October 19:  Letter of Advice Day

On this day in 1860 Abraham Lincoln, in the final day of his run for the U.S. presidency, wrote a letter to a 11-year-old girl from Westerfield, New York named Grace Bedell.  Four days earlier, Grace had written to her favorite candidate with the following specific advice:

I am a little girl only eleven years old, but want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you won’t think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am if so give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot answer this letter. I have got 4 brother’s and part of them will vote for you any way and if you will let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you   you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband’s to vote for you and then you would be President.

Lincoln’s response to Grace’s letter was brief, yet its words showed that he had read her letter and was considering her advice regarding facial hair:

October 19, 1860

Springfield, Illinois
Miss. Grace Bedell

My dear little Miss.

Your very agreeable letter of the 15th. is received.

I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughters. I have three sons — one seventeen, one nine, and one seven, years of age. They, with their mother, constitute my whole family.

As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin it now? Your very sincere well-wisher.

A. Lincoln (1)

As reflected in Grace’s letter, Lincoln was in fact clean-shaven before he become president.  However, by the time he took the oath as the 16th president, Lincoln had grown the beard that he wore throughout his presidency. In fact, prior to taking the oath on March 4, 1861, he made a stop in Westfield, meeting his young campaign adviser.

Today’s Challenge:  Take My Advice
If you were to write a letter of advice to a public figure, to whom would you write and what kind of advice would you give them?  Brainstorm some possible public figures to whom you might write letters of advice:  politicians, celebrities, professional athletes, etc.  Select one and write an open letter of advice.  An open letter is a letter that is written to an individual but is intended to be published publicly and to read by a wide audience.  In addition to your specific advice, give detailed explanation that both shows and tells why your advice is worthwhile. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  Letters have to pass two tests before they can be classed as good: they must express the personality both of the writer and of the recipient. -E. M. Forester

1-http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/gracebedell.htm

2-http://readingeagle.com/news/article/after-127-years-beard-making-a-comeback-at-governors-mansion#sthash.6Qmlpt3W.dpuf

 

October 18: TLA Day

On this date in 1922 the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) was formed. In its almost one hundred years as the United Kingdom’s public-service broadcast service on both radio and television, it has been responsible for propagating what is known as Received Pronunciation.

BBC.svgWhat the printing press did for making written English standard, the BBC has done for making spoken British English standard. With a variety of regional dialects of English in the United Kingdom, the BBC created an Advisory Committee on Spoken English in 1926 to explore and establish the best forms of pronunciation among competing usages. The influence and popularity of BBC broadcasts, especially during World War II, established the English spoken on air as the “correct” way to speak English. This Received Pronunciation goes by several names: “Standard English,” “the Queen’s English,” “Oxford English,” “Public School English,” or “BBC English.”

“BBC” is an example of a three-letter abbreviation (TLA), the common method in English of condensing language to save time and space. Whether its the name of corporations (IBM), politicians (JFK), computer terms (CPU), agencies (CIA), countries (UAE), or text messaging (LOL), TLAs continue to be ALR (all the rage).

One distinction should be made in regard to two key terms associated with abbreviations: acronyms and initialism.

An abbreviation is the general term for any shortened form of a word or phrase, such as Oct. for October.

An acronym is a specific type of abbreviation in which the first letters of words are combined to form a word, as in RAM (Random Access Memory).

An initialism is another specific type of abbreviation in which the first letter of words are combined as upper case letters with each letter pronounced as an individual letter, as in FBI = “F” – “B” – “I.”

As you examine examples of TLAs you will discover that the vast majority fit in the category of initialisms. Many are familiar. Look at the gaggle of TLAs below to see which ones you recognize, and use a good dictionary to look up the ones you don’t.

ABC, AKA, BCS, CBS, CEO, CIA, CNN, CPA, CPU, DNA, DVD, EKG, FAQ, FYI, HIV, IBM, IOU, IRA, LCD, LDS, MLB, NBA, NBC, NFL, NHL, NYU, POW, SAT, SDI, UFO, VHS, WWW

TLAs harness the Rule of Three (ROT), a powerful principle in writing that recognizes that there seems to be something special, maybe even magical, about things in three. There’s nothing new about this principle. In Latin it was stated as “Omne trium perfectum,” or “everything that comes in threes is perfect.” Likewise the French motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” demonstrates the brevity, rhythm, and balance of a tried and true trio.

