Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Speechwriting practices have long been associated with rhetorical history. American presidents have employed the speechwriter's assistance since the beginning of this nation. From the dawn of radio, presidential speechwriting practices have grown to the extent that most presidents rely heavily on the writer to prepare the bulk of their messages. While many political speakers have grown to depend on the speechwriter to assist him in preparing the ideas or language of his message, rhetorical critics have largely ignored the writer's influence on the message and his impact on the preparation process. The purpose of this study is fourfold. First of all, this critic examines the speechwriter's role in the preparation process and his contributions to presidential discourse since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Secondly, she attempts to point out the strengths and weaknesses of present rhetorical theory and criticism in considering speechwriting practices. Thirdly, the critic proposes her own theoretical postulates for extending critical methodologies, and finally, she applies her postulates to two speeches in Lyndon B. Johnson's administration. The writer discusses how speechwriters have played various roles in preparing presidential discourse. Some participants are responsible for preparing only the language of the address, while others assist in policy decision-making which results in the speechwriter playing a significant role in preparing the ideas of the speech. The organization of writers vary, with some presidents relying primarily on individual efforts and others preferring committee writing efforts. Regardless of their roles and organization, the speechwriter's presence proposes an interactional setting, in which the speaker and his writer or writers participate. The critic must examine the speechwriting effort as an interactional process and therefore consider the effect of the interaction between writers and the speaker on the drafting process and final product. This writer suggests guidelines whereby the critic may explore the triadic relationship between the speaker, the writers, and the ideas of the message; the triadic relationship between the speaker, the writers, and the language of the discourse; and the triadic relationship between the speaker, the writers, and the perception and response to a rhetorical situation. The critic then examines the 1964 State of the Union speech and Johnson's March 31, 1968 speech, to determine the speechwriter's role in the drafting process and their effect on the final product. She describes the interaction between the participants in each drafting process and then examines each of the triadic relationships in both speeches. Finally, the critic evaluates the writer's contribution and interaction in each situation. She evaluates the writer's ability to assist the speaker in realizing his fullest potential inventionally, linguistically, and in response to the rhetorical situation; to assist in producing a superior text technically as well as artistically; and to assist in producing a desired response by making the speech a persuasive instrument.
Condray, Suzanne Elizabeth, "Speechwriting in Rhetorical Criticism: an Extension of Theory as Applied to the Johnson Administration." (1980). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 3520.