"The finest warrior for free government" : Ronald Reagan and the rhetoric of American exceptionalism

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Anne E. Baker (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site: http://library.wcu.edu/
Beth Huber

Abstract: This thesis examines eighteen of Ronald Reagan’s major speeches given between the years of 1964 and 1989 in order to show that Reagan rhetorically constructed a dimension that operated outside of the civil-religious contract as identified by Robert N. Bellah. Reagan, often called the “Great Communicator,” used his rhetoric to promote a definition of freedom that adhered to his strict moral code and established American ideology. Reagan was certainly not the first to utilize religious-political discourse within both his campaign and his two terms as president. Yet by severing the civil-religious contract and constructing a new contract based on evangelical principles, Reagan succeeded in not only conflating religion and democracy, but also used his rhetorical power to shape the political reality of the 1980s. This power enabled Reagan to implement his political ideals both on the domestic and home front, creating a new brand of American exceptionalism that still functions as the center of political discourse in the United States. American exceptionalism remains essential to the leaders who wish to use the principle to gain and keep power, and as the United States continues its march through the twenty-first century, those who subscribe to such an ideology will expect their leaders to live up to the principles that Reagan so strongly set in motion during his eight years as president.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2013
American Exceptionalism, Civil Religion, Presidential Rhetoric, Ronald Reagan
Reagan, Ronald -- Language
Reagan, Ronald -- Oratory
Communication in politics -- United States -- History -- 20th century

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