Category Archives: RCL Blog

RCL II Civic Issues Blog Ideas

My first idea for my Civic Issues Blog fits under the category of education. Education has been a passion of mine for an incredibly long time. My father is a music teacher, and this has been incredibly influential in my interests as I have grown up. I one day hope to be a professor at a research university, and every opportunity up to this day that I have had to teach, I have absolutely loved. Teachers are capable of tapping into the unadulterated potential that their students possess, and is one of the few professions with this “power.”

My first idea for the Civic Issues Blog is the topic of educational reform. In my opinion, as well as the opinion of many others, our country is falling behind in education. Changes need to be made for our future. This topic has many possible avenues. One week I could discuss more physical reform, i.e. the setup of a typical classroom and why that needs to change. The next week, I could talk about standardized testing and my views on that subject. This blog lends itself to a world of possibilities, and I am incredibly excited to share my thoughts about what needs to change in order for our children to receive the best education available in the world.

My second idea for the Civic Issues Blog is in the category of race. Race is an incredibly relevant topic to discuss right now. With everything going on in Ferguson, and its migration throughout the country, race is a hot topic right now, and would lend itself to a lot to write about. However, race in general is a very broad topic. So, more specifically, I would like to write about how race affects everyday life in ways we do not even realize. We read an article at the end of last semester that touched on this idea, and I was incredibly intrigued. As a white male, I had not thought about a lot of the topics brought up in the article, and I think this blog topic would be really enlightening for me. I have never really felt tied to my race, not that I do not recognize it, but it is not essential to who I am. So, I think this blog would really help me explore myself, and how I fit into the framework of society. Through this blog, I could also tie in some ideas about education (affirmative action for example). I am really excited to get started on these blogs.

My First Semester

Overall, my first semester of college has been an absolute blur. I have been incredibly busy every single day since August 25th with Blue Band and school work. With all the hecticness, I have been rather stressed out, but I think it was a good acclimating experience. College is obviously a lot different than high school, and this first semester has taught me that. So, rather than look at it through a pessimistic lens, I am thankful for this first semester.

My semester in RCL has helped me learn how to adapt. I did not do too well on my Civic Artifact speech, so I knew I needed to change what I was doing in order to get the grades I wanted on the next assignments. My time in this class has really taught me how to look at the world and all the literary characteristics of society with an analytical eye. I have been able to see what advertisers’ true intentions were when designing commercials, magazine spreads, etc. I have also been able to reflect and comment on shifts that have occurred in many aspects of society.

I am excited for next semester, where I will learn to make arguments with my writing. While we did not do much of this in RCL I, it is important to develop analysis skills before learning how to persuade others to follow my thinking.

I feel as though I began this semester off struggling to fit the assignment. However, this semester has taught me how to mold my ideas into the framework of an assignment, which has allowed me to do much better on the past few assignments. I think I have excelled in picking unique topics and taking a unique spin on these topics, which I think has made my work interesting and fresh.

I look forward to next semester, and the remainder of my time here at Penn State, because now I know that even though I may struggle at times, I will come out stronger. College is one long learning experience, and I am excited to see what kind of person I am when I graduate.

TED Talk Reflection

Overall, I think my TED Talk went pretty well. I made consistent eye contact with my audience, spoke with good pace, volume, and conviction, and did not use excessive hand gestures that took away from my overall performance. I also think that my talk flowed very nicely from one idea to the next, and seemed to have the common characteristics of a TED talk: some humor, anecdotes, and primary examples that helped drive home the single overarching theme of the talk. For the most part, I spoke continuously and in an uninhibited fashion, and showed my point rather clearly.

However, where there is good, there is also bad. I did not start off my talk very strongly. In the second or third sentence, I lose my train of thought, and pause for too long before continuing. Also, I experienced the removal of some sort of throat demon toward the beginning of my talk, but thankfully overcame it with the help of my wonderful audience. Also, I swayed while talking, which was probably distracting. In the future, I hope to either remain more stationary, or use my motion to add to my talk. I also think I followed too closely to the talk I physically wrote and tried to memorize. The talk was two pages long, which is a lot to memorize, but I did it, and found that, while it helped me know exactly what I would be discussing next, it made it very hard to get back on track if I switched a word or said a phrase incorrectly. In the future, I will follow a more bulleted outline, and allow my speech to “flow out of me.”