Today’s Challenge: Three-peat After Me
What is a three-word motto that you would use to sum up a principle for success in life, whether at work, at school, at home, or some other aspect of human endeavor? Brainstorm some original mottos and sum them up with a TLA. For example, in the film Glengarry Glen Ross (1984), the motto for success in selling real estate is ABC = “Always Be Closing.” To prime the pump here are a few other example mottos:

Be the change (BTC)

Dream, believe, achieve (DBA)

Just do it (JDI)

Pain is gain (PIG)

Love conquers all (LCA)

Keep it simple (KIS)

Quitters aren’t winners (QAW) (2)

Once you’ve settled on your TLA motto, write a short motivational message in which you explain what it means using appropriate examples and anecdotes to illustrate why it is a motto worth remembering and how it will help the audience achieve success. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day: The world wide web is the only thing I know of whose shortened form [WWW] takes three times longer to say. -Douglas Adams

1-Crystal, David. Evolving English. London: British Library, 2010: 57.
2-http://motto.biz/three-word-mottos/

 

October 12: Hero or Villain Day

On this date in 1492, Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) landed on the shores of San Salvador, an island in the Bahamas. There is no doubt that his “discovery” changed the course of history. There is also little doubt that Columbus and his crew of ninety men demonstrated great courage and perseverance, venturing into the vast unknown. As we reflect on history, however, we should not ignore its dark side, acknowledging that not everything about Columbus’ exploration was positive. We know, for example, that many of the native people Columbus encountered were either killed or enslaved. It’s hard, therefore, to see Columbus as either exclusively a hero or a villain of history.

Portrait of a Man, Said to be Christopher Columbus.jpgColumbus Day was first declared a federal holiday by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937. As with all federal holidays, the president issues an official proclamation to honor the day each year. The careful wording of the following excerpts from President Barack Obama’s 2014 proclamation reflect the two points of view concerning Columbus’ influence on history:

In a new world, a history was written. It tells the story of an idea — that all women and men are created equal — and a people’s struggle to fulfill it. And it is a history shared by Native Americans, one marred with long and shameful chapters of violence, disease, and deprivation. . . .

Columbus’s historic voyage ushered in a new age, and since, the world has never been the same. His journey opened the door for generations of Italian immigrants who followed his path across an ocean in pursuit of the promise of America. Like Columbus, these immigrants and their descendants have shaped the place where they landed. Italian Americans have enriched our culture and strengthened our country. They have served with honor and distinction in our Armed Forces, and today, they embrace their rich heritage as leaders in our communities and pioneers of industry.

On Columbus Day, we reflect on the moment the world changed. And as we recognize the influence of Christopher Columbus, we also pay tribute to the legacy of Native Americans and our Government’s commitment to strengthening their tribal sovereignty. We celebrate the long history of the American continents and the contributions of a diverse people, including those who have always called this land their home and those who crossed an ocean and risked their lives to do so. With the same sense of exploration, we boldly pursue new frontiers of space, medicine, and technology and dare to change our world once more. (1)

Today’s Challenge: Hero or Villain? Your Verdict on History
When we study history it’s easy to sometimes oversimplify, labeling individuals as either great heroes of history or infamous villains. An interesting exercise is to explore historic individuals, like Columbus, who don’t fit so easily in either camp. Who is an individual from history who is not seen as purely a hero or a villain? Once you have selected your individual, do some research, gathering evidence on which side of the hero/villain continuum the individual should sit. Don’t put him or her in the middle; instead, argue your verdict like a judge, stating your case for whether the person is a hero or a villain. If you’re working with a number of people, have a debate, so that both sides are presented.

For an example go to the website for Intelligence Squared where you can see a 2014 debate entitled “Napoleon the Great?” which argued the historical legacy of France’s leader. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day: I like villains because there’s something so attractive about a committed person – they have a plan, an ideology, no matter how twisted. They’re motivated. -Russell Crowe

1- https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/10/10/presidential-proclamation-columbus-day-2014
2-http://www.intelligencesquared.com/events/napoleon-the-great-andrew-roberts-adam-zamoyski/

October 10: Ten Out of Ten Day

Today, the tenth day of the tenth month, is the perfect day to do some evaluations on a scale of one to ten, with ten out of ten being the top of the traditional scale, unless of course you’re prone to hyperbole. In that case you can go to eleven.

