Although rhetoric sometimes seems to be a completely neutral instrument, in fact it has several social responsibilities. Chief among these is the display of public reason, justifying contingent claims in the public forum. Other responsibilities include creating a community through revealing common bonds among people and providing the basis for human aspirations. These responsibilities are not self-executing but require committed teachers and citizens to carry them out. A special duty rests with teachers of rhetoric who instruct large numbers of students in written composition and public speaking. This essay originally was presented as the 2008 Rhetoric Society of America presidential address. It is reprinted from a volume of conference papers, The Responsibilities of Rhetoric (Michelle Smith and Barbara Warnick, Ed.), published by Waveland Press in 2010.