Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric
A Peer Reviewed Journal of Current Event Analysis

Current Issue: Volume 6, Issue 1/2

Updated February 18, 2016


Empathizer-in-Chief: The Promotion and Performance of Empathy in the Speeches of Barack Obama
Eric Leake

Empathy has been a hallmark of Barack Obama’s rhetoric, from his initial run for president to recent speeches in South Carolina and in support of prison reform. In this essay I argue that Obama does more than attempt to present himself as a relatable empathizer who understands mainstream America, as previous politicians have done. I demonstrate instead through the analysis of key speeches that Obama actively promotes and performs empathy as a means of understanding and as a civic value, especially in his use of personal stories and the recognition of context and history. I conclude with a consideration of the power of empathic rhetoric for how it creates expectations of feeling and accountability. These expectations also open it to necessary critique. Key Words: accountability, empathy, “I feel your pain,” narrative, Obama, political rhetoric.

Coming Out as a Transgender Advocate: Laverne Cox, Intersectional Rhetoric, and Intersectionality
Andre Favors

In this essay, the author frames the public discourse of transgender performer and advocate Laverne Cox in terms of both its use of an intersectional perspective and the use of intersectional rhetoric. This analysis bridges these two approaches to illustrate that Cox has successfully shifted public discourse in terms of trans and queer issues, but also is able to build a broader coalition while doing so. As a performer, Cox’s work has complicated her advocacy work. However, Cox has built a successful approach that embraces both intersectional rhetoric and an intersectional perspective. Key Words: intersectionality, Laverne Cox, Netflix, transgender advocacy, queer of color rhetoric(s).