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Ministry of Education.

Exemplar D - Not Achieved

Language of American presidential inaugural addresses

The focus of my research was to find out what language features are used by American presidents in their inaugural addresses and how they use those features to manipulate and capture the rapport of their audiences. I looked at Ronald Reagan's second inaugural address which took place on January 21, 1985, George Bush's address on 20 January, 1989 and Bill Clinton's second inaugural address on 20 January 1997. 

Ronald Reagan starts with a prayer and moves on to talk about the history of the country. He does this to show his respect for old times to get the attention of the older generation : "When the first president, George Washington, ....". He refers to America as an "untamed wilderness... This use of personification inspires the public by giving the country an exciting grandeur and pulls out their sense of adventure. He also pulls the country together by using first person personal pronouns that include the audience: " We stand together as we did centuries ago..." He needs the audience to be thinking of unity when he goes on to talk about " ..a new beginning...". He continues to influence the audience to agree with his ideas by using positive emotive language: "we are creating a nation once again vibrant, robust and alive... full of freedom, dignity and opportunity. 

George Bush uses similar techniques to win his audience. He also starts with a prayer then moves straight in with parallel structure reinforcing the positive emotive language which he cleverly puts into metaphors and similes: " For a new breeze is blowing, and a world refreshed by freedom seems reborn; for in man's heart... the totalitarian era is passing, its old ideas blown away like leaves....". He forces the audience to think using rhetorical questions: "But have we changed as a nation even in our time? ; are we enthralled with material things.....?" He goes on to include the audience again by using personal pronouns: "my friends, we are...;....in our hearts we know.....". 

Bill Clinton has a very different starting technique to the others in that he does not start with a prayer, but he does unite the country by referring to the past and America with personification.: "the promise of America was born in the 18th century..." He uses similar techniques to the other presidents like parallel structure to reinforce his ideas: "Once again, our economy ...Once again, we are building...." He seems to slowly build up his features creating a slow but effective climax. He ends his speech with a strong statement, which inspires the audience with a strong metaphor: "From the height of this place and the summit of the century let us go forth..."

All of these speakers have used this opportunity of giving their inaugural addresses to get their audiences "on side". They have all used language to manipulate and capture their audiences. 


Published on: 08 Dec 2010