Something that surprised me was how slow the talk felt. As you can see in the video, I glance over at the timer occasionally. I did this because in my head, I was nearing the end of my material, and when I glanced over at the clock and saw that only two and a half minutes had gone by, I panicked. Thankfully, my talk took longer than my nervous brain anticipated, and I fit within the time frame. Another thing that surprised me was the fact that I appear to be looking down during the entire talk, when I am simply making eye contact with the audience. Overall, my talk went as planned, and I am proud of how I performed.

Paradigm Shift Paper to TED Talk

My paradigm shift paper focuses on the shift that has occurred in stand-up comedy over the past few decades. It analyzes specials by Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, and Louis CK. In the paper, I analyze the specials in three categories: Content, Delivery, and Audience Reaction. Later, the paper delves into the scientific remedies laughter provides, and explains why comedy is incredibly important in today’s society.

However, for my TED Talk, I plan on focusing more on the present day and why comedy is an integral part of society’s healing process. Therefore, I will be focusing primarily on the work of Louis CK and what his comedy shows us about society and how it is working to make people feel better about the world as a whole. To highlight CK’s work, I will be adding more excerpts of his special than are present in my paper, either through my own speech or through the use of multimedia. I will then quickly explain how these jokes remedy society’s woes, and explain why comedy is so important.

Because of this focus on Louis CK, I will only briefly mention the work of Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy. I will use them as examples of how comedy shifted from just telling jokes to telling jokes that made people feel better and end some of the awful aspects of society.

Also, I will be focusing mainly on the content of the jokes, slightly on the audience reaction, and very little on the delivery. By doing this, it will eliminate the name from the jokes, and help show how all comedians in this day in age, not just Louis CK, use their jokes to make people feel better.

I think these additions, omissions, and highlights will help me transform my paradigm shift paper, which is focused on the comedy itself, into a TED Talk that shows the importance of comedy in today’s world.

Paradigm Shift Excerpt

Here is my introduction from my paradigm shift paper. After Tuesday’s class, I have two main concerns. The first is that it is not short enough. What we discussed in class made it seem as though an introduction is supposed to be short and sweet and get out of the way of the body of the paper. Also, I am concerned that my introduction is too mundane. It reminds me very little of a movie trailer, like mentioned in class, and I am wondering if it is capable of grabbing the audience’s attention for the rest of the paper.


Over the past few decades, stand-up comedy has risen dramatically in popularity. In the 1950’s, very few names were known around the world. As time progressed, more and more comedians became household names: Bill Cosby, Steve Martin, and Richard Pryor for example. Nowadays, comedy is absolutely booming. Comedy Central is one of television’s most successful channels, comedy movies are in high demand, and stand-up comedy specials are gaining popularity exponentially. In today’s world, comedians are some of the world’s most famous people. Performers like Louis CK, Kevin Hart, and Gabriel Iglesias are known all around the world, and have found ways to make every member of their audience laugh. However, comedy has not only changed in popularity. Comedy in and of itself has changed dramatically, even within the past forty years. This makes sense, given that comedy is a fluid art, and hinges upon the thoughts and reactions of society. So, as society naturally changes over time, it is completely natural for comedy to change with it. But how has comedy changed? What changes in society can be seen through this change in comedy? This paper will answer these questions by analyzing the specials of three very well-known comics: Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, and Louis CK. These performances, like any other source of entertainment, can be analyzed under three conditions: Content, Delivery, and Audience Reaction. Looking at these three specific performances will shed light on the changes that have occurred in comedy, as well as dive deeper into what has changed within society that made these comedians so successful.

