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George Gari
ENC 3331
Professor Wolcott
06/19/2015
Rhetorical Citizenship

The best definition that summarizes and incorporates all the elements and
effects rhetoric has, is best described by Palczewski and Ice and Fritch
(2012). Palczewski et al., argued that “rhetoric is symbolic action”, Rhetoric
in Civic Life (2012), a simple description that expresses the true power of
rhetoric and how it affects us all in multiple aspects of our lives; “Rhetoric is
the use of symbolic action by human beings to share ideas, enabling them to
work together to make decisions about matters of common concern and to
construct social reality” (Palczewski, Ice, & Fritch, 2012). To which I would
indicate that rhetoric has a specific purpose, but is also open to
interpretation; as we rely on the interpretation of not only symbols, but the
action paired with it.

As Leith better explains in Words like loaded pistols: Rhetoric from Aristotle
to Obama (2012), the context in which rhetoric is being used in is important
to understand how the words used, are associated with the settings they are
presented in. “Aristotle sought to define how rhetoric was more than an
instrumental art; but as an expression of virtue” (Leith, 2012). He explained
why character (ethos) was more effective, than momentary success with

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rhetoric tricks. Aristotle divided rhetoric into three parts; ethos, pathos, and
logos; key functions in effectively communicating with your audience for
spoken and written persuasion. As with character one must gain trust; the
right choice of words, emotional actions, or mannerisms during/prior to a
speech should supplement your character. Once you have set your
foundation in the character you present, logic/reason will drive your purpose
forward. Now you have this momentum going, you have to know what type
of emotion to elicit from, or cast upon, your audience. Be it fear, love,
excitement, amusement, or patriotism; one may focus on one emotion, or
shift throughout that spectrum, to increase effectiveness (Leith, 2012).

The use of rhetoric is incorporated in every aspect of our lives; from
simplistic to the most complex. “The use of rhetoric in our daily lives goes
unnoticed; it is unconsciously used and instinctively understood” (Leith,
2012). Therefore an effort to understanding it should be made; to better
appreciate how it shapes our lives, and developed our history. “Rhetoric used
to be centered in Western education, but has vanished and been split into
other areas of study; psychology, linguistics, and literary criticism” (Leith,
2012). The analogy made, of rhetoric being everywhere; should be like
explaining water to a fish. Leith goes onto use cause and effect to
demonstrate where the power of rhetoric resides, “Knowledge, it has been
said, is power. And rhetoric is what gives the words power. So knowledge of

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rhetoric equips you, as a citizen, both to exercise power and resist it” (Leith,
2012).
Citizenship is then a privileged right that was once concerned to be limited to
legal engagement, but is dependent on the citizens duty for civil
engagement; as a way to compensate for those who have lost or fail to
acquire a legal status. Literacy ultimately dictates and limits the power
output to effectively upholding your citizenship, in respects to analyzing data
and the type of mental frame for critical thinking that has been taught.
Citizenship is regarded with two key factors, literacy and engagement. As
Wan (2011) strongly noted in, In the Name of Citizenship: The Writing
Classroom and the Promise of Citizenship, Wan first makes her point when
she mentions, “that what often goes unarticulated is how writing skills and
other literary practices actually make citizens” (Wan, 2011). The type of
citizen we hope to produce is dependent on how we convey the relationship
between citizenship and literacy. Wan (2011) continues to emphasize, “The
central importance of citizenship is then education in general, but literacy
learning is emphasized in this case. In order to increase the participation of
good citizens, we must first educate them” (Wan, 2011). Once there is a
mutual understanding of literacy, citizens may then engage in Democratic
citizenship, a more literate citizenship, and a more active citizenship. This is
important to do, because we do not really know the power we possess. We
are able to read, but in order to understand, form opinions that hold
significance, construct arguments for relevant and useful purposes, we must

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first define and give recognition to the term citizenship. The way it is used, is
done in a way to depreciate the value of its worth; in doing so making this
terms significance seem average at most, when in fact it is just that which
she hopes to communicate (Wan, 2011). A distinction for the way citizenship
is defined/used along with the focus on participation, creates “ambient
awareness” in the way we learn; which is important to differentiate between
significance. If we do not or cannot make these distinctions, the real value
for the term citizenship, becomes vague, common, and dull (Wan, 2011). As
new a type of citizenship is seen in the twenty-first century, Wan (2011) was
compelled to point out the flaws with the use of writing skills toward
action/engagement. Wan states, “Using writing skills toward action,
suggested that citizens’ exercise more control, leading to empowerment”
(Wan, 2011). This however, as Wan pointed out, “relies on the assumed
connection of producing writers and producing a certain type of particular
participatory citizenship” (Wan, 2011).

