President Ronald Reagan's Farwell Address
Rhetorical Analysis: Reagan's Farwell Address
Ronald Reagan's Farewell Address was an amazing example of conveying the fundamentals for freedom through an emotional and visual lesson. It is no wonder that the president known as the "great communicator" was successful in painting for us a picture of who we were, past and present, and the improvements in the areas of strength, security, and stability that this great nation, or as Reagan referred to in his speech of John Winthrop's vision of it as a "city upon a hill", had achieved over the past eight years. This amazing example has even been considered one of the greatest speeches given by an American president. Tom Nugent, Executive Vice President and CIO of Victoria Capital Management, said in a recent article regarding Reagan's Farewell Address, " I recommend that you access his address on the Internet where you can observe the greatest speech of any president during our lifetimes."1
The American people were able to identify with the message of this speech because of the humility of President Reagan. The setting was the Oval Office, to which many of our presidents before Reagan presented their farewell address as well. However, the tone in his voice as well as his demeanor, gave you the feeling you were having a one on one chat with an old friend. This setting really set the mood for a memorable experience that Josh Bollinger explains in his article like this, " Reagan was already a beloved President, and he began the speech nostalgically, which pulled his audience with him into an intimate atmosphere."2 The atmosphere really complimented the Ethos of this remarkable man. Although he refuted the claim of being a great communicator and answered by saying, "I communicated great things", his speech flowed with success, because he credited fellow Americans for the state of our nation. From the beginning of his speech where he said, " So many of you have written the past few weeks to say thanks, but I could say as much to you." until the end where he said, "My friends, we did it. We weren't just marking time, we made a difference. We made the city stronger - we made the city freer - and we left her in good hands." Using anaphora, he humbly included his listeners as the essential ingredient to success.
Being the "Great Communicator" he was, Reagan communicated his plea for freedom through his personal experience in the White House. Most of his speech was sandwiched between two personal illustrations of staring out an upstairs window located in the White House. These experiences, "reflections at a window" not only served as an opening and closing plea for freedom, but they also seem to have served as a sort of timeline for freedom. In His first experience he mentioned that someone once said that it was also Lincoln's view when he saw the smoke rising from the battle of Bull Run. The second scene references a quote from an early pilgrim by the name of John Winthrop. Both scenes seem to have referenced the present time of this speech as well. In the first scene he said, "I see more prosaic things: the grass on the banks, the morning traffic as people make their way to work, now and then a sailboat on the river". These every day, ordinary things represented the freedoms that Reagan so desperately wanted to see flourish. The grass seems to symbolize peace in what once was a war torn area during the civil war. The morning commute symbolized our freedom to work, work hard and earn whatever we desire, with our potential not limited by anything, but perhaps our own lack of motivation. The sailboat seemed to symbolize the freedom to have and to do whatever we choose in a land that was free. In the second scene he began to describe the reality that the city was better off than it was eight years before, and still strong after 200 years. He...
Cited: Bollinger, Josh. "The Great Communicator" Analysis of Famous Speeches, http://j-bollinger-afs.blogspot.com/ (May 2012)
Mercieca, Jennifer. "Ronald Reagan, Freedom Man" Encyclopedia Britannica Blog, http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2011/02/ronald-reagan-freedom-man/ (February 2011)
Nugent, Tom. "US Should Take Notes From Reagan 's Farewell Address" Money News, http://www.moneynews.com/LarryKudlow/Nugent-Reagan-farewell-address/2012/11/12/id/463756 (November 2012)
President Reagan 's Farewell Speech, YouTube (streaming video) accessed December 2, 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKVsq2daR8Q
Reagan, Ronald. "Farewell Address To The Nation" The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, http://www.reaganfoundation.org/pdf/Farewell_Address_011189.pdf (January 1989)
"Speeches and Debates of Ronald Reagan" Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speeches_and_debates_of_Ronald_Reagan (February 2013)
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