Choose an American, living, who has been in the news within the last year so that sources are readily available. Utilizing as many, and as varied sources as possible, what are three points or arguments you would make about this individual?
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Choosing a living American figure about or by whom much has been written over the past year or more is a sufficiently broad undertaking that can reach into any number of fields, from politics to sports, from entertainment to foreign affairs. Presidents, past and present, other politicians like members of Congress, prominent athletes and entertainers all exist in considerable number and all have been the subject of innumerable articles, commentaries and books that can be located through widely-available search engines or tools like LexisNexis, Google, Bing, Westlaw, and many others. In addition, searching the name of the individual through marketplaces like Amazon.com can yield useful information on books and monographs available on those individuals. And, of course, librarians can help students conduct computer searches using names or subjects that will help identify material easily available in that library. A useful compendium of search engines is available at www.thesearchenginelist.com/.
Conducting an academic exercise like the one specified in the question should entail selection of an individual who works in a field of general interest to the student undertaking the exercise. A student interested in politics could logically choose to focus on the president, a prominent senator or governor, or a political or social activist involved in issues of interest to the student. Obviously, the more important and high-profile the position, the more material will be readily available. Such prominent figures from the business world like Donald Trump, George Soros, Ted Turner, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett would each provide an interesting and controversial figure on which to conduct research. Each has been phenomenally successful at business while also engaging in politics and social activisim, if only at the margins.
A prominent public figure about whom much information is available through numerous sources, including utilizing his own memoirs, is Senator John McCain of Arizona. A retired naval officer and former prisoner-of-war in Vietnam, Senator McCain reinvented himself as a politician who climbed in prominence as a member of Congress and presidential candidate. And, the senator has experienced more than his share of controversy, whether over his positions on establishing relations with former foe Vietnam, campaign finance reform, regulating the tobacco industry, intervening in foreign countries like Iraq, Kosovo and Syria, or any other of the myriad issues that confront individuals in his particular profession. On each of those issues mentioned, McCain was a polarizing figure who stood firmly on his positions, for better or worse, and who tried to influence public policy.
Another possible figure could be the actor Sean Penn. A successful actor as well as director, Penn has also been a polarizing figure both for this violent reactions to photographers attempting to take his picture and for his political and humanitarian activities involving issues like earthquake relief in Haiti and his meetings with political leaders hostile to the United States, for example, the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Whether celebrities should exploit their name recognition and wealth to influence public policy is an ongoing debate, and individuals like Penn, George Clooney and many others could provide the basis for a project discussing the merits or criticisms of their actions and statements. Again, much material is available in books, magazine articles, interviews, memoirs and other sources on these individuals.
On any given topic, the wealth of information available in the internet age and at school or university libraries is almost always more than enough to conduct the necessary research. The key is to identify an individual prominent in the field that most interests the student, and then take it from there.
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