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A Soft Complaint (A Formal Argumentative/Persuasive Essay, Incomplete)

silverystars 14 / 105  
Sep 3, 2007   #1
It is now a rough draft, with 680 words:

Write a paper in which you analyze and evaluate any one of Buckley's ideas (in his essay, "Why Don't We Complain?".) Support your view with evidence from your experience, observation, or reading. Be sure your essay is argumentative/persuasive and that you state your persuasion in the thesis statement. Your essay must be at least 500 words.

This is what I have. I am just wondering if it is lacking in focus. I want to describe the event as fully as possible, and keep it within the confines of the assignment, as well, so it's a bittersweet balance to strike, as the event itself is worthy of being fully detailed.

I also want to know the best way to cite, in line with MLA, the source of the quotes from the testimony. It was from a DVD I own, titled "Fred Rogers: America's Favorite Neighbor," but should that title be constantly cited throughout the essay? However distracting it might ultimately seem, it might be the only way to go, considering that the quotations are an accurate way record my observation of this event. I don't want to plagiarize, yet I don't think I can represent the event better than by including instances of actual words spoken. As always, your help is much appreciated:

A Soft Complaint

In his essay "Why Don't We Complain?," William F. Buckley, Jr. touches briefly on his inability to complain in a calm fashion. Buckley writes that, when provoked, he becomes "unbearably and unconscionably sarcastic and bellicose" (Buckley 540). Buckley then rhetorically asks, "Why should that be?" (Buckley 540). That question is left to linger unresolved and the reader is, unfortunately, rendered as perplexed as Buckley. The idea of venting discontent softly should be easily seen as superior to more explosive expressions of fault-finding. In other words, the answer to Buckley's question is simple: it doesn't have to be.

One striking example of a soft complaint was efficaciously manifested on May 1, 1969 in Washington, D.C. by the embodied antithesis of sarcastic and bellicose tendencies: Fred Rogers. An ordained Presbyterian minister from Pennsylvania, Rogers was the creator and host of the public television children's program "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." He appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications to express his dissatisfaction with the proposal by President Richard Nixon to cut federal funding for public broadcasting from twenty million dollars to ten million dollars. Rogers was brusquely given the floor by Senator John O. Pastore, the chairman of the Subcommittee, in a manner that would have made meeker men not so willing to speak up.

In a soft and deliberate style, Fred Rogers addressed Senator Pastore by outlining his submitted essay, stating that "one of the first things . . . a child learns in a healthy family is trust, and I trust . . . that you will read this. It's very important to me." Soon he was cut off mid-sentence, when Senator Pastore provocatively blurted, "Will it make you happy if you read it?," to the sound of nervous laughter from the gallery. Rogers could have followed Buckley's example by allowing himself to become belligerent. Instead, he amiably replied, "I'd just like to talk about it, if it's all right," to which the Senator crustily deferred.

Rogers continued on to detail the emotional impact that television held on children and how the medium could be used to communicate an edifying influence to them. He asserted that his program's entire budget of $6000 was equal to the cost of "less than two minutes of cartoons," referred to by Rogers as "animated . . . bombardment." At one point, Rogers even spoke the lyrics of "What Do You Do With The Mad That You Feel?," a song Rogers wrote to illustrate self-control, with lines such as, ". . . It's great to be able to stop/when you've planned the thing that's wrong/and be able to do something else instead /and think this song . . ."

Over the course of Rogers' ardent yet peaceful complaint, Senator Pastore displayed a gradual reversal of his initially gruff character. Pastore's agreeance with Rogers' concerns grew as he inquired and expressed interest in viewing "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," as he was not familiar with it. Pastore even made it known that, though he was "supposed to be a pretty tough guy," Rogers' fervant plea had given him "goosebumps." As Rogers was reciting "What Do You Do With The Mad That You Feel?," Senator Pastore cut him off once again, though this time in a favorable manner. Pastore effusively stated, "I think it's wonderful. I think it's wonderful," and, after a slight pause, he made his conclusion to Rogers clear: "Looks like you just earned the twenty million dollars."

Fred Rogers' ability not only to voice a soft complaint in a situation that would have caused a less-restrained individual's blood to boil but to do with an effective influence is testament to the power of equanimity in matters of expressing displeasure. It serves to make William F. Buckley, Jr.'s inclination toward pugnacious outcry appear pitiful and deserving of shame in light of the temperate behavior exhibited before Senator Pastore on Capitol Hill on that first day of May in 1969. One can only wonder if, had he known of Fred Rogers, or simply the words of Rogers' song "What Do You Do With The Mad That You Feel?," Buckley would have significantly altered the tone of his essay.

Works Cited:

Buckley, Jr., William F. "Why Don't We Complain?." The Bedford Reader. Edited. X. J. Kennedy, Dorothy M. Kennedy, and Jane E. Aaron. Ninth Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005. 539-543.

Fred Rogers: America's Favorite Neighbor. Perf. Fred Rogers, Michael Keaton. DVD. : Triumph Marketing, LLC, 2004.
EF_Team2 1 / 1,708  
Sep 4, 2007   #2

What an excellent essay! I think you've done a very good job of striking the balance; I do not detect a lack of focus at all. I have just a couple of corrections to suggest:

... would have caused a less-restrained individual's blood to boil but to do so [or "it"] with an effective influence ...

"What Do You Do With The Mad That You Feel?," - While you are correct that commas normally go inside the quotation mark in American English, you don't need one after a question mark, and definitely not inside the quote with one. I'd just leave it off.

As for the MLA citations, I think the way you have done it is best. It does not make sense to me to interject (Rogers) every time Mr. Rogers is quoted as saying something. It is quite clear from the story you're telling that he said it, and it seems to me that the reference at the end should be enough. It's possible your instructor could feel differently about it, but if I were grading it (and I have taught college classes), I'd leave it just as it is.

Very good work!


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