Harry S. Truman: Presidential Rhetoric

By Halford R. Ryan | Go to book overview

Introduction

This book treats Harry S. Truman's presidential oratory within the constraints of the Great American Orators series. As conceived, the series presents critical chapters that are keyed to addresses appended in "Part II: Collected Speeches." Thus, the series' formulation invites the commentator to make choices, of which there are two basic kinds: (1) the critic selects one or more speeches and then matches these to a chapter or (2) the critic has a chapter in mind and then chooses the appropriate rhetorical artifacts. In selecting the speeches and chapters, I draw from both routes, for in either case there is a nexus between a speech and its intended exegesis.

The speeches and chapters, or the chapters and speeches, focus on two major, pivotal, persuasive themes in Truman's presidential rhetoric. If one were to play a word-association game, then surely "Truman" would connote the Truman Doctrine and certainly Korea. In fact, these topics had at their epicenter the anti-Communist rhetoric that was a staple of Truman's enduring responses to the Cold War. In addition, if one pictures Truman in the mind's eye, then there is a likelihood that one would recall with delight (if one is a Democrat) or with rankling (if one is a Republican) that famous 1948 photograph of Truman's holding aloft the Chicago Daily Tribune's headline: "Dewey Defeats Truman."

Thus, with regards to Harry S. Truman as a subject for the Great American Orator series, the critic necessarily offers depth of focus at the expense of breadth of scope for selected Truman speeches. In truth, this caveat is uttered not without cause. Mindful of Robert Underhill The Truman Persuasions, one would have to claim some compelling reason for portraying anew the broad canvas of HST's presidential speeches, for Underhill accomplished a masterful tome in his book-length study. 1 Still,

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