Project #3 Ideas

The first idea that came to mind of a paradigm shift is the shift that has occurred in stand up comedy. Only a few decades ago, comedians like Bill Cosby were incredibly popular, telling very clean, and simple jokes. Comedy began to shift around the time Eddie Murphy became popular. At this time, comedy began to be darker, and was done in a fashion much like story telling. Nowadays, popular comedians’ jokes, like that of Louis CK, are incredibly dark, touching on some of the most controversial topics of life (race, gay marriage, etc.) Comedy specials are now like watching a master story teller tell the story of everyday life with an interesting spin. This comedy is a lot harder to grasp than that of the past, but also conveys very important messages about how the comedian and the audience should think about how the world works. Despite this shift, there are still some comedians that use the olden-day styles of Bill Cosby (Gabriel Iglesias, for example). I think it would be incredibly interesting to see what types of jokes comedians are shifting to, as well as discover how audiences are reacting to these jokes.

The other topic idea I have is the paradigm shift that has taken place in rap music. In the early days of hip hop, rap was the medium through which underprivileged artists spoke their mind. Artists like Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls rapped about the struggles they were currently facing, as well as what they had to deal with in the past. Until the end of this era in rap, rappers like Biggie and Tupac rapped to bolster their own reputation, and worried solely about their work. However, rap is shifting into a completely new vein. Rappers try to rap about struggles that they have not truly experienced (Drake’s “Started from the Bottom” is a great example). Also, rappers have shifted away from getting messages out through their rap. Finally, rappers constantly bash on each other to increase publicity. Chris Brown recently called out Drake on live radio. Things like this never used to happen, but are now everyday occurrences in rap. Rap is becoming more and more popular, so I think it would be very interesting to analyze this paradigm shift.

Rhetorical Analysis Draft


Here is my rhetorical analysis essay so far. I have yet to write one more body paragraph and the conclusion.

Connor Cassady

Sarah Adams


14 October, 2014

Why Quit? Switch to the Easy Way Out

Over the past few years, a movement urging smokers to quit has been sweeping across America. Countless commercials, posters, social media posts, and medical professional statements have been circulating through society, all working toward the same goal: Help smokers quit smoking. It is a well-known fact how difficult it is to quit smoking, and many attempts have been made to ease this transition for smokers – nicotine patches, support groups, etc., but have not been successful in helping all smokers quit. Another problem faced by these campaigns is that they cannot stop people from starting to smoke, which starts the whole process over again. Seeing the negative effects of smoking drives smokers to want to quit, but, as mentioned previously, this is a very difficult task. So, a whole new market has been created: smokers looking to find a way to smoke without the harmful side effects of conventional cigarettes. Enter the blu electronic cigarette. This device contains a smaller amount of nicotine than normal cigarettes, but the smoke is all water vapor, thus eliminating almost all of the harm of cigarettes. People everywhere are spreading the word about these devices, and advertisements are popping up all over written and digital media. One ad in particular, the “Why Quit?” ad, uses appearance and berating language to convince wannabe quitters into electronic cigarette consumers.

When first viewed, the ad’s large heading and picture of a man smoking an electronic cigarette creates a compelling argument for switching to blu eCigs. The heading of this advertisement, originally launched in the fall of 2013, creates a safe haven for those smokers looking to quit their lethal habit. The words, “Why Quit? Switch to blu,” make it seem as though it is in smokers’ best interest to not quit smoking, but rather smoke electronic cigarettes rather than “normal” cigarettes. This heading portrays the act of quitting smoking in search of better health as something undesirable, and idiotic. This portrayal makes switching to blu eCigs all the more pleasing because it allows the consumers to continue smoking, and the switch now seems to be the most logical choice. Also, the man smoking the blu eCig in the ad appeals to the audience’s human need to fit in and be liked. The man is depicted as a very cool person, who, based on his clothing, is successful in life. His clothing is expensive, his jewelry is large and flashy, and he has the overall demeanor of someone who has made it in life. And what is he doing? Smoking a blu electronic cigarette. This then makes the viewer believe that he/she can also achieve this wealth and status in society if he/she switches to blu eCigs. Finally, the portrayal of the electronic cigarette itself draws the audience in. It has the same shape as a normal cigarette, but is black, and has a mesmerizing glow at one end. This glow appeals to the simplest of human liking: shiny objects. This glow lures the viewers in, and captivates him/her, allowing the blu eCig to control him/her before even viewing the actual product.

