Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Communication Studies

First Advisor

Darrin K. Hicks, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Roy Wood

Third Advisor

Christina Foust

Fourth Advisor

Ann Dobyns


Dialogic rhetoric, Martin Luther King Jr., Multi-modal argumentation, Racial reasoning, Rhetorical effectivity, Robert F. Kennedy


Robert Kennedy's announcement of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in an Indianapolis urban community that did not revolt in riots on April 4, 1968, provides one significant example in which feelings, energy, and bodily risk resonate alongside the articulated message. The relentless focus on Kennedy's spoken words, in historical biographies and other critical research, presents a problem of isolated effect because the power really comes from elements outside the speech act. Thus, this project embraces the complexities of rhetorical effectivity, which involves such things as the unique situational context, all participants (both Kennedy and his audience) of the speech act, aesthetic argument, and the ethical implications.

This version of the story embraces the many voices of the participants through first hand interviews and new oral history reports. Using evidence provided from actual participants in the 1968 Indianapolis event, this project reflects critically upon the world disclosure of the event as it emerges from those remembrances. Phenomenology provides one answer to the constitutive dilemma of rhetorical effectivity that stems from a lack of a framework that gets at questions of ethics, aesthetics, feelings, energy, etc. Thus, this work takes a pedagogical shift away from discourse (verbal/written) as the primary place to render judgments about the effects of communication interaction.

With a turn to explore extra-sensory reasoning, by way of the physical, emotional, and numinous, a multi-dimensional look at public address is delivered. The rhetorician will be interested in new ways of assessing effects. The communication ethicist will appreciate the work as concepts like answerability, emotional-volitional tone, and care for the other, come to life via application and consideration of Kennedy's appearance. For argumentation scholars, the interest comes forth in a re-thinking of how we do argumentation. And the critical cultural scholar will find this story ripe with opportunities to uncover the politics of representation, racialized discourse, privilege, power, ideological hegemony, and reconciliation. Through an approach of multiple layers this real-life tale will expose the power of the presence among audience and speaker, emotive argument, as well as the magical turn of fate which all contributes the possibility of a dialogic rhetoric.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Kristine Marie Warrenburg


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

301 p.


Communication, American History

Included in

Communication Commons