Dos and Don’ts of Giving a Speech: 2016 Democratic Presidential Debate Edition

by Brianna Arrighi


At Emerson, effective communication is everything. All undergraduate students are required to complete a public speaking class before earning their degree. While most freshman enter their sophomore year knowing how to properly organize and deliver a speech, it would seem as though some of our top Democratic candidates need some pointers.

I decided to take a closer look at the introduction speeches given by Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Jim Webb during the 2016 Democratic debate on October 13th. Moderator Anderson Cooper allotted each candidate two minutes to introduce themselves to their audience. I evaluated both candidates’ speeches on the basis of structure and persuasive modes.

Hillary Clinton opened her speech with the following statement:
“I’m Hillary Clinton and I’ve been proud and privileged to serve as First Lady, Senator from New York, and Secretary of State. I’m the granddaughter of a factory worker and the grandmother of a wonderful one-year old.”

Immediately, her audience already knows her name and her experience in politics. She was also smart to list her positions chronologically, as this reminds people just how long Clinton has been active in the political sphere. By announcing her family ties as a granddaughter and a grandmother, she identifies herself as not only a politician, but a person like any other in the audience. Her ethos appeal gives her the credibility to go on to stress the importance of family in her campaign, as she does later in her speech.

Senator Jim Webb’s opening statement was longer and not as clear. He said:
“People are disgusted with the way that money has corrupted our political process, intimidating incumbents and empowering Wall Street everyday with the term-style government we see and also the power of the financial sector in both parties. We’re looking for a leader who understands how the system works, who hasn’t been corrupted by it, and has a proven record of accomplishing many things.”

There are several errors with the structure of Senator Webb’s address already. He didn’t bother to introduce himself by name, which would lead one to think that he assumes people already know who he is. He began by launching into a rant about Wall Street being corrupt, when the entire point of this two-minute speech was to introduce himself as a candidate. His first sentence was riddled with political jargon and it already presents an opinion about a specific issue. Webb should have established his credibility before delving into his beliefs as Clinton did so that his audience understood why they should listen to him in the first place.


Jim Webb – Yes, He’s Running For President

By CPLA member Rahul Thayil

James Henry Webb, Jr. (born February 9th, 1946) has served as a senator for Virginia, Secretary of the Navy, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, Counsel for the United States House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and a Marine Corps Officer. He has been awarded the Navy Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart. His alma maters include the University of Southern California, US Naval Academy, and Georgetown University, and he was a fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics. As a private journalist, he has been awarded an Emmy and is the author of ten books covering issues such as women’s education and war.

His Views


• Supports Roe v Wade abortion rights

• Pro stem cell research

Budget and Economy

• Pro Stimulus Spending

• Plans to reform mortgage rules to prevent foreclosure

• Plans to reform taxation laws

• Pro Fair Trade, but anti Free Trade

Civil Rights

• Supports marriage equality

• Supports civil unions

• Helped pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act


• Supports additional spending on federal education

• Pro women’s rights and education


• Supports alternative energy

• Pro EPA regulations

• Anti Oil and Gas


• Pro alternative transport

• Not dedicated to animal rights

• No hard stance on global warming

Foreign Policy

• Against the USA’s involvement in the Mideast.

• Pro Cuba-USA relationship

• Anti Iraq War


• Anti-medicare but pro health access

• Against tobacco

Gun Control

• Advocates for gun control, but conservatively

Jobs and Immigration

• Anti-outsourcing

• Pro unemployment benefits

• Anti farm subsidies

• Wants to increase minimum wage

In the Debate

Definitely wanted to speak more.

Had a slight blunder in remembering his own daughter’s name.

“I have killed people. I have been in war.”

“Obtuse, petulant and out of touch” –

Particularly Anti-China when asked about Russia and Syria.

Hillary Rodham Clinton (D): “I’m a progressive, but I’m a progressive that likes to get things done.”

By CPLA Secretary Dylan Walton

Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton has been a transformative, and often divisive, figure in both American and international politics for the better part of thirty years. She has accumulated a variety of political titles, including First Lady of the United States, US Senator of New York and Secretary of State under the Obama administration. Clinton is now considered the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential race.

Clinton grew up in a conservative family, but became a Democrat as an undergrad at Wellesley College, rejecting Republican ideology regarding the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. After this ideological shift, she described herself as “A mind conservative and a heart liberal.” Though she is one of the most recognizable faces of the modern Democratic party, Clinton has often touted her record of negotiating compromises with Republicans as proof of her success over partisan gridlock. This attitude has often led to backlash from both the right and the left wings of the political spectrum.

