Max Rysztak: Looking Back on Missed Opportunities, Challenge Journal

I worked on a Political Science essay for an International Security course on the topic of Game Theory and the logic of effective threats. As game theory is my favorite subject in political science, I felt that I wrote a strong and interesting essay as it relates to the United States frequent use of threatening sanctions.

Had the opportunity presented itself, however, to take a deep dive on the subject of game theory in political science (using the examples I chose in the original essay), I think I could’ve easily turned this 10 page essay into a 30-40 page dive into logic of international politics – through the lens of game theory. I also think presenting this in the mode of a website would’ve allowed me to demonstrate different games in a more interactive way that would the reader understand each game/step/node more intuitively than it was explained on the page through text. If you look at the screen-grab of the graph and explanatory texts below, I hope it’s obvious how hard it was to explain the logic/steps of the game. I think a website and a semester-long dive into the logic would’ve proven to be beneficial for both myself and the reader.

So while I think that a semester would be extremely beneficial in developing this essay, I also think the mode of presentation would’ve been equally as important in creating something worth spending this much time on.


“Firstly, it is important to note the assumption within the structure of this game that there is nothing the Russians can do – at this point in the situation – to deter the United States from threatening a sanction. The game was designed that way to emphasize the fact that the United States needs to take some sort of action (no matter the strength of said action) to satisfy both international and domestic political cries for 
opposition. Additionally, the status quo is unacceptable to the United States because it leads to a potential power-shift in the region, resulting in the overall decision to make the threat of sanctions, as displayed by Figure 2.

Now that the United States has actually made the threat, Russia now has the decision to acquiesce or defy the threat. Should Russia defy the threat, they know that it can be carried about the United States, as it is credible. The United States, additionally, will not back down from the threat as that decision results in both minimal payoffs in the game and real-world situation consequences. Backing down by the United States, for example, results in negative punishment such as potential political backlash and demonstrating weakness. These decisions are demonstrated in Figure 3 and Figure 4.”



Rysztak Extreme Implications Blog Post

The most extreme potential implication of my project is that the same information – when worded differently – can persuade different audiences. I think that you could argue my project demonstrative of the fact that content, when phrased certain ways, can be either attractive or unattractive to an individual or group. But when phrased differently, that same content can be applying to those same people. The most fundamental implication, therefore, is that phrasing of information matters in terms of persuasion.

Challenge Journal 3: Design

Having made a lot of progress on the speeches for my capstone project, I’ve begun to struggle on how to implement “annotations” into the text.

Using Wix as my website developer helps make a lot of the design implementation easy, but coming up with a way to have the reader be able to read the speech and annotations – without getting overloaded with text – has proven to be more of a challenge that I had originally thought of.

Take, for example, the following quote:

You see, free trade directly affects our growth and poverty rate – the freer goods can be exported and imported into the United States, the faster we can reach 4% growth. At the same time, however, we’re also decreasing poverty and saving our environment. Every one of you in this room can live in a more competitive economy, in a community less poor, and in a cleaner environment – all directly improved by freeing up trade.”

Attached to this quote I want to add the following comments:

“Note the use of “you” compared to the use of “us” in the larger speech. Using “you” makes the audience think of their direct lives if they did live in this world the principal is painting.”

The principal ties all of these issues together, when in the longer speech, each issue gets its own explanation. This is beneficial for limited time but similar information. See how this can be supplemented in the tweet below!”

I’m trying to decide how I want to implement these annotations. Do I want to have the speech, itself, off-centered with the annotations going directly to a set of quotes? Do I want the annotations to be hidden only to pop-up and cover the text I’m using to demonstrate a particular point? I think there are pros/cons to both options but I would love some design help going forward!

Rysztak Challenge Journal 2: What to say, and then, how to say it?

Having successfully compiled a good list of data, I now struggle with the hardest part of speechwriting (for me at least) what does the principal – not myself – want to say?

Having worked on speeches for AG Sessions, I knew the basics of his speeches: stats/examples on his big three issues of opioids, illegal immigration, or violent crime. The speeches were more or less the same thing, but the language was changed – the goal of which my project is centered around. But when writing a new speech, like a graduation ceremony for police officers or a thank-you to summer interns, it’s hard to figure out exactly, in these moments, what does the principal hope to say?

In reality, he/she probably doesn’t care. But the words still have to be good. The speech, still authentic.

I’m now faced with that problem again, as I write/rewrite/edit drafts of my speeches, it’s hard to figure out what an “imaginary principal” wants to say.

Do I pretend that I have the exact same policy preferences and speech tendencies as my principal? Which is honestly an unrealistic dream of all speechwriters.

I would love to hear suggestions on how to fix this solution: do I create some version of a principal? Do I use an example principal’s voice? Do I use my voice, as if I were the principal?

I think this is an extremely important question because it would help keep the speeches consistent and grounded, and hopefully as realistic as possible.

Having the data already compiled makes this challenge both slightly easier and slightly more difficult. I have a guiding content point that needs to be addressed, but how to say it – and what to say about it is still difficult. Take, for example, the following content point:

“US trade deficits generally are good for Americans. The trade deficit is not debt. A growing trade deficit…is good for the economy. It is typically a signal that global investors are confident in America’s economic future. America’s trade deficit increases whenever non-Americans choose to increase the amount they invest in the United States….More investment means expansion of existing businesses, more new businesses, higher worker productivity, and more output-enhancing activities.”

Quotes like this provide valuable guidance – but phrasing them in a way that makes you able to successfully capture an audience still prooves difficult.

