Masaryk university faculty of education

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Valiant Leader

Closely tied with the idea of a City upon a Hill is the idea of a valiant leader, perhaps stemming from the Jonathan Winthrop himself or possibly other, commanding Americans. Critical and brave decisions made by exemplary Christian figures in American history keep on living through speeches of contemporary politicians, who try to compare themselves, and mainly their actions, to such figures. Geis argues that the language of American presidents “regularly resorts to myth-evoking language in their efforts to persuade the citizenry of the merits of themselves as presidents and their policies and programs.” (p. 39) Example A below portrays John F. Kennedy as a sympathetic, Cuban-loving supporter of freedom and justice, using the words of an empathetic leader. In example B (from the same speech), he cautions about casualties, costs, sacrifice and self-discipline, using the words of rather an emphatic leader and possibly hiding their real meaning, which is that America planned to bomb Cuba if the Soviets did not back off.

  1. I speak to you as a friend, as one who knows of your deep attachment to your fatherland, as one who shares your aspirations for liberty and justice for all.

  2. No one can foresee precisely what course it will take or what costs or casualties will be incurred. Many months of sacrifice and self-discipline lie ahead…

John Fitzerald Kennedy, Cuban Missile Crisis Speech

Finally, when the speaker associates himself with God’s work, or when he asserts his courage and decision making ability, he is using the ‘valiant leader’ method. Its goal is achieving the feeling of security and admiration on the side of the audience, even awe such that might have been experienced when listening to a speech by Lincoln or Washington.

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