As the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States was coming to a close, Americans were looking for a leader who would strive to bring about positive change for them. One of the presidential candidates in the 1988 election was George H.W. Bush, who felt strongly for a solution that would call for good character of human beings rather than focusing on improving the economic state of America. People understood his approach, eventually electing him president to lead the country out of its state of war. Bush further expanded on his ideas and goals as a president during his inaugural address. George H.W. Bush conveys his idea of unity among Americans in order to combat the nation’s struggles by persuading others to listen to his argument, using strong imagery, and maintaining a hopeful tone throughout his speech.
George H.W. Bush praises and respects his audience so that they recognize and believe his argument. Since his audience consists of respected politicians who have high authority, he makes sure to compliment them. He starts his speech saying, “Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. President, Vice President Quayle, Senator Mitchell, Speaker Wright, Senator Dole, Congressman Michel, and fellow citizens, neighbors, and friends” (Bush). Not only is he appealing to the authoritative figures, but he also makes a closer connection with the rest of his listeners by calling them his friends. The purpose of Bush starting his speech like this is to portray himself as a respectful and humble person; these are qualities of a likable person and give him more of a chance to be heard. After getting the audience’s attention, another way he captivates the audience is by bringing religion into his argument. After establishing high regard for his audience, he proceeds to say, “And my first act as President is a prayer. I ask you to bow your heads: (Bush). Religion is often a serious topic for people, and by asking the audience to pray in silence, Bush is able to control his audience by making his speech sound serious. Bush uses the technique of praising and connecting with his audience by using religion to draw listeners into his speech.
In the middle of his speech, Bush makes the audience sympathize with oppressed people of America by using imagery. To explain why he believes Americans should focus on their character, he goes on to say, “There are the homeless, lost and roaming. There are the children who have nothing, no love, no normalcy” (Bush). Bush intentionally depicts an image of a child because children are symbols of innocence and happiness. The blatant contrast between the image he creates and presumed symbol of children makes the image and his argument last longer in people’s minds. The repetition of the word “no” that he uses in creating the picture sets a hopeless tone. The imagery is meant to make the audience feel guilty because they might not know how urgent the issue is. Bush indirectly invites people to think about if they are taking steps to fix this picture of poverty and suffering children. Bush also allows people to question their characters by saying, “We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend (Bush).” The picture of a big car for a child makes some people realize how materialistic they are in times when the country struggles. Bush attempts to convince the audience that they should be more concerned with teaching future generations how to be “responsible citizen[s]” and a “loving parent[s]” (Bush) rather than focusing on material possessions. Bush is able to make people sympathize while subtly placing guilt on the audience by using relatable and vivid images to convey his point.
Stressed toward the end of his speech, Bush uses strong and positive word choice to create a hopeful tone for the future. After stating the reasons why the previous idea that money could solve America’s problems was wrong, he states how his new solution can have a greater effect. He says, “We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading, sometimes being led, rewarding” (Bush). Bush wants to tell the audience that one person alone can not solve the issue; rather, what's needed is a collaborative effort between all Americans in which people know and take their own responsibilities. He stresses that the founding principles of America - “united, strong, at peace”- would need to be implemented in order for his solution to succeed. Another way Bush creates a hopeful tone is the purposeful use of absolutes to make the audience feel assured that the future of America is in the right hands. He claims, “I will ask every member of my government to become involved (Bush). The average person might feel more secure knowing that the leaders of the country all have good intentions for the country and won’t be worried about the future. Finally, Bush is very positive about the execution of his plan, as shown when he says, “This scourge will stop.” He refers to the societal problems like drugs and homelessness and how he believes unity can solve it all. His optimistic view of the future, seen in the word he chooses in describing his solution, creates a sense of comfort for the audience, making them more willing to be persuaded by his argument.
George H.W. Bush’s Inaugural Address was meant to communicate the idea that the unity of Americans can solve the major issues of America toward the end of the Cold War. Bush’s attempt to convince people of his new idea relies on respecting the audience and highlighting the importance of the issue. He attempts to make him sound humble and truthful by referring to the Bible and addressing his peers by their formal names. Bush also uses imagery to create sympathy for those who were needy. Bush describes multiple situations that are relatable to his audience so that they are more prone to take action quicker. Finally Bush creates a promising outlook into the future by using positive word choice. His use of absolutes and his confidence helps to boost the morale of his audience so that they are convinced that Bush’s argument is the best solution to the future of America.
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