The Articulate Citizen

Instructor(s): Richard Obenauf

Course Description

This core writing class will help you become a better writer and a more informed citizen in our participatory democracy. To those ends, we will critically evaluate some of the most important essays, speeches, and other documents from American history and use them as models for our own writing. You will also get to explore some of the ways that your own predispositions may affect your writing, as well as the impact of bias on the way information is presented to you. For example, we will look at media portrayal of current events and issues—both past and present—as the so-called “first draft of history” in order to understand the relationship between audience and slant, a skill that will be useful to you both as a scholar and as a citizen. In effect, in this course you will have the opportunity to emulate some of the most prominent American voices to make your own writing more nuanced and persuasive, while discovering your own biases and learning how to detect the bias in other people’s messaging, both in the present and in historical contexts.


Our reading list centers on foundational primary sources of our democracy, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Seneca Falls Declarations of Sentiments and Resolutions, and speeches and essays by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Lyndon Johnson. Other authors on our whirlwind syllabus include Andrew Carnegie, Walter Lippmann, Edward R. Murrow, Potter Stewart, E.B. White, and George Lakoff. We will also look at media coverage of current events in newspapers including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.


As with all Honors courses, consistent attendance and active participation are required. Students are expected to keep a reading journal, which will form the basis for a series of short reaction papers. There will be five brief exercises and three analytical essays, the last of which is a research project that you will expand into your final project.

About the Instructor(s): Richard Obenauf

Richard Obenauf began as an English major whose research turned him into a political historian. A scholar of censorship, tolerance, and intolerance, he earned his BA from UNM and his MA and PhD from Loyola University Chicago.