In 2023 Americans are faced with (1) a variety of significant political and social controversies in the United States; (2) the apparent inability or unwillingness of some elected officials and other government personnel to address and deal with those controversies in a meaningful or effective way; and (3) some government officials and personnel who act as if they are not answerable or accountable to American citizens. Furthermore, there are serious disagreements about the basic principles and ideals that should inform and guide American society, its institutions, and its constitutional form of government.
Because the United States is a representative democracy, it is important that its citizens have the skills needed to effectively exercise the rights and responsibilities of American citizenship. There has been a long tradition of American citizens participating in town hall meetings, petitioning their elected representatives for the redress of grievances, or expressing their views on matters of personal and community interest in letters to their local newspapers and, more recently, on social media.
Opportunities for advocacy have broadened for many people as a result of the emergence and growth of radio, television, and the Internet in modern times. The ability of American citizens to effectively use those opportunities depends, in large part, on whether they have been taught or otherwise learned basic principles of advocacy.
Advocacy is not pertinent only to political issues. Americans often face situations where they need or want to advocate a position on a particular matter. A person may want to express an opinion or take a position in a letter to an editor, a letter to an elected official, or a complaint letter to a business. A parent may want to advocate on behalf of his or her family or children before a state or local government organization. A homeowner may want to take a position about his or her home or neighborhood at a homeowner’s association meeting or a zoning board hearing. Of course, in matters and situations having serious legal consequences, people should seriously consider getting a lawyer to represent them instead of trying to be their own advocates.
Americans should learn basic advocacy skills and apply them to (a) better articulate their views on various issues; (b) recognize empty or specious rhetoric used by elected officials, candidates for political office, or government personnel; (c) to persuade their elected representatives and government personnel to address in a meaningful and effective way the serious problems facing Americans; (d) debate with people who disagree with them; and (e) try to persuade others to work with them on issues of mutual concern.
Some people are suspicious of, or cynical about, advocacy, calling it “mere rhetoric,” “empty rhetoric,” or worse. The history of classical rhetoric shows a recurring debate about the ethics and morality of rhetoric, and what actions a person should or should not engage in when acting as an advocate. Such a debate occurred among Greek and Roman philosophers and rhetoricians, early Christian clergy and rhetoricians, and later scholars. However, the misuse and abuse of advocacy by some people are not good reasons to dismiss or reject advocacy as a citizenship skill. Just because a particular tool or technique has been misused or abused by some people is not a sufficient reason to simply reject any use of that tool or technique. If a tool or technique is capable of being properly used, then such proper use should be the goal, and the misuse or abuse of the tool or technique should be avoided and criticized.
Advocacy is a skill that can be properly used, and its misuse or abuse avoided and criticized. A proper study of advocacy should go beyond merely studying advocacy as a tool or technique, and should include thoughtful consideration of what is or is not ethically or morally proper conduct for an advocate. Learning basic advocacy skills can help Americans to recognize empty or specious rhetoric, and help them respond more effectively to such bad rhetoric.
Advocacy is not a skill that comes naturally or easily to many people. But, advocacy is a skill that can be taught and learned. Indeed, advocacy skills were taught as part of classical rhetoric in the education of ancient Greek and Roman students, and at various times in Western history up to the beginning of the 20th Century. Unfortunately, the teaching of advocacy skills as part of classical rhetoric declined in modern schools during much of the 20th Century and into the 21st Century. That neglect of classical rhetoric and advocacy skills should stop.
In classical rhetoric, the objectives of an advocate included: (1) identifying who is the relevant audience; (2) choosing the proper time and place to engage in advocacy; (3) working within the rules, traditions, and constraints of the forum in which advocacy takes place; (4) focusing on the relevant issues; (5) informing and educating the relevant audience about pertinent facts; (6) addressing the pros and cons of competing positions or proposals; and (7) offering cogent arguments to try to persuade the audience.
Although classical rhetoric recognized the role of pathos (commitment, emotion, passion) in rhetoric, it sought to channel and focus pathos to contribute to and support the advocate’s presentation, not interfere with or distract attention from it. This is important to consider because the various controversies facing Americans in 2023 often generate strong emotional responses, which could cloud judgment and distract from the ability to undertake effective advocacy.
Americans who want to be more engaged in their communities, or who want the opportunity to express themselves on matters important to them, should learn basic principles of advocacy to help themselves do so more effectively. Learning advocacy skills can help them better prepare to undertake the rights and responsibilities of American citizenship, and be more effective communicators when they engage in discussions and arguments about personal or public matters important to them, their families, their friends, their communities, their States, or the United States as a whole.
Learning basic advocacy skills can provide Americans with a potentially useful tool to help them to better deal with the troubled times that they face in 2023. Furthermore, learning advocacy skills can help Republicans and others to better respond to, and cope with, the ideological war of ideas being waged against the principles and institutions upon which our constitutional representative democracy is based.
The author may not realize this, but one reason the Left is so effective at protest and gaining media coverage is ton of universities teach how to protest and push the envelope on “non violent resistance” but saul alinsky tactics. his books are used in a lot of college social justice classes. these Tenured Radicals created BLM and antifa. Students get credit for organizing! but they are all sort of required to organize in leftist areas. I cannot imagine students at the elite Eastern and California schools submitting a project for a pro life protest; We conservatives such at protest and are weak at advocacy — except the 2a people. finally, so many of us on the Right are older, work for a living and obey the rules and it’s not in our DNA to throw a cement “milkshake” on someone or destroy a police station. But if you want to know the truth, the Left has succeeded at overtaking not just govt. but our other institutions and it’s because they know how to organize and exact political pressure.
I am aware of the need to address the problem of double standards, selective moral indignation, and hypocrisy exhibited by many Democrats, progressives, and others attacking traditional American traditions and institution. See, e.g., my earlier article on The Bull Elephant at https://thebullelephant.com/reciprocity-tool-to-resist-left-wing-ideology/ Short of trying to write a book, I write essays to express my observations, opinions, and suggestions on various issues facing Americans today in the hope that they make a contribution that readers of The Bull Elephant find worthwhile.
3,000 square miles of Ohio are now polluted with vinyl chloride that was released from a train wreck of cars carrying the chemical.
The cause of the accident was brake failure on two cars.
President Obama’s administration issued an order requiring the brakes on all cars carrying hazardous materials to be replaced with a new generation brake.
‘Trump canceled the requirement as part of his “rolling back regulations and freeing America from regulations.”