How can my Chicago Public Schools writing students and I not talk about Lori Lightfoot's victory speech on Tuesday? Plus, this study fit nicely with our current focus on speeches. With the SAT happening next week, an analysis essay proved to be some good confidence-building test prep. We wanted to take a look at how effectively Lightfoot's rhetorical skills shined--or didn't.
Lightfoot won Chicago's mayoral election in a landslide victory with about 74% of the votes. Despite her ground-breaking win as the first black female mayor of our city, who happens to be openly gay, she still needed to inspire all Chicagoans to celebrate her victory--especially when voter turnout was around 33%.
We listened to--didn't watch--Lightfoot's speech and broke it up into three sections: beginning, middle, and end. After each section, we captured some of the key rhetorical ideas. We also graded each section. Most students gave her good grades, but a couple (admitted Preckwinkle supporters) weren't impressed. They had reasonable explanations, however.
Most students appreciated the sense of community Lightfoot aimed to create in the beginning. She mentioned Preckwinkle in a civil way. She used "we" and "you" to unite and personalize. Students mentioned how this calmed them or gave them hope. One student gave her credit for communicating that "all people will receive the same safety, all neighborhoods will receive the same attention, all people will receive equal rights and opportunities." They caught Lightfoot's use of parallelism throughout the speech, too.
But other students said they wanted to know exactly how all of this will happen. How will she stop gun violence? What about her lack of experience as a political leader? Still, most students gave her As and Bs for the beginning.
In the middle section, however, most students talked about how the section proved to be less compelling than the first. Some of it was repetitive, a couple of students said. But a few others found it inspiring how she mentioned the "outsiders:" the small-business people, immigrants.
One student wrote the even though she didn't mention Trump, "Through her subtext, Lightfoot is attacking Trump's views and claims. With her power, she will work to protect immigrants and stand against hate." Lightfoot also stressed how she will stop the city from shrinking. Most students gave her a B for this section.
The closing resulted in all kinds of perspectives. Some said she should have ended the speech before or at the hand holding. The "This Little Light of Mine" reference seemed too much for some students. But many students appreciated her emphasis on the history of LGBTQ and African American female leaders. They talked about how she succeeded in creating a sense of friendship.
The Preckwinkle supporters, however, were not impressed and gave her a low rating. Many students, however, did find the personal story of her parents effective. One student wrote how the anecdotes will resonate with kids and potential politicians" in the audience.
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