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Reagan at Westminster

Foreshadowing the End of the Cold War

Robert C. Rowland

Publication Year: 2010

President Ronald Reagan’s famous address to the Houses of Parliament is now considered—in its spirit if not in its actual words—to be the initial enunciation of his “Evil Empire” stance. In this important volume by two experienced rhetorical scholars, Robert C. Rowland and John M. Jones offer a historical-descriptive treatment that includes both rhetorical analysis and a narrative of the drafting of the speech. They consider Reagan’s focus on “ultimate definition,” “dialectical engagement,” and other rhetorical tools in crafting and presenting the momentous address. They also note the irony of Reagan’s use of Leon Trotsky’s phrase “ash-heap of history” to predict the demise of Communism.

Rowland and Jones present three reasons for the importance of this speech. First, it offers new insights into President Reagan himself, through a view of his role in the drafting of the speech as well as the ideas it contains. Second, the speech is an act of rhetorical history, and its analysis helps recover a significant rhetorical artifact. Finally, the address ultimately expresses a rhetorical framework for the Cold War that systematically subverted the narrative, ideology, and values of Marxism.

Although initial response to the speech was tepid, Reagan considered it one of his most important addresses, and the hindsight afforded by the fall of Communism a decade later lends validation to that view, the authors suggest. Reagan at Westminster: Foreshadowing the End of the Cold War will highly commend itself to students and scholars of rhetoric, the Presidency, and political communication.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Library of Presidential Rhetoric


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-8

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pp. viii-9

The authors express their sincere appreciation to the staff at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, and especially to archivist Cate Sewell, who helped us find speech drafts and other archival material. Professors Martin Medhurst and Ray Dearin both provided...

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Ronald Reagan’s Address to Members of the British Parliament, June 8, 1982

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pp. 1-12

My Lord Chancellor, Mr. Speaker:
1. The journey of which this visit forms a part is a long one. Already it has taken me to two great cities of the West, Rome and Paris, and to the economic summit at Versailles. And there, once again, our sister democracies have proved...

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pp. 13-19

On June 8, 1982, President Ronald Reagan spoke in the Royal Gallery at Westminster to assembled members of Parliament and other dignitaries.1 In the speech, Reagan discussed the danger that “the existence of nuclear weapons could mean, if not the extinction of mankind, then surely the end of civilization...

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1. Ronald Reagan and the Evolution of Cold War Rhetoric and Policies

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pp. 20-36

Ronald Reagan’s address to the British Parliament can be understood only when situated within the larger context of the cold war and Reagan’s rhetorical response to it. In this chapter we trace U.S. policy in the cold war through three periods: genesis, stasis, and détente. It is not our intention to provide a detailed history of the...

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2. The Drafting of the Westminster Address

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pp. 37-53

One of the most enduring images of Ronald Reagan relates to his years as an actor in Hollywood. During his presidency, he often was viewed as a mere actor, who simply mouthed the words that others wrote for him. He was, in this view, the “acting president.”1 It is still common to hear commentators reference his acting...

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3. Ultimate Definition and Dialectical Engagement at Westminster

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pp. 54-88

In the spring of 1982, the Reagan administration began preparation for the president’s first trip abroad, which would take him to Europe to meet with the other leaders of Western industrialized nations at the G-7 summit at Versailles. Stops in West Germany, Italy, and Great Britain were planned in order to burnish Reagan’s image...

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4. Reaction to the Address

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pp. 89-102

In retrospect, Margaret Thatcher’s praise for Reagan’s address at Westminster is understandable. After all, his “magnificent speech,” which she also termed “a triumph,” did correctly predict the end of the cold war.1 At the time, she was almost alone in this assessment. Thatcher made one other comment that also turned out to be prescient. In a toast at a luncheon...

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5. The Importance of Reagan at Westminster

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pp. 103-127

American history is filled with examples of speeches that created a sensation but then quickly were forgotten. The campaign speeches of Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and even Ronald Reagan were immensely powerful at the time, but they continue to be studied only as historical artifacts that tell us about a moment in American...


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pp. 129-146

Selected References

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pp. 147-156


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pp. 157-160

E-ISBN-13: 9781603447911
E-ISBN-10: 1603447911
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603442169

Page Count: 160
Illustrations: 1 b&w photo. Index.
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Library of Presidential Rhetoric
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OCLC Number: 746582180
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