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

By Halford Ryan | Go to book overview

in Europe. The centerpiece of the series was an address drafted by Peggy Noonan, which was presented at Pointe du Hoc, where in 1944 Colonel James Earl Rudder had led 225 American Army Rangers up 100-foot cliffs against withering enemy fire. As Reagan pointed out, when the Rangers reached the top of the cliffs only 90 could still bear arms. With a group of the survivors from that battle sitting in front of him atop those same cliffs, Reagan declared in a voice filled with admiration and gratitude: "These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war." A decade later, President Bill Clinton returned to Pointe du Hoc to present an address on the 50th anniversary of D-Day. Yet, Clinton had begun his preparations for his D-Day speeches months earlier, when his White House secured videotapes of Reagan's speeches at Normandy.

Reagan was often criticized for discussing complex issues in an oversimplified manner. Adopting an elitist perspective on public policy, scholars such as Jeffrey Tulis have charged that by simplifying public issues in order to persuade the public to support his policies, Reagan revealed that he himself was simple- minded: "He serves as a better illustration than any previous president of the possibility and danger that presidents might come themselves to think in the terms initially designed to persuade those not capable of fully understanding the policy itself. Having reconfigured the political landscape, the rhetorical presidency comes to reconstitute the president's political understanding." Martin Anderson (a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University) and other Reagan advisors vehemently reject Tulis' evaluation of Ronald Reagan. What is more important to the subject of this essay is that other scholars of the presidency, including James David Barber, cite Reagan's oratory as a model to be emulated.

This much is clear: while the merits of Reagan's presidential policies will continue to be debated, subsequent presidents (and those who aspire to be president) will use orations by Ronald Reagan along with those of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy as their rhetorical exemplars.


RHETORICAL SOURCES

Archival Materials

The Public Affairs Video Archives, (C-SPAN), Purdue University, holds videotapes and transcripts of many of Reagan's speeches as televised on the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network (C-SPAN) after 1986.

Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Ronald Reagan, 1981-1989. (PPP). 15 Vols. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982- 1991.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, (RRPL), Simi Valley, California, contains relevant speech sources. At the time this essay was written, the vast majority of Reagan's 1,700 presidential speech files remained unprocessed, although scholars may request that particular files be opened.

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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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