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Library of Presidential Rhetoric

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Library of Presidential Rhetoric

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FDR's First Fireside Chat

Public Confidence and the Banking Crisis

By Amos Kiewe

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The Great Silent Majority

Nixon's 1969 Speech on Vietnamization

Karlyn Kohrs Campbell

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.

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Jefferson's Call for Nationhood

The First Inaugural Address

By Stephen Howard Browne

Widely celebrated in its own time, Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address commands the regard of Americans from across the political spectrum. Delivered as the young nation found itself embroiled in bitter partisan struggles, the speech has been hailed as the Sermon on the Mount of good government. Curiously, this masterpiece—the full text of which is reproduced in this volume—has never received sustained analysis. Here, Stephen Howard Browne describes its origins, composition, meaning, and delivery. His wellcrafted argument and accessible prose offer a model of analysis for rhetorical scholars and students and an added dimension to the history of the early republic and the understanding of American political thought.

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LBJ's American Promise

The 1965 Voting Rights Address

By Garth E. Pauley

Though Lyndon Johnson developed a reputation as a rough-hewn, arm-twisting deal-maker with a drawl, at a crucial moment in history he delivered an address to Congress that moved Martin Luther King Jr. to tears and earned praise from the media as the best presidential speech in American history. Even today, his voting rights address of 1965 ranks high not only in political significance, but also as an example of leadership through oratory. Garth E. Pauley carefully analyzes both the content and the context of this historic speech. He begins with an analysis of the less-than-linear path of voting rights in the United States, and highlights the failures and limited successes of previous legislation. Many commentators have seen Johnson’s voting rights speech as a response to the escalating protests in Selma, and Pauley explores that connection. Did Johnson wait too long to address the issue? Would he have championed voting rights without the protests? Pauley traces the development of the speech and the policy with these questions in mind. He situates the speech not only within its immediate context but also within Johnson’s ideology and value system, tracing the influences on Johnson’s racial attitudes and describing the complex of policies he developed to address issues of inequality. Having set the stage for the address, Pauley then carefully analyzes the text itself. He charts the “authorship” of the speech through several drafts by aides, traces the purposefulness of the allusions, and recounts the extemporizing Johnson introduced when he actually delivered the address. He notes the idealistic, even mythic dimensions of the speech, which contrast with its plainspoken style. Finally, Pauley gauges the effectiveness of the speech. He reports the response to the address in the media, among civil rights leaders, and in the general population. Pauley concludes with some reservations about the effectiveness not only of this address but also of the Johnson program for racial justice. Nonetheless, he believes that “Lyndon Johnson’s ‘We Shall Overcome’ speech remains a remarkable achievement,” combining principle with rhetorical leadership.

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Reagan at Bergen-Belsen and Bitburg

By Richard J. Jensen

Ronald Reagan’s inability to sway the American public and press with his speeches at the former site of the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and, later, at the U.S. Air Force base in Bitburg, Germany, has been marked by many as the first major failure of the Great Communicator’s second term. Richard J. Jensen highlights the qualities of the speeches that make them, in his estimation, models of presidential discourse. But he also looks at the setting for the speeches—political and historical—that doomed them despite their eloquence. Telescoping in from the broadest perspective on Reagan’s rhetorical career; to the circumstances surrounding the decision to make the speeches; to the drafting, delivery, and reception of the texts, Jensen contrasts these two speeches with two very successful ones Reagan had delivered in Normandy the previous year. The result is a vivid picture of a man and a moment in history. Students and all those interested in public discourse and the presidency will deeply benefit from this mature work by a major scholar of rhetoric.

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Reagan at Westminster

Foreshadowing the End of the Cold War

Robert C. Rowland and John M. Jones

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.

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Reagan at Westminster

Foreshadowing the End of the Cold War

Robert C. Rowland

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.

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Slipping the Surly Bonds

Reagan's Challenger Address

By Mary E. Stuckey

Millions of Americans, including hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren, watched in horror as the Challenger shuttle capsule exploded on live television on January 28, 1986. Coupled with that awful image in Americans’ memory is the face of President Ronald Reagan addressing the public hours later with words that spoke to the nation’s shock and mourning. Focusing on the text of Reagan’s speech, author Mary Stuckey shows how President Reagan’s reputation as “the Great Communicator” adds significance to our understanding of his rhetoric on one of the most momentous occasions of his administration.

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Theodore Roosevelt, Conservation, and the 1908 Governors' Conference

Leroy G. Dorsey

Among Theodore Roosevelt’s many initiatives, one of the most important accomplishments was his effort to convince the nation that conserving the environment was crucial to its continued existence. Years of national tours, presidential edicts, and policy wrangling culminated in an unprecedented conference of governors at the White House in 1908. Leroy G. Dorsey explores the rhetorical power of Roosevelt’s address at this historic conservation summit, specifically examining how the president popularized the notion of conservation in the public consciousness.

Much has been written on Roosevelt’s conservation policy, but surprisingly little attention has been given to this pivotal moment in the rhetorical rally on its behalf. This book fills an important void in the history of conservation for all who seek a deeper understanding of a president so identified as a champion of the environment.

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Truman's Whistle-stop Campaign

By Steven R. Goldzwig

Faced with the likely loss of the 1948 presidential elections, Harry S. Truman decided to do what he did best: talk straight. When Truman boarded the train to head west in June 1948, he and his campaign advisors decided to shift from prepared text to extemporaneous stump speeches. The “new Truman” emerged as a feisty, engaged speaker, brimming with ideas on policies and programs important to the common citizen. Steven R. Goldzwig engagingly chronicles the origins of Truman’s “give ‘em hell” image and the honing of his rhetorical delivery during his ostensibly nonpolitical train trip west, which came to be known as his “whistle-stop tour.” At the time, Truman was both applauded and derided by the public, but his speeches delivered at each stop helped win him the presidency. Goldzwig’s detailed look at the background of the campaign, Truman’s preparations and goals, the train trip itself, and the text and tone of the speeches helps us better understand how Truman carried the 1948 election and came to represent the plainspoken “man of the people” who returns from behind to win, against all odds.

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