William Jennings Bryan: Orator of Small-town America

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Greenwood Press, 1991 - Biography & Autobiography - 194 pages

William Jennings Bryan is probably best remembered today for two rhetorical transactions: his The Cross of Gold acceptance speech, delivered at the 1896 Democratic national convention in Chicago, and his exchanges with Clarence Darrow in the 1925 Scopes Trial in Tennessee. But, as Donald Springen illustrates in this volume, Bryan's speaking brilliance went far beyond these two noted orations, flavoring his own two presidential campaigns, his tenure as Secretary of State, and the second campaign of Woodrow Wilson. This work examines the oratory skills of William Jennings Bryan, tracing and critically analyzing his development as a speaker, and providing the texts of important addresses that spanned much of his career.

The first section offers a narrative and critical history of Bryan's oratory. Separate chapters chart his background and development up to the 1896 Cross of Gold address, and the speechmaking that revolved around his presidential campaigns in 1900 and 1908. His years as Wilson's Secretary of State are carefully analyzed; in particular the strong stand he took against entering World War I. A chapter on reforms, reactionaries, and the Ku Klux Klan displays Bryan's dualistic way of thinking, while his speaking on the Chautauqua circuit shows him to be a true articulator of small-town American thinking. A final chapter on the Scopes Trial analyzes his rhetorical battle with Darrow, and Bryan's mistake in allowing himself to be cross-examined. Section two offers the texts of a number of Bryan's significant speeches, including The Cross of Gold, Lincoln as an Orator, and Democracy's Deeds and Duty. A chronology of speeches and a selected bibliography conclude the work. This study will be a useful tool for students of history, political science, and political communications, as well as anyone interested in effective and persuasive speaking. College, university, and public libraries will also consider it a valuable addition to their collections.

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The Making of an Orator

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About the author (1991)

DONALD K. SPRINGEN is Professor of Speech Emeritus at Brooklyn College, City University of New York. He contributed to the book American Orators of the Twentieth Century, Critical Studies and Sources (Greenwood Press, 1987), and co-authored Basic Speech for the 1980s. He is also author of Solving Problems in the 1980s through Group Discussion.

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