Before we begin, however, we should address the fact that October’s position on the calendar has not been a permanent fixture of history. The name of our tenth month retains vestiges from its Roman past. In Latin octo means eight, as in octagon and octopus. When the Romans inserted the months January and February, they pushed October forward from the eighth to the tenth position. They did not, however, change its name. So today, the last four months of our calendar, the four months that were formerly months seven through ten (September, October, November, and December) are all numerical misnomers.

Today’s Challenge: The Rating Game
We live in an age of evaluations, surveys, and ratings. The internet has given us access to unlimited opportunities to read ratings written by others as well as provided us the opportunity to write ratings ourselves. Whether it’s books, music, teachers, or dog food, somewhere, someone is writing a review. What is a category of things you know enough about to evaluate? How would you rate each of five things in your category on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being outstanding?

Begin by selecting a general category. It can be anything as long as the category contains at least five members and as long as you know enough about each each item to rate it. Here are some examples of categories:

Letter of the Alphabet   

Movie Sequels

Carbonated Beverages

Fairy Tales

Superheroes

Pixar Films

Aspects of Camping

Poetic Forms

Halloween Traditions

Animal Farm Characters

Hall of Fame First Basemen

Greek Gods

Next, list the members of the category, and rate each of the members on a scale of 1 to 10. Beside the name of each member and its score, write a rationale for your rating, explaining why you scored it the way you did. This may be subjective, but it should also be specific. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day: My strength is as the strength of ten, because my heart is pure. -Alfred Lord Tennyson

October 8:  Rebuttal Day

On this date 1917, Wilfred Owen (1893-1918), an English soldier recovering from shell shock, composed the first draft of the poem “Dulce et Decorum Est.” The poem is one of the most vivid, realistic depictions of the horrific trench warfare of World War I and is one of most powerful rebuttals every made to the argument that it is valorous to die for one’s country.

Wilfred Owen plate from Poems (1920).jpgOwen joined the army in 1915, and after he was wounded in combat in France in 1917, he was evacuated to a military hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland.  It is there that he penned the first draft of his poem and sent it to his mother with a note:  “Here is a gas poem done yesterday, (which is not private, but not final).”

The poem begins with an image of the exhausting druggery of life on the front lines:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Druggery and exhaustion then turn to nightmare as Owen describes a gas attack and the horror of watching one of his comrades in arms die before his eyes after too slowly dawning his gas mask:

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.       

The words that end the poem, as well as the words in the poem’s title, are Latin, written by the Roman poet Horace.  The first four words, which also serve as the poem’s title, translate:  “It is sweet and glorious.”  The final three words of the poem that complete the exhortation translate: “to die for one’s country.”

The words from Horace that Owen calls “The old Lie” would have been familiar to his readers since they were often quoted during the frenzy of recruiting at the war’s inception.  These Latin words are also inscribed on the wall of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Berkshire, England.  In the United States the words are etched in stone above the rear entrance to the Memorial Amphitheater, near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, at Arlington National Cemetery (1).

After his recovery, Owen rejoined his regiment and returned to the trenches of France.  He was killed in battle on November 4, 1918, one week before the war ended on November 11, Armistice Day.

Owen’s poem is a rebuttal — the presentation of contradictory evidence — to an ancient expression of conventional wisdom, as seen in Horace’s Latin exhortation (here translated into English):  How sweet and honourable it is to die for one’s country.

To make his rebuttal, Owen structures his poem inductively, with details that move from specific to the general.  Instead of stating his point (his thesis or claim) at the beginning of the poem in a deductive structure, he, instead, begins with detailed imagery to shows rather than tell.  Owen’s use of such powerful figurative language and sensory imagery create such a horrific picture that Owen hardly needs to state his point.  Instead, he lays out such vivid details that readers can infer the point for themselves; even a reader who does not know Latin would be able to make a logical inference regarding the “old Lie.”

