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An example of Monroe’s Motivated Sequence

A Friend in Need


Sandy Hefty





1       Loretta Olson sometimes gets confused and does some pretty bizarre things. For instance, sometimes she puts her ice cream in the refrigerator instead of the freezer, and sometimes she feeds her cat chocolate chips instead of cat food. You see, Loretta is an 85-year-old woman who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. She was preceded in death by her husband and only child and now is trying to live on her own the best that she can. You may be wondering how somebody as confused as Loretta could possibly keep living on her own, but she does.


2       During my freshman year, I volunteered six hours a week to help Loretta remain independent in her home. Due to the forgetfulness associated with Alzheimer’s disease, my main duty as a volunteer was to help Loretta with her cooking and house cleaning, which she often forgot to finish on her own.


3       Since I started volunteering time with Loretta, I’ve learned that there are millions of elderly Americans who need help to remain independent in their homes. According to the United States Census Bureau, our elderly population is the fastest growing segment in the nation. This trend is even seen in my class survey, in which all but two of you said you have living grandparents and seven of you said you have grandparents living alone.


4       Although the elderly are no longer the poorest segment of American society, according to the Poverty and Wealth Branch of the United States Census Bureau, 1.8 million Americans in the 75-plus age group fall below the poverty line. One point eight million—that’s roughly the populations of Seattle, Indianapolis, and Boston combined.


5       Today, I would like to persuade each of you to help solve the problems facing more advanced and less fortunate elderly Americans by volunteering time to help them remain independent in their homes. Let’s begin by addressing the problems that can occur among this group of people.


6       There are two problems that can occur when elderly people living alone do not get the companionship and care they need. The first problem is that elderly people may not be able to meet all of their physical needs. Before I met Loretta, I was a caregiver for an 87-year-old woman who suffered from arthritis. This woman often needed help buttoning her blouse and tying her shoes, as well as needing help cutting vegetables for meals and doing light house cleaning. This is not unusual for many people of advanced age. Like Loretta, they can continue living at home, but need help with certain physical tasks such as house cleaning, food preparation, and transportation.


7       Not only is there the problem of elderly people not meeting all of their physical needs, but there is a second, more tragic problem that can occur. That second problem is suicide. According to the National Center for Vital Statistics, persons age 75 and older have the highest rate of suicide compared to all other age groups. Anthony Boxwell, author of the article entitled “Geriatric Suicide: The Preventable Death,” says that suicide among the elderly stems from three main causes—helplessness, hopelessness and haplessness. Helplessness describes the feelings of impotence some elderly people feel after retirement or upon realizing they’re losing their physical and mental vigor. Hopelessness is associated with depression caused by the realization of the onset of old age. And haplessness refers to a series of repeated losses, such as loss of earnings, friends, and family.


8       Now that we have talked about the two major problems facing elderly people who do not get the companionship and care they need, let’s talk about what we can do to help solve these problems.


9       We as individuals can’t do everything, of course. Some responsibility lies with families, government, and charitable agencies. But there is something we can do, and that is get involved with a volunteer program that assists elderly people who need help living at home. Here in Wisconsin, we have a Community Options Program, which is an individually tailored financial assistance method to help keep the elderly and people with disabilities out of nursing homes. Right here in Madison, Independent Living has a Friendly Visiting Program in which volunteers provide companionship and household assistance for elderly people who live at home. You can contact Independent Living by calling the number on this handout, which I will be giving you after my speech.


10     Now I’m sure you have some questions about this kind of work. For instance, how much time does it take? It takes as much time as you want to put into it. You can volunteer as little as one to two hours a week or as many as forty hours a week. You decide how much time you want to volunteer based on your own schedule. But no matter how much time you spend, you will certainly experience great personal gratification. I know I have. I have been a volunteer for six years, and volunteering time with people who are less fortunate than I makes me feel good about myself. Volunteering time with the elderly has also taught me unique ethnic traditions, as well as American history.


11     You should also know that this kind of volunteer work can have benefits for you beyond feelings of personal gratification. Some volunteer organizations such as the state-run Community Options Program and the federally funded Title 19 Program offer financial assistance to people who participate. This can run from reimbursement of your travel expenses to an actual salary for certain kinds of work.