Clinton has consistently been one of the most vocal proponents of women’s rights since the late 20th century. In 1995, during her time as First Lady, she spoke at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. Despite explicit warnings from her husband’s administration and the Chinese government, Clinton put a spotlight on China’s dehumanizing policies towards women and children by stating that “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights once and for all.” She continued this line of advocacy throughout her tenure in the US Senate and State Department by prioritizing the welfare and rights of women around the world.

Although Clinton was not awarded the democratic nomination for favor of then fellow Sen. Barack Obama, she did notably “put 18 million cracks” in the glass ceiling by setting a new record for the number of primaries and delegates won by a large margin by a female candidate. President Obama, whose chief focus after his election was ending the recession and passing the Affordable Care Act, entrusted Secretary of State Clinton with reviving the US’s tarnished global reputation in the aftermath the Bush administration. As Secretary of State, she negotiated a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, expanded the rights and opportunities of global LGBT advocates, and established the sanctions on Iran that lead to the beginnings of the Iran nuclear deal.

Clinton has centered her presidential campaign on some of her past passions, such as securing pay equity, improving affordable health care, and taking a strong stance on national security policies. Certain issues have become a new focus in this campaign, including opposing the NRA to prevent gun violence, strongly regulating the financial sector, and developing policy to end the drug epidemic afflicting rural communities.

Perhaps most marked on Clinton’s campaign platform are the issues on which her position has changed over her long public career. Clinton, like many citizens, previously supported only civil unions for LGBT couples, but now affirms her full support for gay marriage. She has voiced her opposition to both the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Keystone Pipeline, two Obama policies that Clinton helped form her tenure as Secretary of State.

At the first democratic primary debate, all eyes were on Secretary Clinton as she stood center stage flanked by liberal and moderate colleagues alike. Leading the pack by a large margin in most national polls, Hillary had the most to lose from a poor performance. Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders, the infinite pack of Republican contenders, and the absolutely non-partisan Benghazi committee all awaited the opportunity to unseat the favorite of the Democratic Party. But, Hillary Clinton allowed them no such opportunity by delivering a performance that was almost universally celebrated by political observers and the media. She silenced critics of her character, aggressively drew attention to issues on which she has a unique stance (such as gun violence, capitalism, and foreign policy), and even got a hand from Senator Sanders regarding the recent limelight on her conduct with her private email server. After the debate, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee both dropped out of the race and Vice President Joe Biden decided not to run, leaving Clinton with only two liberal opponents in the race for the democratic nomination. Clinton’s strength was apparent on that stage and has brought a new energy and momentum to her campaign, reaffirming her status as the frontrunner for the nomination.

Lincoln Chafee Drops Out of Democratic Primary

By CPLA Treasurer Arianna Conte

If you watched the Democratic debate and had no idea who candidate Lincoln Chafee was, well, you weren’t alone. This former Rhode Island senator and governor is a bit of a political wild card, considering his Republican turned Independent turned Democratic affiliations, and general affinity for going on the record about subjects the general public doesn’t care about. Most notably, Chafee wished for the United States to “join the rest of the world” and “go metric,” as in convert to the metric system, according to a Huffington Post article from June. Chafee has also strongly reacted to Donald Trump’s characterization of the racehorse Secretariat, declaring “this statement is another splash of nonsense that comes out of Trump’s mouth;” following college Chafee shoed horses on a Montana racetrack. To Chafee’s credit, his supporters were the most grammatically correct according to a USA Today article from earlier this month; the only time Chafee has come out first in anything pertaining to this election. If you weren’t aware, support for Chafee has been polling at between zero and one percent.

This lack of recognition, combined with a halting of funds and essentially no public popularity, lead Chafee to drop out of the Democratic primary race on October 23rd. His concession speech, given at the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum, was an “opportunity one last time to advocate for a chance be given to peace,” alluding to his campaign plan of Prosperity through Peace. If president, Chafee promised improvements to the DREAM Act and Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, as well as the establishment of an Essential Worker Visa Program for workers with little to no job training. He promised to end the US’s foreign intervention wars and supported a federal minimum wage of fifteen dollars and policies requiring equal pay in the form of a Paycheck Fairness Act. High goals, for a person whose campaign lasted only a few months.

Those admittedly bright promises are now coming to an end, though, as Chafee called for audience members, and anyone who might see his concession speech, “to be remembered as Peacemakers, as pioneers of a more harmonious world.” He asked for all people to “demand from your leaders an end to the endless wars and the beginning of a new era for the United States and humanity.”

