Category Archives: RCL

Staying True to the MLK Day Spirit

It is 2:00 a.m. You are exhausted, fatigued, hungry and frankly delirious from the amount of work you have left to finish. You decide to check your e-mail and scroll through the subject lines:

“We need your help!”
“Donate now!”
“This will not be possible without you.”
“Support us…”

Your eyes begin to twitch from your lack of sleep. It is too early in the morning to be bombarded with e-mails requesting your support when you have two papers, an exam and a presentation due the following day. After all, your support is not as urgent as your need to finish your paper, so you decide to ignore the e-mails and return to staring at your computer trying to thread together a few cohesive paragraphs for your paper—yes, the paper your professor sternly told your not to write the night before.

While the scenario may be slightly exaggerated, my point is that we often ignore the many opportunities we have to support charitable causes and do good work in our community. Maybe we are too busy trying to manage our own lives. Maybe we have received so many cries for help and support that we have become immune to them. Maybe we think that other people will step in and help instead. Maybe we don’t care.

I will admit, there have been many times I have ignored opportunities to help Penn State organizations simply because I thought I was too busy and other people would step in instead. In retrospect, I feel that I should have been the person who stepped in. Sometimes we get so entangled in the madness of our lives that we fail to realize the amount of influence we can actually have if we simply tried and helped. Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired us to actively engage ourselves in our community, immerse ourselves in both its beauty and deficits, and most importantly, become a voice for reason and change.

With THON quickly approaching, I decided to gather a few friends and help support THON’s annual Arts and Crafts Drive by buying craft supplies and asking people in our dorm buildings if they had anything to donate. We were able to collect and donate items such as construction paper, markers, folders, pins, stickers, pens and pencils that I am sure will put a smile on the face of any child who receives them. While it was a small gesture, it certainly stayed true to the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and will hopefully remind us to stay actively engaged in our community and its activities!

Ted Talk Reflection

I’ll admit, it was a rather unpleasant and uncomfortable experience watching my Ted Talk, especially during the times I faltered. Nonetheless, I think there are many things I can learn from my talk, which I can hopefully address in  future speeches.

1). I realized that I have a tendency to flail my hands a little too much, especially when I looked nervous or forgot what I had to say. While I think hand gestures are important, I may have diminished its effectiveness by overusing them. In the future, I think I should practice in front of a mirror or a small audience more often to overcome my uneasiness and hopefully keep  my hand gestures to a minimum.

2). My eye contact with my audience was poor, especially since I turned around multiple times to look at my visuals. I think I may not have been as familiar with my speech as I had thought. The next time I give a speech of the same nature, I think I will certainly practice more and make sure I am familiar with the order of my visuals so that I do not need to constantly turn around.

3). I am not sure if everyone observed it, but I did forget some of my speech towards the last two minutes and spoke impromptu. And while it was not as gracious and fluent as I would have liked, I am happy with what I was able to string together in a mildly cohesive manner. As a future note, I think I should learn speeches on the basis of bullet points as opposed to memorizing a three-page speech. Memory can fail all of us at times, so I now feel that “memorizing” may  not be the best way to give a speech. Instead, it may be beneficial to give a speech based off a rough outline.

4). A quirk that I realized about myself is that when I am nervous or drawing a blank, I cross my legs. It happened multiple times during the talk and while the video does not show my legs, I can see myself swaying side to side. As in my previous comments, I think one of the best solutions is repeated practice.

Overall, I think I had a decent speech, but there were certainly many things that I could improve on for the future. Hopefully as I gain more experience in public speaking and continue to critique my work, the quality and delivery of my speeches will continue to improve.

Ted Talks

Since its launch in 1984, Ted Talks have become a highly effective platform for the sharing and spreading of new ideas and innovations. By coupling ethos, pathos, and logos-based appeals with a conversational oral presentation, the ideas presented in Ted Talks are easily received and easily understood by a wide audience. Because Ted Talks have also grown in magnitude over the past couple of decades, it is now possible to find a Talk on virtually any topic. Even more, the accessibility of Ted Talks through the Internet enables the messages presented in Ted Talks to reach a global audience. Lastly, Ted Talks are generally given in a short time frame (i.e. three to fifteen minutes), which prevents audiences from losing interest and becoming inundated with too much information. Under the slogan, “ideas worth sharing,” Ted Talks are an effective method to introduce new ideas in a short, condensed, and simplified manner in which audiences across the globe can very easily understand.