12     In closing, I am urging you to volunteer time to help needy elderly people remain independent in their homes. Remember that spending time with elderly people living alone can help them meet their physical and emotional needs. You can adjust the time spent to fit your needs, you can get great personal gratification, and you can even receive monetary benefits as well. But most important, Loretta Olson—and millions like her—will be forever thankful for your efforts.

A Friend in Need    by Sandy Hefty





“A Friend in Need” is a persuasive speech on a question of policy. In addition to illustrating many of the methods of persuasion discussed in the textbook, it provides a helpful model of how students can use Monroe’s motivated sequence to organize persuasive speeches that seek immediate action. Here is a synopsis of it.



Specific Purpose:  To persuade my audience to volunteer time to help needy elderly people remain independent in their homes.


Central Idea:  By participating in a volunteer program, college students can help needy elderly people continue to live independently in their homes.


Method of Organization:  Monroe’s motivated sequence


Introduction:  The introduction consists of paragraphs 1-5. The opening story about Loretta Olson gets the audience’s attention and also contains a gentle trace of humor. When the speech was delivered in class, several members of the audience chuckled as they identified Loretta Olson’s forgetfulness with the memory lapses experienced by some of their elderly relatives. In paragraph 2 the speaker explains her personal involvement with the topic and, at the same time, establishes her credibility and good will.

In paragraphs 3 and 4 the speaker uses statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau to establish the importance of the topic. Her comparison, in paragraph 4, between the 1.8 million Americans in the 75-plus age group who fall below the poverty line and the combined populations of Seattle, Boston, and Indianapolis is an excellent illustration of how speakers can translate large numbers into figures that are more meaningful to the audience. It is also worth noting how, in paragraph 3, the speaker relates the topic to her audience by mentioning the results of her class survey, which showed that almost all of her classmates had living grandparents. Paragraph 5 ends the introduction by stating the speaker’s central idea and providing a clear lead-in to the body of the speech.


Body:  After getting the attention of her audience in the introduction, the speaker begins the body of her speech in paragraphs 6 and 7 with the second step in Monroe’s motivated sequence—showing the need for a new course of action. In paragraph 6 the speaker explains that many elderly people cannot meet all of their physical needs, and she illustrates the point with an example of an 87-year-old woman whom she helped as a caregiver. Had she had more time, she could have provided more support for this point, but, as in most classroom speeches, she had to develop her points crisply and concisely.

In paragraph 7 the speaker continues with the need step of Monroe’s motivated sequence by discussing the tragic problem of suicide among the elderly. After presenting figures from the National Center for Vital Statistics showing that persons age 75 and older have the highest suicide rate in the U.S., she provides testimony from Anthony Boxwell about the causes of suicide among the elderly. As in other parts of the speech, the speaker uses credible evidence and identifies her sources for the audience.

After an excellent transition in paragraph 8, the speaker moves to the satisfaction step of the motivated sequence by explaining, in paragraph 9, how students can participate in volunteer programs to help the elderly. Rather than talking in abstract terms, the speaker relates her plan to her classmates at the University of Wisconsin by focusing on state and local programs in which they can get involved. After the speech, she provided her audience a handout identifying volunteer agencies they could contact.

Of course, getting an audience to agree that something should be done and getting an audience to do something are two different matters. In paragraphs 10 and 11, therefore, the speaker turns to the visualization step of the motivated sequence by showing the audience the practicality of getting involved in a volunteer program to help the elderly. She explains that students can readily adapt their volunteer work to their personal schedules, that they will experience substantial personal gratification from volunteering, and even that they might be able to receive financial assistance for their efforts. Had the speaker failed to address these issues, her speech would have been much less effective.


Conclusion:  The speaker concludes with the final step in Monroe’s motivated sequence—an appeal to the audience to take action. After quickly summarizing her main points, she closes with the poignant statement that “Loretta Olson—and millions like her—will be forever thankful for your efforts.” The emotional appeal of this line, in combination with the sense of psychological unity gained by referring back to the opening example, closes the speech on a strong note.