Wan (2011) points out that, “there are plenty of ways to define literacy, but
not any to define effective participation” (Wan, 2011). This is vital for
teachers to communicate with students, because we are not all the same.
We may be able to serve for common goals, both individual and for the
community, but we have to learn how to participate most effectively. We
cannot and should not limit our ideas about citizenship to a particular form of
participation. Wan (2011) continues to emphasize, anyone can achieve the

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status of citizenship, but you have to have the will; “Citizenship isn’t only
defined as a statistic status, but a standing one that can change through
behavior and desire” (Wan, 2011). So as we achieve our citizenship, we learn
to uphold the rights and other obligations for our communities, nation, and
production of future citizens; it is through this engagement that our literacy
skills are tested and applied.

Wan (2011) mentions, “if we have a responsibility to uphold our citizenship,
then we imply there is a correct and wrong way of doing so” (Wan, 2011). It
is then very sad, that our teachers are the ones who get to pick what and
how we learn; that is unless they are limited by the curriculum the state or
institution has for them. I feel that this limitation is often why engagement
and production of good citizens has declined. If we are given a choice and
deeper understanding, then one can choose to express their literacy and
engage as they please. However, withholding information from those who
possess the will to become citizens is both sad and dangerous. The inequality
of access to the varying levels of education seems to handicap those
students who probably have the will, but lack the belief or motivation;
primarily because of this inequality. This inequality limits the capacity for
students striving to obtain “full citizenship”. Essentially Wan (2011) wants
her audience to understand that, “equality and social mobility are
synonymous, and achievable through citizenship” (Wan, 2011).

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Unfortunately America’s education has declined in the job of producing
citizens. Wan (2011) indirectly gives reason as to why this occurred; by
stating the central role citizenship plays in a classroom, “facilitating political
activities in the classroom without an overtly political charge” (Wan, 2011).
Perhaps the goal for education was to equip the citizens with the tools
necessary for literacy, but not to implement change; that being the
understanding and communication of critical thinking, or other literary
devices that would promote individualism. This now sheds light on what Leith
(2012) was trying to convey, as mentioned previously. “Rhetoric used to be
centered in Western education, but has vanished and been split into other
areas of study; psychology, linguistics, and literary criticis.” (Leith, 2012).
This explains how important rhetoric was in acquiring the necessary skills, for
effectively expressing citizenship.
Leith (2012) sums up the relationship of Rhetorical citizenship by stating;
“Knowledge, it has been said, is power. And rhetoric is what gives the words
power. So knowledge of rhetoric equips you, as a citizen, both to exercise
power and resist it” (Leith, 2012).

Rhetorical citizenship is composed of two words that individually regard a
form of power. Rhetoric can be compare to kinetic energy, and similarly
citizenship can be associated with potential energy. Kinetic energy (rhetoric)
is relative to other moving objects and stationary objects in its immediate
environment. Potential energy (citizenship) is not relative to the environment

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of an object. Simply stating that the energy is within you, and your
position/configuration determines the amount of energy being
generated/conserved; such as being engaged, which is independent from the
environment in respects to making the choice of engaging. Also, you cannot
transfer your potential to your environment through citizenship. The energy
required to do so resides within rhetoric, as it is directly relative to its
environment, which is then a means for transferring energy; this is why it is a
vital tool for communicating and redistributing energy.

Rhetorical Citizenship is the superpower we are encouraged to develop. The
power is invested in the form of rhetoric, and the authority to use it comes
from our duty to uphold citizenship of our community, state, country, or
other influential role; that will expand or limit our rights, literacy, or any
other means for progression in just about any aspect of both your
generation, and generations to come. This is all dependent on your
commitment in acquiring these skills, and the diligence put forth to
expressing theses new abilities; your civil engagement is the choice to make
a significant difference. The beauty in this superpower is that one isn’t
pressured to save the world, when the change begins with yourself, your
outlook and determination, will then pressure the world to conform to
universal rights; essentially making you a guardian of liberty, and pressuring
the world to be a grantor of freedom. The power behind these abilities
increases exponentially as you influence your audience and begin to build

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momentum. Leith (2012) offers a brief explanation of how influence works
upon your audience, and just how it may transcend a targeted audience;
which may be beneficial to the rhetor. The control of language helps create
your positional influence; that is being able to create a system of
assumptions and shared fears, as Robert Mogube and Kim Jong-il did. Oratory
is regarded as the way we desire to be spoken to as an audience, today in
our modern time. We long to be persuaded over real issues at hand; that
being what is relevant in our current time period. Obama catered to this
expectation, and we played our role as citizens. His effectiveness
transcended the American population; and the illusion of his persuasiveness
seemed to make the world his audience. Not only did he use practical
effective speeches, but appealed with perfect timing. In a state of
desperation the U.S was in, he offered the right words at the right time. “Yes
We Can”, the simplicity behind it spoke volumes (Leith 2012). However, why
wait until we are in a desperate situation? The irony of expressing the power
you have, when it is threatened to be taken away, is inconsistent; awareness
and consistency, will help avoid extreme lack of, and use of power.
The power of rhetoric is in the symbolic action that transcends the multiple
realties taking place. Fear being the muse (source of inspiration) of rhetoric;
as history depicts, conceals, interprets, and expresses the force behind any
narrative will have fear in its fundamental message, and can be exposed
directly or indirectly suppressed. It is the root of problems and solutions, the
conscious limit of free will, with the infinite possibilities of unconscious