Like any speech, however, the effectiveness of Ted Talks depends on the speaker. While the idea of Ted Talks is powerful and valuable, the ability of Ted Talks to convey an idea to an audience ultimately resides in the effectiveness of the speaker. Furthermore, Ted Talks generally lack visuals, which I feel are an important component in explaining and sharing ideas. In many instances, visuals are often more useful in explaining phenomena that words cannot express. Since Ted Talks rely heavily on the oral aspect of presentation, I feel that the lack of visuals may be dampening its own effectiveness.

While I believe that the popularity of Ted Talks is increasing, I do not think that it is necessarily a new rhetorical development. Although Ted Talks are effective, I feel that they are simply a modern adaptation of a conventional speech—the only difference being that the presenter is able to reach a wider audience and more easily share his or her ideas.

Paradigm Shift Map: Academic Inflation

I decided to do my paradigm shift on academic inflation, which is the phenomenon by which too many people are being educated. Some implications of academic inflation are that a bachelor’s degree is no longer enough to get a job and that people must stay longer in academia to pursue higher degrees. Occupations that once required a high school diploma forty years ago now require a masters or a PH.D., which I thought was an interesting shift to observe.
Let me know what you think!

RCL Paradigm Shift Flowchart

Reflection on Rhetorical Analysis

Although I was initially uncertain of how I would go about writing my rhetorical analysis, I think the overall process was quite beneficial. I enjoyed going through multiple advertisements, especially the Super Bowl commercials (which never fail to impress) and found myself subconsciously thinking about how ethos, pathos, and logos-based appeals applied to these pieces of text. Through the assignment, I feel like I was able to improve my writing and revision skills in addition to developing a keener analytical eye in assessing how companies try to influence us into buying their products.

While I had learned about ethos, pathos, and logos in high school, I had never learned to truly analyze such appeals in application to the real world. Prior to the rhetorical analysis, I had only used ethos, pathos, and logos to analyze essays or prepare for the AP test. Admittedly, it was refreshing to analyze these rhetorical strategies as they are presented in everyday life through billboard advertisements, comics, commercials, leaflets, and much more.

In this unit, I found the concept of kairos quite interesting. I was familiar with the concept of “seizing the moment,” but never realized their was a rhetorical term associated with it. I liked how our textbook used the gun control example since it placed the rhetorical terms in modern context and made it much more understandable.

I also appreciated having my work reviewed by a peer and being able to peer-review someone else’s work. Oftentimes I find myself rambling and writing sentences that are completely logical in my head, but end up being confusing to others who read my work.  The peer-review activity gave me an opportunity to clarify my writing and learn to help others in making their writing better, which I believe is an invaluable skill. Overall, I found the rhetorical analysis very effective in getting me to  apply rhetorical terms to everyday propaganda and helping me become a better writer and critical thinker.

RCL: Kairos

Chastising the academic infrastructure of public schools, Sir Ken Robinson attributes the trend of unidimensional thinking and lack of creativity in modern youth to deficits in the public education system and as a result, distorted perceptions of “education.” Robinson’s plea for reforming and modernizing the traditional education paradigm arises in an age where education no longer guarantees a job and students nationwide have an ingrained, albeit misinformed, belief that if they do not pursue science or mathematics, they will never be successful. As Robinson informs, the current system of public education still holds is foundations in the past, when Industrialization created an initial burst in education and in consequence, schools were, and still are, organized on factory lines. Robinson reinforces the lack of advancement in schools to show that education is not progressing and may in fact be regressing towards a strictly regimented institution void of creativity or critical thinking. In light of an outdated infrastructure and declining academic performance, Robinson takes the opportunity (kairos) to share his vision for reformed education in a TedTalk, a platform conducive to sharing ideas and new ways of thinking.

