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Issues Surronding Terrorism

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This post was originally published on the HS Bits Blog, which was active from 2008-2013.

The end of this week, the week before the AP® exam (and the week of the May SAT date which many of our students are taking), is an excellent time to include some video in our classroom rhetorical analysis review. A video, less writing, and more classroom discussion can help generate enthusiasm for the power of rhetoric, and when an awareness of the way rhetoric moves an audience comes across in student writing, well, that’s when an essay shines.

Obama’s speech on the successful mission to capture or kill Osama bin Laden provides much to discuss in class. With a running time of a little over nine minutes, the speech provides an opportunity for a brief and excellent review of classical structure and classical appeals.

If you have time to do more with the topic, a synthesis argument prompt might be in order. The issues surrounding 9/11 can have personal resonance. Though the students in my current AP® class were only six or seven years old in 2001, they have grown up in an environment that has been very much affected by the devastation of that day. They may have a relative in the armed forces serving our country. They may have uncles who were firemen or policemen who either were lost or knew someone who died on that day. Some may have had a relative who worked in the towers. As Americans, all of our students should be able to take a position on the issues surrounding terrorism in light of Osama bin Laden’s death. When a topic resonates with our students, they tend to write with a more distinctive voice. Essays with a well developed voice are great essays to read.

Synthesis Essay Prompt:


The War on Terror has occupied American troops and the hearts and minds of the American people since the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. The loss of life has been great and discussion about American involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan has been hotly debated for over a decade now. With the purported mastermind of the attacks now dead, what does the future hold for American troops overseas? What issues should our president and his cabinet consider in discussions surrounding how to address the threat of al Qaida, Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization, and other terrorist groups, in light of the recent killing of Osama bin Laden by United States Navy Seals?


Read the following sources carefully. Then in an essay that synthesizes at least three of the sources for support, take a position on the key issues that our president and his cabinet should consider when making decisions about how to proceed in protecting America from future acts of terrorism by Al Qaida and other terrorist organizations.

You may refer to the sources by their source letter or by the description in parentheses.

Source A (Obama – White House)

Remarks by the President on Osama bin Laden (text)

Remarks by the President on Osama bin Laden (video)

Source B (Byman - NPR)

Foreign Policy: Bin Laden is Dead, Al Qaida Isn’t

Source C (Goldberg - Atlantic)

What Bin Laden’s Death Means: Seven Observations

Source D (Stier – Christian Science Monitor)

How Osama Bin laden’s Death Will Affect Al Quaeda in Yemen

Source E (AP®)

Clinton: bin Laden Death Doesn’t End War on Terror

Source F (LA Times)

Muslim World: Radical Islamist Websites Praise and Squabble over Bin laden

Source G (Reuters)

Bin Laden’s Global Campaign Leaves World Bloodied

Source H (Blitz - Financial Times)

Significance of Death on Terror Fight Limited

Source I (Kristof – New York Times)

After Osama Bin Laden

Source J (Syal – Guardian UK)

Osama bin Laden’s Death ‘Doesn’t Mean Anything’

Source K (Zyglis – The Buffalo News)

RIP Osama Bin Laden Victims

Additional teaching resources are available on the New York Times educational blog, The Learning Network, The Death of Osama bin Laden

®AP is a trademark registered and/or owned by the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.