The paragraph underneath the large heading of this ad uses berating, yet inspiring language to convince the viewer to switch to blu eCigs. At first glance, this paragraph seems harmless. It presents the existence of the blu electronic cigarette, showing the viewer a new possibility for “healthy” smoking. However, in the next sentence, the ad states that blu eCigs will allow smokers to, “[t]ake back [their] freedom…” Given this ad was displayed primarily in America, the viewers of the ad have a very strong belief of what it means to be free. America is supposed to be a place where someone can be their own person, and celebrate who he/she is as an individual. This sentence is chastising smokers for letting cigarettes take away this American right. Blu eCigs is taunting the ad’s viewers, almost saying, “How could you let them take away your freedom? Are you not an American? Do you not enjoy being free? Who are they to tell you what you can and cannot do?” This lights a fire under the viewers, and frustrates them to the point of wanting to do something about it. So, what do they do? They use the resource in front of them to come up with a solution. They see that they will be able to get their freedom back if they switch to blu eCigs. Also, the last sentence of this paragraph makes a personal attack at the viewers and their work ethic. It states, “Nobody likes a quitter.” This statement makes the viewer believe that they are not working hard enough to maintain their habit, and that they are not hard working individuals because of this fact. Also, this attacks the viewer’s sense of being an American. Part of being an American, in blu eCigs’ mind, is working tirelessly to achieve goals. So, if these smokers quit, they will never achieve the happiness or success of the man depicted in the ad, and will be shunned for being “quitters.” Again, this statement is using the fact that humans want to be liked and want to fit in, and they will do almost anything to achieve acceptance. So, the ad again portrays the idea of quitting smoking as illogical, convincing the viewer to switch to blu electronic cigarettes, and once again become a part of society. Overall, this paragraph breaks down the viewer. It makes them seriously consider who they are as a person, as an American, and as a member of society. This deconstruction of self allows blu eCigs to rebuild the viewer into someone that chooses to smoke their product, and become the person that this company envisions as an ideal citizen.



A few things I would greatly appreciate some feedback on:

– Transitions: I’m afraid that my ideas jump randomly from one to the next.

-Cohesiveness: I am unsure as to whether the ideas I am presenting are all leading toward a common theme for the ad. Maybe this will become more clear when I finish the essay, but for now, I am unsure.

-Following the assignment: I have been known, in many occasions, to go off topic, or stray from an assignment. Does this paper follow the assignment?

Thank you for taking the time to read this and provide feedback.


Class Speeches

Overall, I think my classmates’ speeches went really well. Every student seemed so passionate about their topic, and that made the speeches very interesting to listen to.

In my opinion, these speeches were successful because of their delivery. I think the delivery of an effective speech needs to mold to the topic. If the topic is somber, like Keith’s speech about the 9/11 memorial, it calls for a more stationary and serious delivery. Keith did this wonderfully, and his speech was incredible. By remaining stationary and speaking in a very even tone and slow pace, he created an environment that personified the sadness of that day. However, his words kept the speech uplifting. He reminded us that we must never forget that day, and detailed an amazing memorial dedicated to cherishing the lives lost on September 11th, 2001.

A speech on the total opposite end of the spectrum was Makenzie’s speech about the “Pie it Forward” movement. Her artifact was a bright pink flier from a bakery in her home town, an artifact with the complete opposite effect of Keith’s. This light and optimistic artifact called for a casual, energetic speech, which Makenzie nailed. She brought the audience into the happiness of her topic, and kept a great energy throughout, personifying the optimism of her artifact.

One aspect of the class’s speech delivery that I think we could all work on is eye contact. While we all attempted to maintain eye contact, we all seemed partially glued to our note cards. This makes sense. We are still not yet completely comfortable speaking in front of our classmates, and public speaking in and of itself is a daunting task. I think we could all remedy this in two ways. The first being practicing our speeches more. This will get us more comfortable with what we are saying, and allow us to look up from our notes more often. The second method is speaking to one another before and after class starts. If we establish friendly connections with other classmates, we will feel a lot more comfortable speaking our minds in front of the class.

