Episode 24: Persuasive Writing

Persuasive Writing never looked so good. That’s the skill we practice as we ride Westbound on the legendary California Zephyr.

On a passenger train
Onboard Amtrak’s California Zephyr train.

IMAGINE…..You’re heading West for the first time on Amtrak’s Clifornia Zephyr…

Viewing Episode 24

This episode takes viewers out West on Amtrak’s California Zephyr.  We leave Chicago and pass through the Colorado Rockies to Glenwood Springs, Colorado. We also learn to write persuasive letters, as if writing to our congressional representative.  Click here to watch the whole episode.

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RUE Episode 24 Segment 1

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Donner Pass from California Zephyr
Donner Pass from California Zephyr

All About the Journey

Our journey through the Rocky Mountains dazzles the first-time traveler to the American West with soaring mountains, deep, colorful canyons, rivers and ranches. We put ourselves on this journey of discovery in our minds, pretending we’re this lucky traveler.

These long-distance trains have dining cars to make memorable meals available to passengers who may spend 3 days aboard long-distance trains like the California Zephyr.  We learn that – although long-distance trains across the world operate dining cars at a loss – some members of the U.S. Congress try to end rail travel by Amtrak by insisting that Amtrak make a profit on its meals.  These are people doing the bidding of billionaires who want to kill Amtrak, starting with the long-distance trains that make the system viable.  This is the basis we use for writing our persuasive letter.

Video clip:  Click here to see the video clip of the California Zephyr Westbound, part 1.

To watch this video ad-free on archive.org, Click here.

You can also view California Zephyr Westbound Part 2.

Join us for the westbound journey on archive.org with no ads. Click here to view and/or download.

Links: During this episode, I referred to an organization that advocates for rail passengers in the United States. They lobby lawmakers to keep Amtrak alive and to expand it to make a stronger passenger rail system for our population that is growing and creates demand for passenger rail service. The organization is the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP).  This organization does not support Ramping Up your English nor my website LetzCreate.org.  I should reveal. however, that I am a member of NARP. If you want to learn more about NARP and see how they’re working to improve passenger rail service, visit them at narprail.org.

Note from 2121

With the COVID19, Amtrak passenger numbers are way down. During the pandemic, Amtrak has reduced service on the long-distance trains to three times a week from daily service. There is great concern that Amtrak will not resume daily service once the pandemic is under control. NARP is fighting hard to see that daily service is restored. This would be a good topic for a persuasive letter to your congressman or senator. Our new president – President Joe Biden – has always supported AMTRAK, but a persuasive letter to Congress may give him the support he needs to restore daily service on long-distance trains.

Langage Objectives

Use Mandating phrases in an attempt to persuade a listener or reader to take actions that the speaker or writer deems appropriate for solving a problem. Express an opinion on a topic of concern. Relate and organize facts about an issue of concern. Persuasive Writing.

Academic Content Objectives

Civics: Express an opinion about an issue of public concern. Write or speak a persuasive argument identifying a problem of public concern and suggesting a solution. Participate in discourse about an issue of public interest. Identify and evaluate an issue of public concern. Communicate concern about an issue of public interest with an elected official and recommend a course of action. Identify example of persuasive writing in a newspaper.


Persuasive Writing: Write a persuasive letter to a public official about saving long-distance trains (or another issue on which you are concerned). Sending the letter is a good idea, but it’s your choice whether or not you want to do that. You could also make some notes and call the office to speak to a congressman’s staff about your concern. If you’re concerned about your level of English, or if you’re concerned about a possible risk, just practice the conversation with a friend and/or don’t actually send the letter.

While participating in public discourse is important, the goal is to develop the language skills.  They’ll serve you in a number of situations, not just government actions or issues around passenger trains.

Materials Used in This Lesson

The opening sentence tells the reader exactly what you want from your public servant.
Good things seem to come in threes. Here you tell the reader that you have three reasons why they should consider the action that you urge.
Here you give more detail about the first reason. You should always be factual and logical.
Here’s the second reason in detail. It would be a good idea to show ridership figures and their source, but that would best be written as a footnote. You don’t want to interrupt the flow of your ideas.
You detail your third reason.
Here’s your call to action. You want their support, and you come right out and say it. Reminding the reader that you’re from their district helps them know that you vote for their seat in Congress.
Here’s a clear, mandating phrase.
This reminds the reader of what’s at stake.
A review of one of the reasons to protect or restore service
You can make a strong point without getting into attack mode. It’s a strong statement that helps make your case.
Another good word for persuasion.

Next Episode

Listening skills as well as reading strategies are shared in Episode 25. A boy named Will reads Kate Shelly and the Midnight Express to a group of friends and to our viewers.  We explore reading strategies such as checking for understanding, character development, and the role of conflict in revealing character traits. Will models reading with expression.  Click hereto visit Episode 25 of Ramping Up your English.