AffiliationUniversity of Chester; American University, Washington DC
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AbstractSuccessful rhetoric, it has been argued, comes from an effective fusion of ethos, pathos and logos, combined with style and delivery (Foss: 2012). While Jimmy Carter may be respected for his post-presidential career, he is not renowned as a great president and this chapter will consider the extent to which his perceived failures can be attributed to his rhetorical style. In particular, we will focus upon three major speeches delivered by Carter during his administration: his inaugural address of January 1977, the Crisis of Confidence speech of 1979, and the State of the Union Address in 1980. Although the content of each speech accurately reflected the relevant context, the response of the American public was markedly different due to rhetoric. The pathos apparent in Carter's inaugural address, delivered with his genuine, personal and informal style, resonated with a nation traumatised by the tragedies and scandals associated with Vietnam and Watergate. However, as the context changed, Carter's informality and personal appeal no longer captivated public attention in the way that it once had. The content of Carter's speeches reflected the tougher approach to both the economy and foreign policy that the public demanded, but he was unable to deliver his message convincingly. Unable to adapt his style and delivery to the changing times, Carter's pathos appeared inappropriate and ethos and logos ineffective by the final year of his administration. Ultimately, Carter proved that successful rhetoric requires a combination of context, content and style, and his inability to consistently produce that fusion contributed to subsequent negative evaluations of his presidency.
CitationJackson, D., & Lehrman, R. (2016). The Oratory of Jimmy Carter. In A. Crines, et. al. (Eds.), Democratic Orators from JFK to Barack Obama. London, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan.
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