Award Date

5-1-2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

First Committee Member

Thomas R. Burkholder

Second Committee Member

Donovan Conley

Third Committee Member

Tara G. McManus

Fourth Committee Member

Lawrence Mullen

Number of Pages

170

Abstract

Commencement speakers are typically expected to praise students and motivate them. When the commencement speaker is a President, the expectation is different. This thesis investigated the functions of epideictic address in light of the rhetorical presidency doctrine. Close textual analysis of the three most controversial commencement speeches delivered by President Barack Obama revealed that the challenge of fulfilling the expectations of a commencement address, while responding to rhetorical problems, required the President to adopt complex rhetorical strategies. The predominant strategies included humor, strategic use of rhetorical presence, and ideological identification. The President used strategies that allowed him to be the embodiment of the ideologies most closely related to the audience. With those findings, this thesis proposes to refine the functions of presidential ceremonial rhetoric to a unique function: display leadership in order to enhance presidential ethos.

Keywords

Baccalaureate addresses; Commencement addresses; Epideictic genre; Obama, Barack; Political oratory; Presidential rhetoric; Rhetorical criticism; Rhetorical presidency

Disciplines

Communication | Rhetoric | Speech and Rhetorical Studies

Language

English


Share

COinS