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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Presentations and Activities > Presidential Speeches: What Makes an Effective Speech?
image of Theodore Roosevelt in 1902

[Detail] Theodore Roosevelt gives an address at the unveiling of a statue near the White House in 1902

Each presidential speech is unique. By working with primary sources from the online collections of the Library of Congress, students can explore the people and events that shaped these speeches. They can also identify the components of an effective speech and discover persuasive strategies that will help make their own speeches presidential.

Teaching Ideas

  • Present your students with still or moving images from the Library’s online collections of presidents delivering speeches. What do your students notice about the presidents as they speak? What, if any, gestures are they making? If there’s an audience, how does the president interact with them? Why do you think the presidents made these choices?
  • Ask your students to watch or listen to recordings of presidential speeches. How do they compare to more recent presidential speeches?
  • Ask your students to select a few presidential speeches and identify elements that these speeches have in common. What issues do the speeches address? What was the occasion and audience for each speech? How might occasion and audience have affected the president’s choice of topic and the way in which the president addressed the topic?

Photographs of Presidents Delivering Speeches

Video and Audio of Presidential Speeches

The Text of Presidential Speeches