Presidents and Protesters: Political Rhetoric in the 1960s

Presidents and Protesters: Political Rhetoric in the 1960s

Presidents and Protesters: Political Rhetoric in the 1960s

Presidents and Protesters: Political Rhetoric in the 1960s

Synopsis

The decade of the 1960s was a time of passionate politics and resounding rhetoric. The "resounding rhetoric," from Kennedy's celebrated inaugural address, to the outlandish antics of the Yippies, is the focus of this book. The importance of this volume is its consideration of both people in power (presidents) and people out of power (protesters), and its delineation of the different rhetorical bases that each had to work from in participating in the politics of the 1960s.An excellent and lucid introduction to the study of political rhetoric, Presidents and Protesters places rhetorical acts within their specific political contexts, changing the direction of previous rhetorical studies from the sociological to the historical-political.Above all, this is an intellectual history of the 1960s as seen through the rhetoric of the participants, which ultimately shows that the major participants utilized every form of political discourse available and, consequently, exhausted not only themselves but the rhetorical forms as well.

Excerpt

Political rhetoric creates the arena of political reality within which political thought and action take place. Among the politicians who seek to erect this linguistic colosseum, none is more powerful than the president of the United States. in national affairs presidents establish the terms of discourse. Presidents speak with an authority, especially in foreign affairs, that no senator or representative or citizen can match. Moreover, modern presidents have instant access to television to present their messages to the public and thus can set the initial terms for argument about issues and politics. Their messages create the arenas in which others will do rhetorical and political battle.

Equally important, discourse is a source of power for presidents. Contemporary presidents now have the option of "going public" over the head of Congress and directly to the American people to marshal public support for their policies. in doing so, presidents attempt to build the most persuasive case possible for the policies they advocate or the positions they defend. Politics is not an academic seminar. a president is not a distinguished professor occupying an endowed chair of American government. and the primary purpose of presidential rhetoric is not to educate, but to assist in governing, to provide one part of presidential leadership. Every recent presidency has been accused of "news management." Often, this accusation has been made by journalists and others because presidents have presented only their side of an issue before the pub-

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