Today’s Challenge:  Rebut With Reality
The practice of questioning conventional is a tradition that dates back to Socrates.  It’s an excellent way to discover ways in which common sense is not always perfectly logical and to explore counter-intuitive insights.  It’s also an excellent way to avoid poor decisions.  In 1962, for example, executives at the Decca Recording Company rejected the Beatles because conventional wisdom led them to conclude that guitar music was on the way out. What are some examples of conventional wisdom (widely accepted truisms) that you have encountered, and how might you challenge conventional wisdom with a detailed, evidence-based rebuttal?  Write a rebuttal in either prose or poetry of a single statement of conventional wisdom, such as, “If you work hard you will succeed” or “Pride goeth before the fall.”  Organize your writing inductively, using specific imagery and figurative language to show your point rather than tell it.  If you are successful, you may not even need to state the central claim of your rebuttal at the end. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  

Conventional Wisdom:  My boss doesn’t motivate me.

Reality rebuttal: He shouldn’t have to. It’s exhausting to hug you, burp you, coddle you, and wind you up every day. The best in any business create more motivation from the inside-out, with a compelling purpose; any external pats on the back they get are appreciated but not necessary for them to get or stay motivated. -Dave Anderson, business consultant and author (3)

 

1-http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/wilfred-owen

2- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dulce_et_Decorum_est

3-http://www.dealerbusinessjournal.com/articleview.php?id=765-83114

 

October 5: Epistrophe Day

On this date in 1988, a candidate for the United States vice-presidency made one of the more memorable and rhetorically nuanced retorts in political history. The candidate was Lloyd Bentsen. His opponent was Dan Quayle, a younger and much less experienced candidate. It was inevitable that Quayle’s lack of experience would come up in the debate. When it did, Quayle made a historical comparison, saying he had as much experience as did John F. Kennedy before he was elected president. Bentsen seemed to anticipate the comparison and pounced:

Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.

Bentsen’s response was not only the most memorable line in the entire debate, it was also the most memorable line ever from any vice-presidential debate. Even more, it might just be the most memorable line ever from a political debate.

It’s not just the repetition of “Jack Kennedy” that gives the quip its force, it’s also the placement of the name. Notice that of the four times “Jack Kennedy” is repeated, three of them are at the end of a clause. Each time Bentsen repeats the name, it echoes, like the sound of gavel pounding on a judge’s bench.

This rhetorical repeater is called epistrophe (eh-PIS-tro-fee), and it’s simply defined as repetition of the same word or phrase at the end of successive phrases or clauses (1).

The best way to understand epistrophe is to see it in action. Here’s an excellent definition and example from Mark Forsyth’s The Elements of Eloquence:

When you end each sentence with the same word, that’s epistrophe. When each clause has the same words at the end, that’s epistrophe. When you finish each paragraph with the same word, that’s epistrophe. Even when it’s a whole phrase or a whole sentence that you repeat, it’s still, providing the repetition comes at the end, that’s epistrophe (2).

Great writers and great speakers use epistrophe to make their sentences more rhythmic and more dramatic.

Here are some examples:

. . . that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. -Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address

If women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work … their families will flourish. -Hillary Clinton

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing his hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” -Jacob Marley’s ghost in Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.

Today’s Challenge: Save the Best for Last
Epistrophe is especially effective when you want to emphasize and drum home a concept or idea. What is a basic concept that all children should be taught, either in school or out of school, such as manners, creativity, patience, or dental hygiene? Brainstorm a list of possible concepts. Then, write a catchy, but brief, Public Service Announcement (PSA) on the one concept you think is most important and why you think it is most important. Use epistrophe to make you PSA unforgettable and to leave your concept echoing in the mind of your audience long after they have listened to it. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day: What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny compared to what lies within us. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

1-Farnsworth, Ward. Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric. Boston: David R. Godine, 2011: 32.
2-Forsyth, Mark. The Elements of Eloquence. London: Icon Books, 2013: 77.

October 4: Elevator Speech Day

On this day in 1911, the first public elevator began service at Earl’s Court Metro Station in London.  In England an elevator is called a “lift,” but whatever it’s called, an elevator ride is a short trip that puts you in a confined space with total strangers.

People who work in the business world make frequent trips on elevators. Maybe that’s why the elevator has become such a powerful communication metaphor in business the past few years.  The “elevator pitch” is a short speech put together by salespeople, entrepreneurs, or other business people to capsulize their ideas and to communicate them clearly to potential clients and investors.  The idea is to know your project, idea, or product so well that you can “sell” it to anyone on a short elevator ride.

