After receiving a Thomas A. Daschle Career Papers Collection Faculty/Student Research Fellowship this summer, Becky Kuehl and Olivia Knippling were unsure what they would learn in researching Daschle’s leadership speeches.
Kuehl, a South Dakota State University associate professor in the School of Communication and Journalism, and women, gender and sexuality studies program coordinator at SDSU, and Knippling, a senior majoring in communication studies from Highmore, soon learned Tom Daschle had prepared a speech to declare his candidacy for the president of the United States but never delivered it. Their research took place in the Senator Thomas A. Daschle Congressional Research Study in the Hilton M. Briggs Library’s University Archives and Special Collections.
“It was a very helpful speech in the sample because he clearly took some time to draft what his presidency, in terms of a campaign and campaign discourse, would look like. That was really cool to see that he had thought about it even though he eventually did not run,” said Kuehl.
Kuehl and Knippling started reviewing Daschle’s bipartisanship rhetoric in 50 of his leadership speeches before narrowing the sample to 23. They received a $7,500 fellowship to conduct the research over the summer.
“As a person, Daschle was very respected so even when people disagreed with him, there was a lot of good discourse because people really valued him from an ethical perspective,” said Knippling. She said was excited to be asked to be part of the project, particularly as an undergraduate student. “People could see his intentions even if they didn’t agree with how he went about it or where he wanted to get to. I’d say we learned a lot about the importance of the ethos, or credibility in his speeches, especially.”
Both stated Daschle is a model for how one can disagree in a way that is respectful.
“One of our primary findings was that he used bipartisanship fairly explicitly but also used partisanship or polarizing rhetoric, when needed. Even within his polarizing rhetoric, which is a common strategy in national conventional speeches, it was pretty tame,” Kuehl said. “I hope to use some of this in my teaching. Even when he was attacking the Republican administration or the Republican Party, Daschle did so in a way that was very polite and respectful. For me, it could be an example to be used in my classes about what respectful disagreement can look like. I think we do have models who are doing that now, but there are fewer of them.”
They will submit a proposal to present at the Central States Communication Association annual conference in the political communication division and submit a paper for publication in a national communication journal.
“Our intervention in the scholarly literature is that most of the scholarship about national political conventions as a genre is about people who accept the presidential nomination,” Kuehl said. “There are some articles on spouses and other supporting speeches, but what we found in our study is regardless of whether or not the speaker is the nominee, the speeches tend to follow the rhetorical norms and expectations of that genre.”