Challenge Journal 1: Political Research

Having interned at the DOJ as a speechwriting intern, one of my biggest tasks was to conduct research for upcoming speeches. It was my job to organize all of that research so it was readily accessible and citable. I face a similar problem now, with my topic being limited to trade, I can use any research methods I want. There is no limitation as to what data I want to use.

In my first week interning the internship, I also had to go through the previous 3 months worth of speeches and had to organize stats/data that was already written about. It was my job to organize that and to research/cite that data (which I compiled into an over 50-page research document searchable by terms and statistics, already cited in the proper format – DOJ document so I couldn’t take it with me). It included in-depth numbers from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, statistics from academic journals, stories about those murdered in violent crimes.

It was good data – but data that was hard to organize and find.

This presented a relatively new problem for me in my writing: finding/organizing research that was meant to advance a predisposed argument, and not using the research to develop my argument.

I realized that this is the basis for all political writing. You search for the numbers that support what you already think. You look for emotional stories to give it weight and meaning. In academics, it’s flipped.

This was relatively new for me. How was I supposed to know what type of number or story would fit in a speech? How did I know if it would give the “weight” that we needed it to or if it fit the broader narrative?

I am again faced with this problem in the early stages of my project as I begin to search for data to base my speeches off of. But now, I have the underlying experience – the “gut feeling” – to tell if a statistic will work, or if it will help advance the message. I often struggle when there is no specific direction; with my project I can take the speeches on trade to any argument I want, but what data do I want to use?

Form Improvements – Max Rysztak

I think the form of “professional blogging” has a lot of room to be improved. Personal or creative blogs are intriguing but I think that when this mode is more professional in nature, the argument or the content is diminished by the form of expression. I think ways that this can be improved is to be consistent across blogging platforms. I’ve read many blogs – from many credible people – that are inconsistent among different posts. When a blogger writes about his/her favorite recipe, only to have her next post be about deep philosophy, I think the mode of blogging and the content of the blogs themselves are diminishing. I think all bloggers can improve on their points by limiting their subjects and making the writing consistent across posts.

Who Can You Trust? Me – Max Rysztak

Having selected a piece on the Arab-Israeli conflict in the beginning of the semester, I think my portfolio became instantly more “professional” than had I chosen a different piece to remediate/repurpose. This essay made my portfolio instantly more political, professional, and career-oriented than many portfolios tend to be. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to create an overly expressive/creative environment through a website, while at the same time successfully arguing facts about how a militia force had a unique impact on a nation’s eventual established military. Professionalism, argumentation, and subtleties were going to have to be present on my website in order for the whole environment to work with the content.

That being said, I don’t think much of my portfolio would’ve changed had I selected a different piece. Whether it be this exact one on the Arab-Israeli conflict, or whether it be one for a political science class on modern political argumentation, I think my portfolio would still be professional and argumentative in nature. It wouldn’t have affected my “Why I Write” or the environment – other than that it could be more partisan, had I chosen a Michigan Daily Article for example.

I largely trust myself in my own mind, but I don’t trust I have written what I am actually trying to say. I think I know – personally – why I write, and I deeply trust that assessment. Yet I am less confident that I have precisely articulated my reasoning. I think for me, my motivations are very clear and not as complex, maybe they are and I just see them as simple. But being motivated by my political surroundings, my competitiveness, my passion for debate, and my love of persuasion is truly who I am as a person and it’s truly why I write.



Portfolio Categories Ranking – Max Rysztak

Ranking (Strongest to Weakest)

  1. Prose
  2. Composition/Environment
  3. Idea/Concept
  4. Voice



For my portfolio, I hope to see my prose as the standout category. While I believe the environment my work is presented (ie. the website) is important to my overall portfolio, I prefer it to go unnoticed by the user/reader. I hope that simplicity and general familiarity with other websites will not cause a distraction to some of the ideas presented in my remediation/repurposing. My prose, additionally, is a strong part of my overall portfolio (with maybe the exception of the Why I Write essay) yet I feel the ideas are not relatively complex. I think my concept for repurposing and original ideas for the paper are unique, I don’t know how profound they are compared to others. Finally, I feel that a voice is something lacking in my portfolio. I think this is a hard problem to fix given the nature of my writings, and other than the Why I Write essay, I don’t think the readers are presented with a clear voice in my portfolio. I don’t know, however, how important a lack of voice is because of my more professional tone.

Max Rysztak: Reading to Rewrite

As somebody who reads to rewrite, I think I write with the goal of rewriting things I disagree with. With the “Why I Write” essay, I feel that my writing (which is typically argumentative in nature) is most often in an attempt to correct the arguments I tend to disagree with. I say that writing is a means by which I can pursue my broader goals; I write almost in a competitive nature, perhaps to have the best argument possible. I think it highlights a deeper competitiveness within myself, and as a “self-described talented writer”, writing may be my way of competitively reaching my goals.

Mixed Feelings: Max Rysztak


Having never been a fan of English classes in high school, I felt undecided on my opinions of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. As we intensely read and analyzed the book over the course of a few weeks, I realized that while I respected Harper Lee as an author, I – at the same time – both loved and hated the actual story. Parts of the novel simply were the worst thing I ever read. Other sections, were so entertaining I felt obligated to read past the required minimum. I think for me, Lee tries to throw too many themes into a single book. While it may be based on reality, and while all the themes are equally critical to a strong society, I vividly remember feeling like this book was “too much” as every now and then I’d roll my eyes. It’s story was incredibly interesting – but its deeper message felt (to me) too complicated to be meaningful. I think it was deterministic – I liked a lot of the story, but different aspects of the story had different (and too many, in my opinion, themes).