Weekend Culture: Presidential Holiday Cards Day One

‘Tis the season indeed.  I love getting holiday cards from family and friends, reading about their updates, soccer seasons, and hopes for the upcoming year.  Earlier this week, while opening a bevy of cards with a bevy of poses, and a bevy of messages, I was struck at how each card really conveys much about the family itself.

This then led me to daydream about what it would be like to receive a holiday card from the Obamas, a cute family portrait of the Prez smiling, having an endearing note from Michelle about Sasha’s academic accolades and Melea’s latest adventures.  I was reminded of their card from 2006, one that was the embodiment of the all-American family.



Then, I found 2011′s card and was left a little befuddled.

Or 2012′s holiday card.

ht white house holiday card dm 121206 wblog Story Behind 2012 White House Holiday Card

What a difference a few years make.

However, I think this is an excellent lesson in rhetoric.  There are several activities that can engage students in an analysis of President Obama’s holiday cards.

  • Have them complete a visual analysis of the current card and determine what it conveys about the first family.  Ask the students to analyze the content of the image and evaluate the effectiveness of the image based on the argument.
  • Similarly, there are a variety of articles about the Republican response to the 2011 Obama holiday card.  I find The Huffington Post’s article best because of its amount of quotations directly from Sarah Palin and the description of the card itself.
  • Encourage the students to consider who the intended audience of the card is and evaluate whether or not the argument is persuasive to that audience.
  • Similar to the AP Language synthesis prompt, ask them what must be considered when determining the content/image of the first family’s holiday card.
  • Ask them to compare and contrast the argument of this year’s card with the 2006 card.
  • Along those lines, ask students to compare and/or contrast the Obama family card with the Romney family card.  Ask students to determine what message is conveyed by each card and which is more effective and why.
  • Examine the content of the “message.”  This is always a controversial topic because of the President’s stature.  Since it is such a condensed message every word is important and conveys an argument.

For more information about the rhetoric of holiday cards, NPR’s Monkey See blog has an interesting examination of a variety of holiday messages this year.

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