This study analyzes the testimony given by Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns in response to the suicides of bullied teens. Like other testimonies included in the “It Gets Better” project, Burns’s speech included his personal story of being bullied because of his sexual orientation, considering suicide, and persevering to lead a successful adult life. His speech was given in a city council meeting in Texas, but his message reached a much wider audience. Drawing on the public modalities framework, this study employs narrative and discourse analysis to examine his story and the public reactions to it. The analysis focuses on the discursive invocation of emotion, multiple audiences, and the role of technology to engage publics. This analysis furthers research on how personal stories function in public meetings and serve as a modality to engage broader publics.
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