Burkean Analysis of Colin Powell’s Dropout Prevention Speech
George Mason University
March 5, 2012
This paper is a Burkean analysis of a speech given by Colin Powell at the launch of the America’s Promise Alliance’s Dropout Prevention campaign. Elements of Burke’s Dramatism theories are used to evaluate the effectiveness of Colonel Powell’s speech.
Burkean Analysis of Colin Powell’s Dropout Prevention Speech Rhetoric as the art of persuasion was a key concept to Kenneth Burke (West & Turner, 2010, p. 332) and one which Colin Powell takes to heart in his speech to the America’s Promise Alliance during the launch of their Dropout Prevention campaign (Powell, 2008). At the time of his speech, there had been an increase in the dropout rates across the country (Powell, 2008).
The substance of Colonel Powell’s speech is that there are far too many young people who do not complete a high school education. He states that “30% of all of our youngsters are not finishing high school” and goes on to explain that this is more than just an issue of helping kids:
We cannot afford this loss of talent. We cannot waste this human capacity that is what’s going to keep America up and ahead of the rest of the world. And so this is not just a matter of doing good things for kids, it’s a matter of national security. It’s a matter of our economic security. It’s a matter of the future of our society in this new, complex world that we are living in (Powell, 2008). By bridging the gap between social concerns and concrete risks to the overall stability of the nation, Powell creates a common bond between traditionally opposing groups. For example, the liberal agenda is often concerned with social issues and education. The conservative agenda is frequently focused on economic and national security concerns. By showing the impact of education and social equality on economic and national security stability, Powell bridges the division to establish...
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