Chicago Public Schools students highlight the contradictions in Trump’s Las Vegas shooting speech

Any reasonable opportunity I get, I bring in contemporary and controversial issues into my AP English Language classes at my Southwest side Chicago public high school. Otherwise, what’s the point of studying rhetoric?

Today, my junior classes viewed President Trump’s speech in response to the tragic Las Vegas shooting. I asked them to also do a close reading of the transcript. Finally, students evaluated the effectiveness of the speech.

Many students decided the speech fulfilled its purpose of consoling and uniting the nation.  Many students argued it did not.  They grounded their responses in elements of rhetoric and made sensible conclusions. They’ll all receive good grades.

However, there’s a bunch of responses that made me take a step back and contemplate the contradictory nuances of Trump’s message.

A few of the responses pushed the conversation deeper and showed the critical-thinking skills our Southwest side CPS students possess.  Images of the students' responses appear below.

Here are abbreviated transcripts of the responses, which they wrote in about twenty minutes.  So excuse some of the mistakes. Writing, we know, is a process.

“Trump’s speech might at first glance be accomplishing its job of consoling and uniting the nation but his speech’s messy layout thwarts its original purpose. We see this with his repetitive unity remarks, cheap hallmark sayings, and messy format in the paragraph three and four. Trump attempts to feel united; however, Trump’s attempt comes out repetitive, especially after using a form of “unity” six times in paragraph five, crippling the effects of his intended purpose.” --Susan

“Trump’s speech was applicable to console and unite the nation; however, his past situations don’t support it. Starting his speech, Trump states, “My fellow Americans.” Who we all know are the only Americans to him. Mexicans or other races don’t belong in America to him. It doesn’t correlate in uniting the nation when he has left some people out or not make any Muslims that went through the mass shooting believe his remorse.” --Julian

“Personally, I believe this speech did have a potential and was working its way to its purpose; nevertheless, it got side tracked along the way. Knowing and hearing democratic news broadcasters, Trump is rarely portrayed as a ‘good guy’ and his attempts and deporting immigrants do not go unnoticed. Just this Sunday, Univision made a segment on DACA and the DREAMers who will be deported as they must find a way to receive their papers or green card by the end of 2017. Yet, Trump tries to unite us by “call[ing] upon the bonds that unite us,” as if most of our tensions as a nation don’t exist because of him and his views.” --Yamile

“This speech itself sound a bit off in its organization; moreover, its heavy reliance on religion as a source of comfort can be off putting to many non-Christians. With the deep divide already present in the country of Trump supporters and anti-Trumpists, this heavy bias towards religious tendencies serves only to further split apart these groups. If he had briefly mentioned that prayers would be dedicated to them, it wouldn’t have been as bad; however, since it’s mentioned throughout most of the the speech and is used as emotional leverage, it comes off as a scapegoat to try and make the speech more emotionally appealing and dramatic.” --Dioceline

“Trumps’ ethos from his past reputations did nothing but cripple his ability to truly put forward a heartfelt response. He has had a reputation of thwarting the feelings of the country first. He did a great job of putting the spotlight on our law enforcement’s professionalism; however, the account of affected lives were unfounded until later. He attempts to make the people feel better by saying he will meet the families of the victims; at the same time, it was a response any other person in power would give.” --Jeffrey

“Continuing on, he, in paragraph three, refers to god and only god as one to help us rather than saying he will make efforts to resolve this cause, so, consequently, people put their trust in god rather than being enlightened with signs of human effort. And, in his last paragraph, he says, “Melania and I are praying . . .” Here, we can see it is clear that he will make no actual self-sacrifice to assist and instead “prays” from the comfort of his own building or house.” --Ethan

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