Dr. Dan French

Hi, I’m Dr. Dan.

I conceived of the idea and built the content for the Rhetoric Warriors project. Direct all praise and acidity toward me. (Although, as you’ll find, I don’t engage in multi-logue on the internet, so I guess direct all praise and acidity into the universe, and somehow it will all bounce back to me, either off a satellite, or some big being out there).

Let me briefly tell you about myself, and the genesis of Rhetoric Warriors. That way you can get a sense of who is pulling levers behind the curtain, and what I think I’m up to with all this “persuasion training for America.”

I’m first-generation college. One generation off the tobacco farms of Kentucky. (There are pics of my Dad as a little kid, with his brothers, shirtless and surrounded by tall growing cig plants).

My grandfather moved our family off the farm and into Louisville, after WWII. He and my Dad and another uncle were carpenters/home remodelers. The type of job where you come home a different kind of dirty every day (sawdust, drywall dust, demolition dust -- you name it, they were covered in it). About as working class as it gets.

I did some of that work growing up, but was also given the opportunity to grab onto a different kind of driftwood -- education. I found out that if you read the books and studied for the tests, they kept letting you go higher and higher into the towers of academics.

I headed out of Kentucky to college (all the way to Ohio), and got an undergrad degree in English and Journalism. Didn’t see a job I wanted, so went and got a Masters degree in Rhetoric. Thought I saw a job I wanted -- professor -- and so went on and got a PhD in Rhetoric. Just like that -- well, with twenty-plus years of education -- and voila, Dr. Dan.

But, there was a hitch. A catch. A snag.

I enjoyed academics. Especially the high-powered stuff, where the real ideas are laid out, and all the squishy stuff you learn as an undergrad falls away, to be replaced by some real precision, and insight, and critical critical thinking.

But it really, really bugged me that that greater info was pretty much hermetically sealed up in classrooms.

Let me tell you a story about that. It’s a fun one.

My first week in grad school, at the University of Texas at Austin, the Communication Studies department brought four scholars in for some kind of seminar event (can’t remember what it was about, but it was a good one). These people were smart. Very smart. I instantly learned things listening to them discuss their projects, their research, their life’s work.

And so I asked a question (not good at not asking/saying, it’s my Kentucky roots -- “Speak up, boy! You’re not a tomata plant!”)

I said, “So this stuff is really cool. How do you get it out to people?”

And they all laughed. (Chuckled amongst themselves, really. Conspiratorially.)

One of them, the bearded one (ha, caught you, they were successful academics, they were all bearded -- cheap way for beta dudes to look a little more masculine in their inexpensive dress shirts), said, “Well, there are probably about a dozen people who read these papers. In academic journals.”

And, again, general laughter.

Except from me. That answer irritated me. And so I followed up.

“Well, that kind of sucks. I just came from living in Kentucky for twenty years. People need this information.”

And there it was, that comment just kind of circled the room like a lead balloon. One of them said something kind of placating, and on they went.

And on I did not went. All of that hit me. Something triggered in my mind that day. And it’s been triggering ever since. Those four words.

“People need this information.”

People -- regular, everyday people, in every walk of life, in every country, in every way -- need high quality information.

Don’t tell me they don’t. Don’t tell me they’re fine as they are, leave them alone. Don’t tell me we already have good information out there, in the culture (we don’t). Don’t tell me people are sufficiently trained, and educated, and ready to take on all the challenges of being alive right now, in this crazy age, in a democracy.

Because they aren’t.

I wasn’t. And I was already college-educated. And I read books, and wrote, and thought all the time.

But I wasn’t prepared.

We need real education in the modern world. We need real skills.

We need that information we almost never get.

And so, there’s the reason for Rhetoric Warriors.

It’s a way to get all that I’ve learned in the thirty-plus years since I piped up as a 21-year-old grad student, out to the world.

Because the world needs it.

* * *

Couple of other quick notes about me, for those who would like to know.

() I have always had three careers, pretty much running concurrently.

* Educator and language-centric intellectual. I taught rhetoric, persuasion, TV writing, screenwriting, communication studies at the university level, for almost two decades. Taught a wide range of courses in my field. I parachuted out of universities, but I still write and teach about all things communication. It’s my obsession.

* Entertainment professional. Pro standup comedian for thirty+ years. Pro comedy writer (wrote for late night TV -- Late Late Show on CBS, many others). Comedy producer (one person shows, lots of television and film projects -- pretty much all comedy). Still write comedy, comedy, and more comedy. Love it.

* Organizational Consultant and Marketer. I’ve advised and worked for companies and organizations as diverse as fertility startups and the Naval War College. Rhetoric is such a cool software to share with people who need to affect their world. Which means everyone.

() My politics

* Because rhetoric mixes well with politics, a lot of what we do at Rhetoric Warriors means aggressively going out and cleaning up how politicians and political parties talk. People sometimes want to know my politics. I don’t hide my political feelings. My politics are I care about how people talk about their politics. I care about how people persuade. As long as you persuade ethically, I don’t care if you’re trying to convince everyone in the country to buy 12 huskies and sled their way to work on artificial ice flows instead of roads. Persuade ethically, and I’ll listen to anything you have to say. And I’ll listen well.

* Oh, and who do I vote for? I vote for the nicest people first. Smartest people second. Funnest people third. Unethical persuaders never. So I’m a member of the NiceSmartFun Party. Be nice, smart, fun and you’ll get my vote. Every time.

I think that’s about it. If you want to know more about me, listen to the podcast or webinars. I tend to talk about my life a lot. You’ll learn way more than you probably want to know.
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