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The Great Silent Majority

Nixon's 1969 Speech on Vietnamization

Karlyn Kohrs Campbell

Publication Year: 2014

In his televised and widely watched speech to the nation on November 3, 1969, Pres. Richard M. Nixon introduced a phrase—“silent majority”—and a policy—Vietnamization of the war effort—that echo down to the present day. Nixon’s appearance on this night framed the terms in which much of the subsequent civil conflict and military strategy would be understood.

Rhetorical scholar Karlyn Kohrs Campbell analyzes this critically important speech in light of the historical context and its centrality to three other speeches–two earlier and one the following spring, when the announcement of the US invasion of Cambodia brought a far different response. She also sheds light on a discourse that generated much heat in a nation already seriously divided in its support of the war in Vietnam.

The first single volume dedicated to this speech, this addition to the distinguished Library of Presidential Rhetoric provides the speech text, a summary of its context, its rhetorical elements, and the disciplinary analyses that have developed.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Library of Presidential Rhetoric


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

This book is dedicated to my husband, Paul Newell Campbell, whose encouragement and support were essential to my growth as a scholar and critic. What became this book originated when Larry Moss, the director of news programming at KPFK-Pacifica Radio, Los Angeles, invited...

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“The Great Silent Majority,” November 3, 1969

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pp. 1-13

Good evening my fellow Americans.1 Tonight I want to talk to you on a subject of deep concern to all Americans and to many people in all parts of the world—the war in Vietnam. I believe that one of the reasons for the deep division about Vietnam is that many Americans have lost confidence in what their government...

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1. Introduction: Nixon, Vietnam, and the Cultural Context

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pp. 14-21

In military terms, the war in Vietnam ended in April of 1975 when North and South Vietnam were unified as one nation. Yet the continuing influence of the Vietnam War was apparent in the 1989 inaugural address of Pres. George H. W. Bush when he said, “That war cleaves...

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2. A Short History of US Involvement in the Wars in Vietnam

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pp. 22-40

The United States has had a long and complicated history in Indochina, the name given by the French to their colonies, which included what today are the nations of Kampuchea (formerly Cambodia), Laos, and Vietnam.1 Although few members of the US public were aware of it...

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3. Nixon’s War Rhetoric

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pp. 41-71

Richard Nixon’s speeches presenting his policies to end the war in Vietnam are examples of a distinctive kind or genre of presidential public discourse: war rhetoric, that is, rhetoric responding to aggression or leading the nation into war. They occurred in an unusual set of circumstances...

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4. Nixon’s Rhetorical Critics

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pp. 72-96

This chapter is framed by disciplinary history. The development of rhetorical criticism is a story of efforts to free critics from the constraints of formulas, usually drawn from Greco-Roman principles, in order to foster critical practices adapted to the distinctive character of the...

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5. Conclusion: The Power of Nixon’s Rhetoric

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pp. 97-100

This book attests to the power of presidential rhetoric, a power illustrated by the impact of Nixon’s speech on November 3, 1969. It also attests to the power of the precedents set by earlier presidents, precedents that severely constrain what a subsequent chief executive...


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pp. 101-126


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pp. 127-136


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pp. 137-144

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781623491444
E-ISBN-10: 1623491444
Print-ISBN-13: 9781623490355

Page Count: 152
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Library of Presidential Rhetoric
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OCLC Number: 874963966
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Great Silent Majority

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Relations -- Vietnam.
  • Vietnam -- Relations -- United States.
  • Presidents -- United States -- Messages.
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Public opinion.
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Protest movements.
  • Speeches, addresses, etc., American.
  • Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994 -- Oratory.
  • Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994. Great silent majority.
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