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Reconsidering Obama

Reflections on Rhetoric

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Robert E. Terrill

Perhaps no other presidential candidate or sitting president has attracted as much attention from rhetorical critics as Barack Obama. Much of this work was conceived and written during Obama’s initial presidential campaign, or relatively early in his two terms in office. This book provides rhetorical critics an opportunity to revisit their published work on Obama in light of events that have occurred since its publication. In each chapter, these eminent critics begin by summarizing the analysis and conclusions in their original essays on Obama, and then reflect on their previous conclusions, revising or extending them in response to developments since the publication of the original work. The chapters provide a glimpse into the inventional strategies of practicing critics and into some of the ways that that critical insights may evolve over time. Scholars rarely have an opportunity to publish essays that reflect on their own previous work, even though few resources can be of greater use to both beginning critics and to established scholars seeking to continue to hone and reflect on their critical practice. This book, then, makes an important contribution not only to the existing literature on the 44th president of the United States, but also and perhaps most significantly to the study of the art and craft of rhetorical criticism.

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Chapter Nine: How Selective Amnesia Brought Us the First Black Socialist President of the United States (Kristen Hoerl)

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chapter nine

How Selective Amnesia Brought Us the First Black Socialist President of the United States

Kristen Hoerl

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

When I was a child, my grandmother loved to repeat the proverb, “history is written by the victors.” She usually said this in response to televised news coverage of a national election or the conclusion of a foreign conflict. Listening to her at the dinner table with the nightly news in the background might explain why my scholarship has consistently drawn attention to what is excluded from the narratives of national belonging and identification. I decided to pursue graduate school after I learned that the United States government helped to overthrow democratically elected officials in Guatemala, Brazil, and Chile because their leftist policies were considered a threat to U.S. business interests. My unfamiliarity with this history until college revealed the ideological implications of my public school education. The contradiction between rhetorics of democracy featured in my civics textbooks and the U.S. policies that structure inequality is the foundation for my ongoing research, which explores how radical dissent has contributed to democratic culture and how popular culture has limited our resources for understanding the influence of radicalism on politics and society. I view popular culture as a site of public memory in which publicly available expressions about past events provide resources for shared knowledge and meaning. Since public memories are created in the present, they are activated by current issues and concerns....

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