Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Studies

First Committee Member

David Henry

Number of Pages



This project examines the centrality of rhetorical definition in case studies of public argument over U.S. policy on poverty and welfare in the tvventieth century. The starting point is research on presidential rhetoric, wherein one line of inquiry entails the exploration of the "bully pulpit" as an advantage to chief executives seeking to construct perceptions of social reality. Such construction frequently establishes the foundation of an incumbent's persuasive strategies. Utilizing the poverty and welfare rhetoric of Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan, this thesis argues that rhetorical definition was central to presidential rhetoric on these critical social controversies in the 1960s and 1980s. In order to advance their proposals both presidents found it essential to provide definitions of "the poor," to delineate the government's responsibilities to the disadvantaged, and to articulate the wisdom of their own policies in meeting those responsibilities. The analysis reveals that, in different ways, both presidents met with mixed success in matching the expectations they created through their discourse, with the realities achieved through their policies.


Defining; Johnson; Lyndon; Poverty; Reagan; Reality; Rhetoric; Ronald; Welfare

Controlled Subject


File Format


File Size

2928.64 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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