In this unique history of presidential speechmaking, from the founding to the present day, an accomplished storyteller and professor of rhetoric amply documents how presidents have used the bully pulpit to articulate their visions and unite diverse Americans.
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Leaders use words as tools to build a relationship with the populace, and often it is their words that are remembered and trusted rather than their actions. U.S. presidents have ample opportunity to address the public and, through these speeches, they can inspire confidence, ease the pain of war or disaster, and establish a national direction--often all in one delivery. As Wayne Fields points out in Union of Words: A History of Presidential Eloquence, studying what presidents say is an historical tool. Covering presidents from Washington to Clinton, Fields details the context of their speeches, as well as the various approaches that run a fine line between clarity and confusion. For instance, the subtle difference between Ronald Reagan's simplistic and folksy tone and Richard Nixon's unintended condescension was not lost on listeners.
Quoting from State of the Union addresses, inaugurations, acceptance and farewell speeches, and other less ceremonious occasions, Fields examines how presidents attempt to unite American society through their choice of words and themes, often reinventing themselves in the process. Using colorful language that rivals many of the speeches highlighted in the book, Union of Words fuses elements of political science, history, and sociology to draw an intimate connection between the bully pulpit and the people.From Library Journal:
Fields (American literature, American Univ.) presents a perceptive study of how acceptance speeches, inaugurals, State of the Union speeches, and farewells are used to define a presidential agenda, while providing continuity between the past and the future. In the 19th century these speeches were frequently used to justify the relocation of Native Americans and to rationalize slavery as a necessary human condition. Since World War II, recurring themes of presidential speeches have been civil rights, conservation, peace, and social welfare. The chapters on inaugurals and farewells are the strongest, containing in-depth analyses of some of the most important speeches, notably Lincoln's Second Inaugural, which called for the reconciliation of the North and South and the end of slavery; Washington's Farewell, which challenged his fellow citizens to preserve the young nation; and Eisenhower's Farewell, which warned against the growing military-industrial complex. Although lacking a conclusion comparing and contrasting how successful these speeches were in making the president the symbolic leader of the nation, this is a fine addition to the growing body of literature about the rhetorical presidency. It is especially useful for candidates seeking examples of successful and not-so-successful speeches. Recommended for political science and communications collections.?Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, Pa.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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