Inaugural Addresses in Relation to Technology: How the Rhetoric of United States' Presidents has Shifted with Technological Innovation




Hill, Kathryn Sarah Anne

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Presidential rhetoric represents one of the highest levels of formality and eloquence in the United States, and has existed for over two centuries. Using Aristotle’s rules for rhetoric, inaugural addresses are considered a subgenre of epideictic rhetoric; a style of rhetoric used for events involving praise or blame. From the first president to the forty-fifth president, language has changed alongside the available forms of technological communication. With each new advancement in technology, the president has had to adapt the rhetoric of their inaugural address and maintain communication with their constituents despite the challenges these advancements may have. This thesis will study the inaugural addresses of Presidents Lincoln, Kennedy, and Obama, and the rhetorical choices they made based on the technology available to them. Creating a chronological timeline of presidential rhetoric will aid in discovering whether or not the advancement of technology has negatively or positively impacted the level of eloquence present in inaugural addresses. While language has certainly regressed in many aspects, this does not mean that the presidents are not performing rhetorically to the highest possible standard. The rhetoric and level of eloquence President Lincoln used may differ from that of President Obama, but does this mean Obama is less articulate and not as well-spoken? Using President Lincoln’s inaugural address as the foundation for rhetorical comparison in this thesis, I will display how impactful technology is on communication techniques and prove that Aristotle’s rules for rhetoric are still in use.