To bring awareness and urgency to a nonfunctional system, Robinson discusses a study that showed the deleterious effects of the current public school system on student creativity. In the study, a group of children were monitored for creative capacity from the time they were in kindergarten to the time they were fifteen. A higher aptitude of creativity, which corresponded to a higher level of genius, was observed in kindergarten children (who received a genius score of 98%). As these children were retested at ten and fifteen years of age, their aptitude of creativity declined by more than half (to a genius score of 40%). As Robinson explains, society can no longer afford to believe that twelve years of grasping theoretical information constitutes an “education.” Rather, the influx of theoretical knowledge and the concept of “There’s only one answer. And it’s in the back,” has essentially purged modern youth of its creativity. The publication of the study substantiates Robinson’s claim that students are losing creativity and provides an appropriate context for Robinson to bring up the issue and spread it to wider audiences. In reference to kairos, Robinson utilizes the recent findings of the study to create a window of opportunity in which people across the nation are unanimous in their belief that the public education system needs to be reshuffled and remodeled.

Link to speech:

Ideas for Rhetorical Analysis Paper

As I go through potential topics for the rhetorical analysis paper, I’m still a bit unsure as to what I would like to write about. When the assignment was first brought up in class, I immediately thought about the 2006 ASPCA commercial with Sarah McLachlan that flooded television channels everywhere and brought most of its audience to tears. If you haven’t seen it, take a look: (keep some tissues with you, just in case).

Even after watching the advertisement multiple times, I never fail to be overly sentimental afterwards, and I think it’s because the video uses rhetorical strategies very well. The video has powerful appeals emotion, especially through the photos of the animals being the helpless subject of animal cruelty (pathos). Sarah McLachlan is a strong and long-time supporter of the ASPCA, which establishes her credibility (ethos). And lastly, the video utilizes very strong statistics on animal cruelty to establish its cause (logos). The rhetorical strategies used in this commercial are fairly clear and forthright, so I feel that this video would be a good topic for the paper.

Another topic that I am interested is a 2012 TEDTalk that discusses, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” If you haven’t seen it, here it is (I highly recommend it): The talk is given by Sir Ken Robinson, a well-respected author, speaker, and advisor on education. The presentation is really quite powerful, and makes us truly reconsider the infrastructure of our education system. The presentation does use many rhetorical strategies (through the use of personal stories and statistics), but they are certainly not as apparent as the strategies used in the ASPCA video. I am leaning a bit more towards writing about the TEDTalk because I feel like it will lead to a more interesting discussion that we can all relate to, but I am still continuing to go through different ideas.

Please let me know what you think!

RCL: A Review of the Speeches

I’ll be honest: public speaking is not my forte. I can walk into a speech, confidant, having my words prepared and my gestures practiced, but as soon as I face my audience, my mind blanks. I forget my speech (and how to string words to make a sentence, for that matter) and my hands begin to flail, my feet cross, and I begin a long slew of “ums” as I try to slowly piece together a forgotten speech. Given my prior history of poorly-delivered speeches, I was content with the speech I gave on Tuesday discussing how the ad for the National Guard connected to civic engagement. I will admit, I was nervous, but I think I was able to convey my message clearly and that my hand gestures stayed gentle and did not flail like years past. I certainly think my speech could have been improved if I spoke a little slower. When speaking in front of a group of people, I have a tendency to talk as fast as possible and have mastered the art of blurting out as many words of my speech in the shortest amount of time. I also think my transitions between points could have been much better and smoother, I did not think it was too terrible. Something I would like to improve for the future would be to reduce my use of “ums” and in general, develop more confidence in giving speeches and hopefully achieve a point where public speaking becomes a comfortable routine.

As I listened to many other speeches, I was impressed by everyone’s poise and enjoyed the content of their discussion. I thought some of the qualities of the well-delivered speeches were that the speaker had a very comfortable and deliberate pace. Oftentimes, many people have the tendency to talk as fast as they can without ever noticing it, and I believe that the speeches spoken at a normal pace not only made the audience comfortable, but also allowed them to better understand the material. I also enjoyed the speeches that had elements of humor, because that put the audience at ease and helped draw the audience’s attention. Some aspects that could be improved include developing an impromptu style of speech. I, along with a few others, have the habit of directly reading off a paper during a speech, which limits the contact a speaker can make with his or her own audience and also contributes to the audience’s unease. Another potential improvement may be to avoid saying “um” (which I have a bad habit of doing, as well). Hopefully, over the course of the class, we will all be able to develop some valuable public speaking skills which will churn out some great speeches in the future.

