Evolving from the fiery oratory and booming declamations of Daniel Webster to the homey, "there-you-go-again" style of Ronald Reagan, political speech in America--and indeed our idea of eloquence--has changed dramatically in the last hundred years. In a book that abounds in humorous and revealing anecdotes, Kathleen Jamieson, author of the widely-praised Packaging the Presidency, offers a perceptive and often disturbing account of the transformation of eloquence in America.
In this wide-ranging volume, Jamieson not only addresses fundamental issues about public speaking--how has eloquence been perceived and taught since the days of Cicero and Demosthenes? What makes a speech great? Why is public speaking in the classroom in decline today?--but she also analyses individual speakers (Truman, Dewey, Reagan, Carter, Bush, Ferraro) and significant speeches. She is particularly skillful in revealing how radio and TV have reshaped political oratory. She describes how costly air time and tight news formats have shrunk political discourse from hour-long oratories to "news McNuggets" and sixty-second ads...how the one-to-one atmosphere of television has resulted in a quieter, more intimate speaking style...and how television encourages the use of visual images, with the politician's words serving as mere captions. She also critiques the pervasive use of ghost-written speeches, which can have humorous results (one speaker, intending to denounce Watergate as "this bizarre affair," misread his ghosted speech and called it "this brassiere affair") but which also poses serious questions. Are some public officials merely mouthpieces? Who really runs the country when politicians rely on others to write important policy speeches?
Ranging from the classical orations of Cicero, to Lincoln's first inaugural address, to Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech, this lively, well-documented volume contains a wealth of insight into public speaking, contemporary ideas about eloquence, and the future of political discourse in America.show more