Introduction to Public Leadership
Our Study this semester is based in two approaches to
- Synchronic works to understand the forces coming together at a particular
- The synchronic of rhetoric proceeds in a funnel shape:
- What forces come into the moment of rhetoric . . .
- . . . and are forged into a speech . . .
- . . . which impacts the moment.
- providing a public understanding of the moment
- indicating, guiding, and coordinating public response
- thus, defining the flow of history for the community
- and shaping public memory of the moment
- even as it alters familiar rhetorical resources in the community.
We want to proceed both diachronicly and synchronicly as we study the 20th
What do we mean to focus on "Public" Leadership?
There are several terms that we need to understand and clarify.
Public Matters/Private Matters
Think about issues that you take to be private matters and those you think
call for attention from your community. You have the distinction between public
and private matters. We take "private matters" to be "none of
your business." But other matters we take to be things we share with the
community, or we think that we should approach these matters as a community
rather than as isolated indivduals or families. One of the struggles that characterizes
discourse is over which matters belong in which domain.
Public Communication/Mass Communication
- Givers of Opinion are nearly as numerous as listeners.
- Few produce communication; many listen
- Ability to answer and respond is present
- Power distribution permits opinion to have an impact on decisions of
- Power is narrowly located in the givers of opinion.
- Opinion influences those in power.
- The powerful create opinion through communication.
Source: C. Wright Mills, "Mass Society and Liberal Education"
We will be interested in studying the distribution of power between these two
modes of communication in the 20th century. Mills argues that the century has
moved in the direction of mass communication. Our starkest image of mass communication
is in George Orwell's 1984, but Mills stresses that the century's fascination
with mass communication has not been restricted to totalitarian states, but
has had its own form in democracies.
The Public Sphere
The public sphere is where public concerns are formed and addressed. Note that
this is not necessarily governmental. Indeed, much of the things that
we turn to others to share, we do not share through government. But government
may offer itself to arbitrate or provide leadership in the public sphere. So
government's role is not a given of the public sphere, but one of the items
about which we communicate.
The use of the voice to perform our public lives, when we use our voice
to respond to events with others. Note that this is not just speaking
from the platform or the speaking of one standing before many. Discourse is
used to construct the public sphere.
History of Public Address
- Different times and different places construct public address differently.
- Different subject matters are public at different places and times
- Different people are granted power to participate in discourse at different
places and in different times
- Different institutional forums are active at different places and times.
- Styles of discourse differ across place and time.
- We will track these changes across the 20th Century
- Leaders must draw power of public acknowledgement to them.
- By "public acknowledgement" we refer to a willingness to listen to them and to be influenced and coordianted by them.
- By "power" we mean this acknowledgement. Power is best when it is acknowledged, not when it is imposed.
- We say that leaders who possess this quality have legitimacy.
- In studying public leadership we are interested in the use of the voice to
motivate, inspire, and organize public action. Thus, our interest is exclusive
to the leadership that stimulates coordinated response to the problems that
the public accepts.
- Public leadership pulls a group of people (a society) together and coordinates their response to their world.
Our Perspective on "Rhetoric"
In studying discourse this semester we will be calling upon three different
perspectives on rhetoric and questions which come from them. In doing so, our
perspective is most informed by the third cluster of definitions explained in
Reid and Klumpp: rhetoric as a means of inducing cooperation.
Rhetoric I: Community
- We are interested in how communities use language to construct their
- Definition: Rhetoric is the use of discourse to understand and
influence the quality of our lives through interaction and cooperation
- We study the rules, places, subjects, characteristics, & strategies
with which communities construct the public sphere.
- Rules: A community establishes ways in which people are allowed
to use oral discourse to address public matters. We need to understand
discourse to understand these rules in a particular community. Such rules
specify who may speak, who is listened to, when one can speak about what.
- Places: There are certain places and forums that society establishes
for oral discourse. These are fairly easy to see. They may be informal
(we encourage the discussion of public matters around a coffee pot, but
not on a bus) or formal (public matters are discussed in legislatures,
but not in confessionals).
- Subjects: Some things are talked about in a community and other
matters are restricted to private occasions.
- Characteristics: Discourse varies from community to community
in style, appropriate argument, and other descriptive elements.
- Strategies: We account for the fact that discourse is generated
in response to situations. Which situations become public and how we go
about establishing their public character differs from community to community.