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symbolic action; that is essentially subjected to the interpretation of
awareness, the course of action it manifested through, and consistency of
the message through time.
Citizenship is the civil engagement we know, but often fail to acknowledge.
The benefits are usually hidden behind the duty to uphold this vital
membership, the understanding of citizenship is premature and often goes
neglected. It is not until qualities within this membership are targeted that
we begin to see the bigger picture, as if we seem to focus on the minor
details; this membership is peripheral, as regarded with maxed out credit
cards, homeless beggars, and community engagement. Perhaps most people
see only the number one and allow this to outweigh the significance to spark
change, or make a difference in someone else’s life; discouraged individuals
usually never put forth their true potential or effort.

Engaging in the safety project, has formally initiated my rhetorical
citizenship. As our group intended to commit to a selfless act, investing our
time, so that our community could benefit from our attempts to keep the
safety consistent, or to suggest improvements that will decrease the criminal
activity within our community. Diehl and Grabill and Davidson (2008) bring
up some interesting terminology for the work we do for our community,
“Knowledge work” is analytical activity requiring problem solving and
abstract reasoning, concerned with production of information, and inhabit it;
different from the production of material goods (Diehl, Grabill, &Davidson,

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2008). As our group sets out to do this in two different ways, one created
surveys that would represent the knowledge of safety felt; that would later
be correlated with the mapping of emergency systems, blue lights to be
specific, and mapping the crimes over the past year.

Diehl et al., (2008) made a great point in using rhetoric with map making,
and then correlating the process of analyzing and problem solving back to a
contemporary form of rhetoric; as expressed through our civil engagement.
As Diehl et al. (2008), explain how different forms of rhetoric are expressed
through mapping, a single type of civic engagement, “We also see the
writing work in this example as an illustration of contemporary civic
rhetorical activity and, in particular, of the key role played by the visual. It
recalls for us the long-standing conversation about the rhetoric of the map”
(Diehl et al., 2008).
This is yet another way to prove rhetoric is best defined as symbolic action,
and how symbols are defined, and the meanings they hold. Diehl et al.,
(2008) demonstrates, “The powerful rhetorical implications of creating visual
arguments and constructions of reality through maps have long been known”
(as cited in Propen, 2007; Monmonier, 1996; Barton & Barton, 1993; Wood,
1992). “The power of visual and spatial analysis through mapping techniques
can guide decision making on issues ranging from the location of parcels and
property lines, to the environmental impact of proposed developments, and
to the worth or recognition of objects based on whether they are viewed as

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relevant enough to be mapped” (as cited in Wood, 1992; Scott, 1998). This is
precisely what we hoped to do, our group just did not articulate the
justification as explained, but rather through common understanding of
rhetorical citizenship, we arrived at the same purpose. This suggests that
qualities within rhetorical citizenship, despite how it is used, have universal
qualities.
Rhetorical citizenship as I progress towards graduation, has added value to
my education, and has created a deeper understanding and ironically
persuaded me to engage actively within my community, or area of interest.
As a student, father, and newly divorced husband; there are so many front I
can be proactive in. Spreading the knowledge I have, and gaining more as I
become engaged, is the ultimate form of success as a future undergraduate;
it is a priceless investment that pays off in the form of consistency. It is this
consistency and selfless acts that will bring back the civilized humanity we
have sacrificed, for all these technological advances, economic greed, and
unethical wars. Charlie Chaplin could have not said it any better in his final
speech in, The Great Dictator (1940), it is too much to quote; and a partial
quote will not do it justice. It is one of my favorite speeches that speaks to
the soul, so I posted the link; Charlie Chaplin showed his rhetorical
citizenship, in a brave display of symbolic action by breaking away from the
norm of his silent films and doing so at such a crucial time period.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dX25PDBb708

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References

Palczewski, C., Ice, R., & Fritch, J. (2012). Rhetoric as Symbolic Action. Rhetoric in
Civic Life (pp. 3-31). College State, PA: Strata Publishing.

Wan, A. (2011). In the Name of Citizenship: The Writing Classroom and the Promise
of Citizenship. College English, 74(1), 28-49.

Leith, S. (2012). Words like loaded pistols: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama (pp.171). New York, New York: Basic Books.
Diehl, A., Grabill, J., & Hart-Davidson, W. (2008). Grassroots: Supporting the
Knowledge Work of Everyday Life, 17(4), 413–434.
doi:10.10.1080/10572250802324937