"My Fellow Americans...": The Importance of Campaign Speeches

"My Fellow Americans...": The Importance of Campaign Speeches
Helen Taft: Law, Politics and Govt

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: Four to five class periods


The ultimate goal of a political campaign is to gain as many votes as possible—enough to win the election.  It is with this goal in mind that campaigns are strategically planned.  The methods of campaigning have differed in many ways since William Taft ran for President of the United States and won the election in 1909.  In that time, television and the Internet were not in existence—only print material, word-of-mouth, and listening to speeches directly or through recordings.  Since speeches were the most convincing method to explain a candidate’s position, planning the content and delivery was crucial to winning an election. 


This lesson will allow students to investigate several components of speeches during Taft’s campaign.  As a final product, after noticing the content of Taft’s speeches, students will construct their own either by writing them on paper, or by making notes and performing their own speech in a mock campaign.

Students will define basic elements of the speeches of William Taft. Students will construct their own campaign strategy, focusing on speech construction and delivery.

Materials Required:

Internet access (website suggestions listed in resources) Research materials (books, magazines, articles, and websites) Computer(s) Speakers or head phones Word processor (or paper and writing utensil) Printer (for final papers)


1.  Ask students if they have ever witnessed campaigning.  Make a list of different things or items that students state as being associated with campaigning. 
2.  Eliminate items that are not consistent with campaigning of 1909 in order to teach students about the differences between campaigns of that time period and those of today. (no television, radio, internet, etc).
3.  Explain the importance of clearly dispersing a candidate’s platform to voters during a campaign.
4.  Explain the basic elements of speeches.
5.  Use the website(http://vvl.lib.msu.edu/showfindingaid.cfm?findaidid=TaftW) listed in the lesson to play samples of Taft’s speeches.
6.  Depending on the grade level of your students, have them list major topics discussed during the speeches or draw the topics out of the speeches for the students, explaining them as necessary.
7.  Now that students have experienced Taft’s speeches, explain to them that they will construct and/or deliver their own speech.
8.  Have students role-play by having them pretend that they are running for President.  Each student should select up to 5 issues that they feel are important for the future of the country that they will base their campaign speech on.  (If you feel that your students will have difficulty with this task, compose your own list on the board from which students will choose.)
9.  Students should develop convincing evidence for each issue of their campaign and either write them on paper or explain each to you or the class orally.  Students could also present a short speech to the class.

Extending the Lesson:

As a class, host a mock classroom campaign, developing issues that students feel are important for their community, school, classroom, etc.  During the ‘campaign’, have a classroom discussion about campaigns and elements that students have identified for their own campaign that compare to real-life campaigns.

Sources & Resources:



This lesson was developed by Marian Maxfield, KentStateUniversity.