The Department of Communication hosted the Thirteenth Biennial Public Address Conference, Sept. 27-29, on the University of Memphis campus. The theme, “On Civic Learning: Rhetoric, Public Address, Political Division,” revolved around questions such as: What makes for productive, civically useful knowledge of political controversy? How can we tap this knowledge in order to approach differences more wisely and argue with each other more eloquently?
More than 30 nationally-acclaimed scholars in the study of rhetoric and public address tackled those questions and discussed how we might chart ways to improve the quality of our shared civic life.
Highlights included two public lectures. The first, given by Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, focused on foreign policy rhetoric and the 2012 presidential race. Co-hosted by the Department of Journalism, the second featured Jacqueline Jones Royster, African-American rhetoric expert, who delivered a lecture on the anti-lynching campaign of Ida B. Wells.
Both sessions were promoted to local high school teachers, colleges and community leaders who attended to learn more about rhetoric and communication at the University of Memphis. This year’s conference director was Dr. Antonio de Velasco, associate professor in Communication.
For nearly 25 years, the Public Address Conference has met biennially at the nation’s premier sites of rhetoric study. A multi-day event, it assembles national leaders in the study of rhetoric and public address.
“The conference succeeded in two major ways. First, it treated our students and faculty to an intellectual gathering of the highest caliber,” Dr. de Velasco said. “Over three days, we were treated to scholarship that challenged us, that motivated us, and that set the mark high for our own academic work. Second, for the Department of Communication, it afforded us the chance to partner with constituencies both across the University – other departments, centers, and concentrations – and across our local community. It was truly a landmark moment.”
Conceived by the late Dr. Michael Leff, former chair of the Department of Communication at the University of Memphis, and Dr. David Zarefsky, professor emeritus in the Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern University’s School of Communication, the conference first met at the University of Wisconsin in 1988.