In an elevator pitch, time is of the essence, so they must be crafted carefully. Each of the Seven Cs below is followed by advice on how to avoid a clunky ride:

1 Concise:  The speech should be no more than 60 seconds, so each word must count.

2 Clear:  There’s no time to repeat yourself, so make sure that your ideas are clear enough to be understood by your audience.

3 Compelling:  Include a hook, some dramatic tension, and vivid imagery to show your audience that your ideas are important and that something significant is at stake.

4 Credible:  Include credible evidence that shows that you have done your homework and that you know what you’re talking about.

5 Concrete:  Give your audience specific, tangible details and evidence that shows, not just tells, your point.

6 Conversational:  Write out your complete elevator speech, but include plain, forceful language that makes is sound spontaneous and natural.

7 Complete:  Any speech, even a short one, needs a beginning, a middle, and and end.  Organize it with these three parts, writing strategically to open strong, to maintain interest in the middle, and to close confidently(1).

Today’s Challenge:  Going Up with an Up-to-the-Minute Pitch
How would you complete the following title with an idea that would make a compelling speech:  “Why You Should . . . “ ?  Brainstorm some ideas; then, select your best one, and write an elevator pitch that follows the principles of The Seven Cs.  Be prepared to share your pitch, attempting to get as close as you can to the one minute time limit.  Work with a partner to practice, time, and perfect your pitch.  (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Examples of elevator pitch topics:

Why you should floss.

Why you should go to college.

Why you should not be afraid of failure.

Why you should become an organ donor.

Why you should take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Why you should make your speeches short and to the point.

Why you should take notes by hand instead of with a laptop.

(Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  The purpose of an elevator pitch isn’t to close the sale. The goal isn’t even to give a short, accurate, Wikipedia-standard description of you or your project. And the idea of using vacuous, vague words to craft a bland mission statement is dumb. No, the purpose of an elevator pitch is to describe a situation or solution so compelling that the person you’re with wants to hear more even after the elevator ride is over. -Seth Godwin

 

1-http://elevatorpitchessentials.com/essays/ElevatorPitch.html

September 28:  Spelling Reform Day

On this date in 1768, Benjamin Franklin — founding father, diplomat, printer, scientist, writer, and civic reformer — wrote a letter making his case for spelling reform.

BenFranklinDuplessis.jpgMany know about his inventions, such as the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, but not many know about his attempt to eliminate six letters of the English alphabet and replace them with six of his own invention.

Franklin’s chief concern, like many who came both before and after him, was the confusing discrepancy in English between its sounds and its alphabet:  “The difficulty of learning to spell well . . .  is so great, that few attain it, thousands and thousands writing on to old age without ever being able to acquire it” (1).

To correct the imperfections in the English alphabet, Franklin proposed throwing out the six letters C, J, Q, W, X, and Y and replacing them with six new letters of his own, letters which would represent the six sounds found in the following words:

  1. law, caught
  2. run, enough
  3. this, breathe
  4. singer, ring
  5. she, sure, emotion, leash
  6. thing, breath (2)

In his letter Franklin addresses objections to his spelling reform scheme.  One was that books published before the reforms were implemented would become useless.  To rebut this Franklin asked his reader to consider a similar case in Italy:  “Formerly, its inhabitants all spoke and wrote in Latin; as the language changed, the spelling followed it.”  Another objection addressed by Franklin was that of etymology – or word history –, particularly the historic roots of words that are preserved in their orthography (the way they are spelled).  To this objection, Franklin responded with the following apt example:

If I should call a man a knave and a villain, he would hardly be satisfied with my telling him that one of the words originally signified only a lad or servant; and the other an under-ploughman, or the inhabitant of a village. It is from present usage only, that the meaning of words is to be determined.

Although Franklin’s arguments are convincing, his reform plan never came to fruition.  Perhaps he was sidetracked by his other possibly more important role as  midwife to the birth of the world’s first great democracy.  Not until Noah Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1828, did spelling in the United States see much reform.

