U.S. Presidents as Orators: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook

By Halford Ryan | Go to book overview

Halford Ryan


Harry S. Truman (1884-1972)

The country can't afford another Republican Congress.

He had a nasal, mid-Western voice; he tended to render his addresses with insufficient oral inflections; his vocal pacing was generally too fast; his eye contact was customarily poor; his gestures were hackneyed; and his speeches were habitually bereft of the well-turned, memorable phrase. Yet, for all of his apparent oratorical shortcomings, and some critics might even cavil at calling him an "orator," Harry S. Truman was a plain, yet persuasive, speaker.

Oratory did not come easily to Truman. Speech professors Eugene White and Clair Henderlider interviewed HST in 1953, and he told them that whatever he learned about oratory was mastered "the hard way," for he never had any formal training in speaking. Even his closest friends admitted that Truman's first political speech, delivered before the voters in Jackson County, Missouri, in 1922 was a disappointing effort. As a campaigner for the U.S. Senate in 1934 and 1940, Truman delivered numerous speeches, but being a New Deal Democrat, rather than a moving orator, secured his elections. Senator Truman was a workman, and he headed the so-called Truman committee, which investigated the seamy side of the military-industrial complex during World War II. When FDR jettisoned Henry Wallace as a vice presidential candidate in the 1944 election, he turned to Truman as a running mate because of Truman's popularity and not for his speaking prowess. And then, on April 12, 1945, Truman became the thirty-third president of the United States.

How, one might ask, did oratory empower Truman? The answer lies in what kind of speech he delivered. When he spoke scripted remarks, his delivery was characteristically poor, or a drone as the press dubbed his delivery. But when he spoke from limited notes, as he did for informal situations and especially in

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U.S. Presidents as Orators: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • An Introduction to Presidential Oratory ix
  • BIBLIOGRAPHICAL SOURCES xvii
  • George Washington (1732-1799) 3
  • Conclusion 15
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 16
  • John Adams (1735-1826) 18
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 26
  • Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) 28
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 40
  • James Madison (1751-1836) 43
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 52
  • John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) 54
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 63
  • Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) 65
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 75
  • Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) 77
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 89
  • Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) 93
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 107
  • Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) 111
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 132
  • Herbert Clark Hoover (1874-1964) 134
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 144
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) 146
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 164
  • Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) 168
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 187
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) 190
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 204
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963) 210
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 225
  • Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-1973) 228
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 245
  • Richard Milhous Nixon (1913-1994) 249
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 269
  • Gerald R. Ford (1913- ) 274
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 296
  • Jimmy Carter (1924- ) 299
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 311
  • Ronald Reagan (1911- ) 316
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 337
  • George Herbert Walker Bush (1924- ) 344
  • RHETORICAL SOURCES 358
  • Bill Clinton (1946- ) 361
  • RHETORICAL RESOURCES 374
  • Index 377
  • About the Editor and Contributors 387
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