Megan Flaherty Professor Haspel



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Megan Flaherty

Professor Haspel

English 137H

October 4, 2012

Depiction of a Strong Country

Our country has suffered from multiple, devastating events. One of the most catastrophic events includes the September eleventh terrorist attacks. Facing one of the most damaging attacks in history it was up to our former president, George W. Bush, to address the nation and attempt to assure everyone that America still remains a strong and functional country. Former President George Bush was called upon to address the nation, a nation that was then suffering from loss, fear, and despair. His goal was to persuade Americans to feel comforted in the effort put forth in resolving the aftermath of the attacks. Recognizing his audience as innocent victims of an unknown evil, President Bush ultimately had to present a speech that mastered various techniques of rhetoric. Bush had to convince audiences of the logic behind the “responsibilities” he takes on as leader of our country. Bush also proves his qualifications for taking such actions under his responsibility. Finally, our former president evokes certain emotions from the viewers by depictions of September eleventh from a panoramic view. Ultimately, former President George W. Bush utilized essential elements of rhetoric including logos, ethos, and pathos, to varying degrees of success in his 9/11 address to the nation.

The former President applies logos throughout his speech in order to prove to our nation that he is indeed qualified to take control of the situation at hand: maintaining a strong country. In one particular part of his speech, Bush reasons with Americans that:

The functions of our government continue without interruption. Federal agencies in Washington, which had to be evacuated today, are reopening for essential personnel tonight and will be open for business tomorrow. Our financial institutions remain strong, and the American economy will be open for business as well.

Bush demonstrates that the recently crushed America is returning to normalcy. He mentions the restoration of the economy and governmental institutions to convince Americans that there is nothing to fear as long as such organizations are still functioning. He makes these logical claims to assure citizens that upper levels of the societal hierarchy (essentially the government) are not in panic; and therefore regular citizens should not be either. However, Bush also demonstrates the help regular Americans donated after the attacks. He claims that in response to the attacks, “...we responded with the best of America. With the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for stranger and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.” Through these claims he logically proves that even “strangers and neighbors” were unscathed and were able to assist those who were in need of help. His logic in proving Americans that our country can endure such a disaster is proved rather effectively through his strong use of logos.

Former President Bush also exercises ethos in demonstrating the responsibilities he has in the scheme of 9/11. He immediately portrays himself as a qualified leader as the camera begins to film him in the Oval office with the American and Presidential flag framing him at his desk. The symbolism of the patriotism and power projected in this image, overwhelmingly affect the audience in believing that anything the then President would say that evening would hold truth. Ultimately the scene created for his speech allows Bush to effectively use situational ethos. His overall appearance demonstrates his character as well. His obvious professional look gave him a dignified persona and contributed to his powerful demeanor. As audiences viewed him across millions of television screens, they looked upon a man who was surrounded with great ethos that boosted his overall, dominant character.

Furthermore, George Bush uses verbal ethos to establish his character. In his address, he claims:

Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government’s emergency response plans. Our military is powerful, and it’s prepared. