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The Evolutionary Rhetorical Presidency

Tracing the Changes in Presidential Address and Power

Ryan Lee Teten

This book is an evolutionary examination of the rhetoric of the President of the United States, from George Washington to George W. Bush. It provides a close analysis of the history and content of inaugural addresses, State of the Union addresses, presidential proclamations, and executive orders in order to trace the changes in their use and impact from their origin to the present day. Content analysis of these forms of executive address are combined with case studies and illustrations to provide a complete look at the way that – contrary to the widely held ascription to a clear «traditional» versus «modern» divide – the presidents of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries have all contributed to the rhetorical tools and powers that the current president wields in the execution of his duty. The Evolutionary Rhetorical Presidency is widely useful not only for standard governmental classes on, for example, the Presidency or on political communication, but also for courses in history, leadership studies, and rhetoric.


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CHAPTER IV The Bigger Picture: Visions for the Nation and the World Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. —Theodore Roosevelt IN PRESIDENTIAL speech and address, we see a unique form of rhetoric that has the opportunity to resonate and be reproduced not only at the domes- tic level, but also at the international level. Often, the president can use his addresses to speak to the specifics of policy and administrative goals that he would like enacted by the Congress or supported by the people, as well as to the larger future of the country and the world; many addresses speak to the things that can be accomplished by both. The president, in effect, presents the people of the United States, and indeed the world, with his vision of the po- tential of democracy, the path for the future of the country, the course of hu- mankind, and the international relations issues that could change the world. In George W. Bush’s first and second Inaugural address, we see many examples of his use of this “visionary” speech in both policy proposals for his own country and policy suggestions for others. In his first address, before the events of 9/11/01, George W. Bush used this “visionary speech” to define the role of education,...

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