Spring 2017, 47.1, pages 49-73
Children Speaking: Agency and Public Memory in the Children’s Peace Statue Project
Abstract: Scholars in rhetoric have been slow to recognize children as capable of exercising rhetorical agency. This oversight inadvertently recapitulates the divestment of agency experienced by children who speak publicly about civic concerns. This essay examines the argumentative and organizational strategies of a group of children from New Mexico who worked in the early 1990s to publicize, design, and fund the Children’s Peace Statue and who repeatedly petitioned the Los Alamos County Council to accept the statue as a gift to the city of Los Alamos. Analyzing the children’s rhetorical strategies alongside responses of adult opponents, I show how opponents rejected the statue in part by resisting engaging with children as rhetorical agents. This research underscores the stakes of recognizing children’s agency as complexly meaningful.