Richard Nixon's Pardon Rhetorical Analysis

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President Gerald Ford’s Pardon of Richard Nixon
Former President of the United States, Gerald R. Ford gave a speech pardoning his predecessor, former President Richard Nixon, of all offenses against the United States that he may have committed during his presidency. The announcement was made live on September 8, 1974. The speech was written to persuade the country to agree with the pardoning of Nixon and forgive him for the crimes he had committed against his country. Ford states that “Theirs (Nixon’s Family) is an American tragedy in which we all have played a part. It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must.” President Ford argued that the pardoning of Richard Nixon isn’t only for Nixon and his family’s fate but for the country’s well-being. Throughout Ford’s speech he makes evident the use of Logos, Ethos and Pathos appeals. He uses the appeals evenly, convincing his audience while still being well-supported and reasonable.

Ford opens up his speech with many reasons why he, as the President and as a person, should be trusted, and that he thinks that what he is doing is the right thing to do in the situation. He proceeds to admit that his job is a difficult one and that he has made mistakes in the past. Doing so helps him bond with his audience and let them know that he, too, is a person, just like them; and they can count on him, also known as the ethos appeal. He states “My customary policy is to try and get all the facts and consider the opinions of my countrymen and to take council with my most valued friends. But these seldom agree, and in the end, the decision is mine.” This statement subtly creates the idea that the decision he had to make was a hard one, and it ultimately came down to Ford having to take the responsibility. He proceeds to tell his country all of the options that he had, as if to make them feel like they were a part of the process; “To procrastinate, to agonize, and to wait for a more favorable turn of events that may never come...” President Ford then makes himself seem very credible by promising to uphold the constitution, to do what God has asked him, and to do “the very best for America.” In making himself credible, Ford establishes trust with his audience therefor making his argument easier to agree with.

When he establishes his credibility, he moves to the pathos appeal to introduce his thesis. He plays to the audience’s emotions by referring to Nixon’s situation as “an American tragedy in which we have all played a part... someone must write the end to it.” Thus making the audience feel bad for Nixon and his family, making his audience feel like they are at fault for their “tragedy.” He makes his thesis statement in a powerful way, saying “I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must.” Imperceptibly making the audience thankful for taking away their burden and making things right, so they don’t have to. He again uses the listeners’ emotions and morals to support his opinion in order to create empathy for Nixon by referring to how the allegations have “threatened his health” and that he is now “trying to reshape his life.” He also makes it obvious that Nixon spent most of his life “in the service of this country,” making Nixon a hero, not a criminal. This statement also institutes reliability for Nixon, correspondingly benefiting Ford’s argument.

He continues to get sympathy from his audience by conveying that the situation they were dealing with was uncharted territory and they didn’t know how to resolve it. “There are no historic or legal precedents to which I can turn in this matter, none that precisely fit the circumstances of a private citizen who has resigned the Presidency of the United States.” By saying this, he lets the audience know that the circumstances are fairly new, and he is the first to resolve them. This makes the audience feel more sympathetic for Gerald Ford...
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