RCL: Ideologies and Commonplaces

Over the past few years at Penn State, a mere three letters have come to define our community, celebrate our triumphs, and most importantly, unite communities of all backgrounds toward a common cause.  Three letters can seldom generate such harmony and unconditional support amongst a body of forty thousand students, but FTK does.

In the new THON 2014 promo video, students explore the idea of community, commitment, and philanthropy in support of a cause that is beyond themselves. Such an ideology of compassion and selflessness—working tirelessly for the kids to fight against pediatric cancer—is the cornerstone of THON’s success and empowers students to wholeheartedly love children they have never met. Through the compassion and selfless deeds of students, THON has evoked a dogged spirit of resistance against pediatric cancer and continues to fight for the cure, simply for the kids. In the video, students can be seen interacting with the children, whether it be through a hug, a fist punch, or a high-five, with such fervor and excitement that is symbolic of their persistent efforts to fight for every child. The video also shows many interviews with the THON children and their families, who were grateful for the support and love the THON family has provided them. As the acronym, FTK, spreads on banners, t-shirts, and general media, THON has come to represent the kids, an ideology that symbolizes the larger, more tangible, meaning of THON’s purpose and unites communities in a fighting spirit against pediatric cancer.

As THON’s popularity has spread, it has become rather commonplace knowledge that THON has raised over a hundred million dollars towards the Four Diamonds Fund. But by watching the video, it is evident that the money is not the main goal of the project; it is emotional, mental, and physical support for families and children that comes from this money that is the driving influence behind the students’ efforts. As Matthew Wain, Chief Administrative Officer of the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital remarks, “I think that’s what’s amazing. I think it’s beyond the money. I think it’s the power of the awareness and the power of the commitment and passion of students that is really what as strong as the dollars themselves.” Shown by the unity of the student body in the video, when you are on a dance floor with eight hundred other people, their socioeconomic background, beliefs, goals, virtues, and flaws do not matter. It is that they have been disengaged from their own identity to support and work for an entirely new identity that is the children. Such devoted compassion and support for the kids is ultimately the ideology that forges a tacit relationship between every human being on campus and provides the willpower to continue fighting for a cure, for the kids.

As aptly stated in the video by Ryan Patrick, Director of THON 2014, “We always say that the greatest dance marathon will be the one we won’t have to have. Until then, till all childhood cancer is cured, we will keep dancing, keep THONing, keep fighting for the kids.”

Link to THON 2014 promo video:

RCL: The Meaning of “Civic”

I was surrounded by a labyrinth of unfamiliar bodies as people hastily flooded into the room. I remember the antiquated television set being adjusted to the news channel as people around the room watched in anguish, horror, and disbelief. Almost twelve years later, I can still explicitly describe the scene that unfolded as students and teachers in my elementary school in Singapore clustered together to watch the news announcing the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.

Being in elementary school, I had a fairly narrow-minded outlook on world and preferred to dwell on subjects that were solely of concern to me. At the time, I could not understand why events occurring in New York City were being broadcasted in Singapore, and more significantly, why Singaporeans held so much interest in an incident that did not directly affect them. As I have learned more about civic life over the past couple of years, I have grown in my understanding of the world and now appreciate the extensive network of nations, institutions, communities, and people that attests to the globalizing body we are today. In such a way, I feel “civic” describes connection, particularly how we as individuals connect to society and our surrounding communities.

Through the years, our social, political, and economic connections have grown exponentially and it is indisputable that our actions affect others, regardless of whether we know and realize it. That is where “civic” enters the picture; it establishes these connections that provide human beings with a sense of identity, responsibility, and harmony within their community. “Civic” drives people to think beyond themselves and individual interests, encouraging them to see the world through wider lens and take actions for the betterment of society.

At the tender age of six, I failed to understand why people in Singapore gave such importance to events happening thousands of miles across the world. As I grew, I understood that it was because we are connected to each other despite the boundaries and prejudices spanning across nations, ideologies, ethnicities, and society. “Civic” is ultimately the instinctive connection—this intricate network of people, places, and things—we share with the world to inspire compassion, goodwill, and forward progress for all of humanity.