Bernie Sanders: A Profile

By CPLA member Zivah Solomon

Bernie Sanders has taken the Democratic party by storm in this (admittedly, quite early) election season. He raised an enormous amount of money in the previous quarter; $26 million, coming $2 million shy of Hillary Clinton’s fundraising accumulation. But there is one difference: Bernie Sanders is taking no donations from SuperPACS or corporations. Small donations only.

Sanders is a United States Senator from Vermont, known for passing amendments in the House of Representatives and later as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Many in the media have made a point of emphasizing that he is a “self-described socialist.” To clarify, many of his beliefs are aligned with Democratic Socialism, but his economic goals are in a capitalist format.

Though he identified as an Independent while serving as a mayor, state representative and senator, Sanders is running as a Democrat for the Democratic presidential nomination. He has gained enormous popularity since his official campaign kick-off for his liberal views, convictions, and bluntness that many around the country identify with.

Sanders wants to improve LGBTQ+ rights, fight gender inequality, reduce institutionalized racism, and reform the criminal justice system. He is pro-choice and demands a more humane immigration policy. Sanders is a proponent of universal healthcare and sees need for huge improvements in veterans’ healthcare.

Sanders would like to set a higher minimum wage and create higher paying jobs in order to tackle the income and wealth inequality gap in the United States. In addition, he plans to champion Wall Street reform and expand Social Security.

Sanders urgently wants to address climate change in a serious, permanent manner and avoiding military conflict as much as possible.

Sanders’ stances largely align with liberal views, but he presses that bipartisanship is key in government. His stance on gun control focuses on compromise in a way that appeases all perspectives, right and left, on the issue. His poll numbers grow every day and though many initially thought otherwise, he is a formidable candidate to be watched and to be reckoned with in the Democratic primary.

Discussing Martin O’Malley

By CPLA member Robynn Singer-Baefsky

Martin O’Malley, 52, is the third Democratic candidate to enter the 2016 presidential race. His previous experience in political office includes serving as a city councilor of Baltimore (1991-1999), mayor of Baltimore (1999-2007), and governor of Maryland (2007-2015). Throughout his career, his progressive policies have focused on crime reduction in Baltimore, immigration reform, gun control, and LGBTQ rights. O’Malley represented Baltimore’s 3rd District in his eight years as city councilor and served as the chairman of both the Legislative Investigations Committee and the Taxation and Finance Committee. During this time, he focused largely on addressing housing and public safety and reducing property taxes. His biggest concern, and one of his major goals as a politician, was to bring businesses back to Baltimore. Crime, drugs, and poverty needed to be targeted and reduced in the city in order for that to be possible, and O’Malley ran for mayor with that objective.

As mayor, O’Malley implemented “CitiStat,” a system which monitored the performance of the government and how well it served its people, and took a zero tolerance approach to crime. His term saw the steepest drop of violent crime in the country, which he highlighted while trying to bring businesses and investments into the Baltimore economy. However, this crime drop was a result of an increase in arrests, underscoring a controversy in his current presidential campaign—many of these arrests were of young African American men. This fact was recently referenced after the death of Freddie Gray during the Baltimore riots.

During his time as governor of Maryland, O’Malley enacted CitiStat statewide, and continued to crack down on crime. He enacted many well-known initiatives for immigration, LGBTQ rights, and gun control. Regarding immigration, he enacted a bill that allowed children of undocumented immigrants to attend Maryland’s public universities if they had attended a Maryland high school for at least three years. In 2012, despite pressures from the Catholic Church, he legalized same-sex marriage in his state. Recently, he has announced his support in favor of the Equality Act, which would ban sexual orientation-based discrimination in the workplace, housing and credit accommodations, education, and federal programs. Concerning gun control, O’Malley enacted a bill that gave Maryland some of the strictest gun laws in the nation: Those buying a gun have to submit fingerprints to obtain a license, and gun ownership by anyone who has spent time in a mental institution is illegal. The law also bans forty-five kinds of assault weapons.

O’Malley’s performance in the first Democratic debate was not the standout moment he needed to introduce himself to voters and gain momentum in the polls, but he did have his moments. His strongest point addressed gun control reform, when he spoke of the aforementioned legislation passed in his state, and went head to head with Senator Bernie Sanders on the issue. When asked about the Black Lives Matter movement, O’Malley said that “[the] movement is making is a very, very legitimate and serious point, and that is that as a nation we have undervalued the lives of black lives, people of color,” changing his view from what he said this past summer at a conference (“Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter.”). He did apologize prior to the debate for his actions, and attention was not brought to the discrepancy. O’Malley has a lot of work to do in order to establish his credibility as a candidate and win the trust of voters, but for his first time in a presidential debate he held up well against the other candidates.