are the values active at the time?
Begin by asking: How did the speaker connect with the public of the time? What did s/he find in the public's cultural and rhetorical history to tie to the current moment? What historical events? What rhetorical themes? What values active at the time were appealed to in the speech? This information may come from your previous study of public address, from the commentaries in the book, or from other readings assigned in the syllabus.
Explore the ways the speaker had the public understand his/her world. What are the new arguments introduced in the speech? Does the speaker frame events differently? Does the speaker introduce new facts? Is the speech about facts? about values? about motivating action? all these? Does the speaker link the event to other "good reasons"?
Examine the full range of strategies the speaker has used in the speech. What strategic choices account for the speaker's success/failure? For the full impact of the speech? You may be assisted by thinking generally about rhetorical strategy. A good catalog of questions to locate rhetorical strategy may help. Look for strategies the speaker is using.
Relate the speech to historic characteristics of speaking. As the course proceeds you will be learning about characteristic strategies in particular times. Compare and contrast the speech with other times and other places, as well as other speeches from this time and place.
Develop your arguments to support that thesis.