American Dreams Assignment #2: Comparative Analysis

Citizens and elected officials have given speeches that have not only expressed values that relate to American Dreams, but that have moved people to reevaluate their beliefs and actions. We have read, listened to, and viewed several speeches about American Dreams this semester. Select two of these speeches and write an essay in which you make an argument about how each seems to define the “American dream” and the tensions between the speakers’ visions.

Audience: Members of the class

Format: 1000 words (3-4 pages); MLA style

Advice: Consider these additional questions as you draft your paper: What was the context of the speech (i.e., where and to whom was the speech given, what was the historical situation or political climate)? What rhetorical strategies does the speaker use to persuade his or her audience? What do you think was the emotional response the speaker intended from his or her audience (fear, hope, pride, etc.)? Be sure to structure your comparison around a thesis statement about a particular value or idea expressed in the speeches.


Type: Develop an argument to analyze the tension between two sources.

Pre-Draft Activities:

  1. Focused free writing after reading / listening to each of the speeches as a class: What is your emotional response to the speech? How would you characterize the speaker’s sense of America’s character or national identity? Class discussion about these elements. Discussion of historical context, political or social motivation for the speech, etc. and then free writing in which students identify the major rhetorical strategies and organization of the speech. Class discussion about these elements of the speech.
  2. Annotation and outline for each of the speeches.
  3. Critical response to each of the speeches—what does the speaker fail to mention? Are there logical or historical problems with the speech?
  4. One paragraph about each of the speeches in which students identify all of the elements we have discussed as a class. Peer workshop on these paragraphs.
  5. Peer review focused on identifying and crafting a thesis

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