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Tessa Sontheimer

by Karissa Rodgers Aug 11, 2017
Tessa Sontheimer

2017/18 Honors Thesis Fellow

Paterno Fellow


Tessa Sontheimer is a junior studying Global and International Studies and
Community, Environment, and Development at Penn State. She is from Gettysburg,
Pennsylvania, and is involved in the Humanitarian Engineering and Social
Entrepreneurship Program and the Center for Economic and Community Development.
Tessa is interested in issues of democracy and international development and plans to
pursue a career as a politician.

The current state of American politics is unusually divisive and conflictual;
what should be a space for productive dialogues and a search for compromise has
become tenuous to navigate. George Lakoff, a prominent linguist and political theorist,
writes extensively on the use of language to intentionally contextualize the discourse of
issues, a behavior he calls framing. By using Lakoff’s theories, I seek to understand and
compare the language and rhetoric used in campaign speeches by President Donald
Trump and Secretary Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election. I will analyze
speeches and remarks of the candidates after their respective party nominations. My
research will provide a rhetorical analysis of the candidates’ speeches with respect to
three important policy issues: voting rights, environment, and immigration. The
purpose is to identify and compare framing strategies and dominant frames in the
candidates’ speeches, and to explore the distributive justice and ethical implications of
these frames. Understanding the implications of framing language affords insight into
who decides the tenor of discussion, who is preferenced by a certain frame, and whose
interests prevail in the fray of decision-making in democracy. This analysis will allow
for a better understanding of the implications of framing and its role in current political
discourse in the United States.