I am so excited to hear what everyone has to say for our next project, and I cannot wait to see everyone become stronger public speakers.

Ifemelu’s Reaction to American Schooling

I think that Ifemelu’s reaction to the American school system is incredibly myopic, and unaccepting, but not unwarranted. Based off of what has been described of her life in Nigeria, life seemed to be pretty regimented. She got up and prayed every morning, went to school, and her friend was even “scheduled” to start dating Obinze. So, now that she is in America, and school is not as structured – for instance, students are encouraged to share their thoughts in class rather than believe everything the professor says – she sees it as abnormal and incorrect.

I do not however, believe this reaction is completely her fault. Her first experience at college was one of profound disrespect. When she checked in, and Cristina Thomas spoke to her like she could not understand English, it showed her that she will ultimately be judged primarily by her outward appearance. In Nigeria, everyone was similar, much like we students in America view each other as equals. So, now that Ifemelu is not being treated simply as another human being, she loses sight of herself, and is trapped under the microscope of her new, unaccepting society. This leaves a bad taste in her mouth, and makes her feel worthless, thus making it difficult for her to understand why any students’ opinions would be respected at college, or why they do not seem to be working as hard to earn the respect of others.

However, if Ifemelu were to come to Penn State, I think she would have a much different experience. Penn State is so focused on inviting students from all over the world to study on this campus, and there are amazing resources for those international class members. Because of this, I think all of the students from the US at Penn State are incredibly accepting of other cultures and nationalities. At first, it would be tough for Ifemelu to feel like she fits in, but because she is from a completely different culture than that of the US, not because of discrimination. I think that after a few weeks on campus, she would be able to connect with so many people, not only from the US, but from all over the world. This capacity for global connection is something that I think she is missing at her current american University, and surely would have missed in Nigeria. This would really help her see her importance in American society, and make her feel better about American Schooling.

Steve Jobs’ 2005 Commencement Speech

A speech that I admire is Steve Jobs’ speech at the 2005 Stanford Commencement Ceremony. This speech is relatable, it is simple, and it conveys so many amazing messages to its audience.

Jobs begins the speech brilliantly, and immediately brings himself to a level that is approachable to the Stanford Class of 2005. In his second sentence, Jobs admits that he never graduated from college, and shows a shy side of himself that seems to be hidden by his multi-billionaire Apple CEO mantra. This statement immediately “brings him down” from his pedestal of success, and establishes pathos, creating a human connection between himself and the audience.

He continues his speech by telling three stories, and tells them in a way that it almost seems as though he is having a conversation with the students at the Commencement Ceremony. Jobs follows the Rule of Three, and uses each story to portray a message valuable to anyone, not just college graduates.

Later, Jobs creates a connection with the audience in his first story. He tells them something personal, and conveys the message: Never be afraid to try new things, and have faith that these new things will pay off in the future. Instead of just stating this message without support, Jobs tells the story of taking a calligraphy class, a skill that I doubt anyone would think an Apple CEO would need. But Jobs then connects the dots, and shows how it paid off for him and his company in the future.

In the second story, Jobs again shows the actual application of his second message: Do not rest until you find something that you love. He establishes ethos by telling the students what he went through, and how he discovered this message through his own experience.

In the third story, Jobs brings up a very pessimistic, but true point: Use death as a motivator. We are all going to die, so use that fact to do some of your best work. Jobs continues making his stories relatable, and uses humor to lighten the mood of this topic. He also ends on a happy note, keeping his audience from feeling depressed.

One problem I had with the speech was Jobs’ physical delivery. He rarely looked up from his paper, and his words sounded a little robotic at times. The stories he told happened to him, so I think he could have looked up a little more and been a little less stringent with following exactly what he wrote.

Overall, Jobs does an amazing job developing this speech. His use of ethos and pathos draw the audience in, and the speech’s kairos makes it incredibly relevant to the student body. He also uses humor and a conversational tone to connect to his audience throughout the speech. This speech is incredible, and is a shining example of everything a speech should be.