Today’s Challenge:  The Case for X Reform
Great people like Benjamin Franklin demonstrate the power of ideas, ideas for making their town, state, country, or world a better place.  What do you see in your world that should be reformed, and how specifically would you propose to make it better?  Argue your case by addressing the current problem, followed by a  specific vision of how your reforms would improve the situation. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  Attempting to spell in English is like playing one of those computer games where, no matter what, you will lose eventually. If some evil mage has performed vile magic on our tongue, he should be bunged into gaol for his nefarious goal (and if you still need convincing of how inconsistent English pronunciation is, just read that last sentence out loud). -James Harbeck

 

1- http://grammar.about.com/od/readingsonlanguage/a/The-Case-For-Spelling-Reform-By-Benjamin-Franklin.htm

2-http://www.benfranklin300.org/_etc_pdf/Six_New_Letters_Nicola_Twilly.pdf

3- http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20150605-your-language-is-sinful

 

September 27:  Capital Day

On this date in 1777, the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, became the nation’s capital for a single day.  With the Revolutionary War still raging, George Washington’s Continental Army was outflanked at the Battle of Brandywine, causing them to retreat.  Victory by the British allowed them to capture Philadelphia, the capital of the young nation, with little resistance.

The arrival of the British caused the Second Continental Congress to pack up and move 60 miles west to new headquarters in the Lancaster County Courthouse.  Lancaster’s time as capital city was short lived,however.  The next day on September 27, the Continental Congress packed up and moved again, this time to a more strategic position on the west side of the Susquehanna River, 20 miles away in York, Pennsylvania.

Residents of Lancaster have not forgotten their moment in the sun.  In 2011 the Lancaster City Council officially designated each September 27 as Capital Day.

On a usage note, one of most common mistakes in English is confusing the words “capital” and “capitol.”  The only time you should use “capitol” with an “o” is when you are referring to buildings, such as “the capitol buildings” or “the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.  “Capital” with an “a” is used for all other meanings of the word, including capital letters, capital punishment, capital finances, and capital city, meaning the name of the city on the map, rather than a reference to its governmental buildings (2).  For example, “We visited the capitol building in Olympia, the capital of Washington state.”

Today’s Challenge:  Make It a Capital Day
What makes your hometown worthy of being designated “The Nation’s Capital for a Day”?  You’ve been appointed to argue the case for your hometown, and if successful, your town will be awarded the 24-hour honor plus five million dollars.  Promote your town or city for this honor by describing its virtues Chamber of Commerce style, identifying what makes it a special, one-of-a-king place, worthy of being name capital for a day. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  You know, in my hometown of Hope, Arkansas, the three sacred heroes were Jesus, Elvis, and FDR, not necessarily in that order. -Mike Huckabee

1- http://mentalfloss.com/article/31494/glory-day-lancasters-brief-stint-our-nations-capital

2-Fogarty, Mignon.  The Grammar Devotional: Daily Tips for Successful Writing from Grammar Girl.

 

September 26:  Debate Day

On this date in 1960, the first ever televised presidential debate was held in Chicago.  Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy and Republican candidate Richard M. Nixon squared off before an audience of more than 65 million viewers.

This debate revealed the power of television as a modern medium for politics.  Radio listeners awarded the debate to Nixon, but the much larger television audience gave the prize to Kennedy.  In contrast to Kennedy’s relaxed, confident appearance, Nixon looked glum and sweaty.  In addition to a more youthful, vigorous appearance, Kennedy also seemed more at ease with the new medium, looking at the TV camera to address the American viewers.  Nixon, however, instead of looking into the TV camera, turned to Kennedy, addressing his comments solely to his opponent.  

It’s these small factors that probably gave Kennedy the edge, not only in the debates, but also in the election.  He won the presidency in November 1960 by one of the smallest margins in U.S. presidential history (1).

Today’s Challenge:   Abecedarian Debate Topics
Abecedarian as an adjective meaning “of or related to the alphabet.”  On this 26th day of the month it’s appropriate to turn to the alphabet, covering your subject from A to Z.  What are the best topics for a debate — timely or timeless topics that are controversial enough to spark a two-sided argument?  Your challenge is to generate at least 26 different possible debate topics, one topic for each of the 26 letters of the alphabet. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it. -Joseph Joubert

1- Safire, William.  Lend Me Your Ears:  Great Speeches in History.  New York:  W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.