- Language: We observe that rhetoric involves a linguistic response
to situations. We react in other ways, but that complex of reaction is
coordinated and motivated by acts of language.
- Communities construct: Finally, we observe that responses are
constructed by communities -- by people interacting with other people.
- Questions we will ask to study rhetoric in this sense:
- Where are the places for speaking about public matters?
- Who is allowed to speak?
- Who is listened to when they speak?
- What subjects are talked about in public?
- What situations are addressed appropriately as public?
- What rules govern speaking in the community?
- How do speakers establish authority?
- What characteristizes the public speech of the community?
- What strategies are common in speaking in the community?
- How does a community motivate public action?
Rhetoric II: Seeking to Understand
- When we confront events that demand our attention, we turn to others
to try to understand them. We use discourse to exchange views, to agree
on what we saw and how it relates to other things that we have seen or
- Definition: Rhetoric is the use of language to negotiate the
meaning of events & coordinate response with others.
- Questions that we ask to understand rhetoric as a method of seeking
- How does the discourse construct the event?
- Is that construction typical of this community & time?
- What response is motivated by this meaning?
Rhetoric III: Leaders Motivating and Coordinating Action
- A community that provides a quality of life that carries its members
beyond their private matters must be able to organize and motivate working
together to achieve common goals. Discourse is the means of provide this
need. With rhetoric, leaders unite the public to focus their attention
and motivate them to joint action. Note that this invokes the most common
definition of rhetoric.
- Definition: Rhetoric is the strategic use of discourse to motivate
the public to coordinated action.
- Questions we will ask to study the motivating power of discourse:
- How does the speaker construct his/her authority?
- How does the speaker construct an appeal to his/her public?
- What is the basis of the motivational power of the speaker's message?
An additional term: Rhetorical Strategies
When humans use language, what we say does not just get blurted out without consciousness of what we are saying, nor without there being consequences good and bad. True, sometimes we do "blurt," the choices we make are not wise ones and we can be surprised by the effect that our utterances have. But they are choices nonetheless. The term "rhetorical strategies" helps us to get a handle on these choices entailed in the use of language to live our lives and the way -- with or without intent -- they impact our lives. Some things about this idea:
- Many choices go into the the rhetorical act (a non-exhaustive list)
- subjects to address. To speak or not is a choice. And, when we
do decide to speak, what do we choose to talk about and what to ignore?
- vocabulary to use. We will see that Franklin Roosevelt will choose a vocabulary drawn from religion and from the military to motivate public response to the depression..
- organizing a discourse We will note that when speakers promote a specific policy there is a characteristic organization they use in laying out their case for change.
- the cultural and linguisitic patterns drawn upon. We will note that Ronald Reagan calls upon the myth of the cowboy to help people understand the power of the American spirit. In doing so, he draws on a well developed narrative pattern in American culture and the mass media.
- figures of speech. Martin Luther King was the master of choices of metaphors and other figures of speech that added beauty to his speeches as well as conditioned response to his message.
- conceptualizing an audience addressed in the message. Yes, audiences are chosen. Franklin Roosevelt creates an audience of people affected by the depression who will become his political supporters.
- choosing a mode of proof. Does the speaker seek to prove their point by turning to history? To examples of his/her point now? To experts on the topic? To values and principles held by the audience in common with the speaker? To great documents of the culture?
- formulating a pattern of argument. As an example, we will see
that patterns of how arguments are constructed to motivate war and ask
about the responsibilities for proof in such arguments. Those seeking
to motivate changes in the health care system support their argument that
we have health care problems with narratives of individuals who are left
vulnerable by the health care system. Why did he choose to provide
proof that way?
- the media to use. How does Roosevelt's choice of radio for fireside chats change the impact of this speech?
- modes of vocal delivery. How does Franklin Roosevelt communicate faith and hope? What in Martin Luther King's rhythm gives his speeches flow?
- The definition of "rhetoric" above emphasizes that the notion of strategy has some variation. For example, in the first two definitions strategies it is the community that strategizes, using communication to meet its needs. In the third, it is the individual rhetor who formulates his/her goals and chooses strategies to achieve them. Notice the commonality: there are things that people depend on their rhetoric to do. Rhetorical strategy maps the choices made with the goal of achieving those things.
- Such complex and multiple choices come together in the strategy of the speech. Strategy pairs with a rhetorical goal or impact to provide a sense that the choices make a difference in how a community responds to the message.