U.S. Government, Art
Students will evaluate the elements of political cartooning by examining the decision of Senator Everett M. Dirksen to substitute a drawing for a photograph in the Pocket Congressional Directory. Students will select an editorial cartoon from The Center's extensive online collection that best depicts the qualities of the senator.
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Senate Minority Leader Everett M. Dirksen, a man who carefully cultivated his public image, did not like his picture. That is, the picture in the Pocket Congressional Directory, a publication issued at least once every congressional term by the Joint Committee on Printing.
The Directory published thumbnail photos of every Member of Congress, as well as of the president and vice president. It was a popular reference tool for Members, staffers, government officials, and lobbyists, among others.
In January 1963, however, Dirksen decided to challenge tradition. He substituted a drawing from his recent re-election campaign for the stock photo he had been using for years. “It stands out better,” one of his staff members told the Associated Press. That was certainly true: Dirksen’s was the ONLY sketch in the Directory that year and for many more; everyone else submitted a photograph.
The senator’s decision sparked a response from at least one professional cartoonist, the famous Bill Mauldin. In an open letter to Dirksen published in several papers, Mauldin applauded Dirksen’s decision, criticizing the camera as “a cold, undiscriminating device.” But Mauldin had hoped Dirksen would let cartoonists compete for the honor of drawing Dirksen.
1. Students will look at the photograph of Everett Dirksen published in the 1957 edition of the Pocket Congressional Directory. This is the picture he used for many years. Compare it to a photograph of Dirksen taken in 1962. Should Dirksen use the 1957 version or update it, and why?
2. Students will look at the sketch Dirksen began to use in the Pocket Congressional Directory. Does the sketch seem to be more effective than the photograph, why or why not?
3. Students will read the two newspaper clippings, “Dirksen Has New Face in Congress Directory” and “An Open Letter to Sen. Dirksen”.
Why did Bill Mauldin want Senator Dirksen to invite cartoonists to draw him?
4. Students will visit the online collection of political cartoons at http://www.congresslink.org/cartoons/index.htm. They should select one cartoon featuring Everett Dirksen and explain what qualities that cartoonist decided to emphasize.
5. Students may want to compare and contrast their choice with Bill Mauldin’s sketch. Which do they like better and why?6. For further information about how to analyze political cartoons, visit http://www.eiu.edu/~eiutps/cartoon.php.
Staff, The Dirksen Congressional Center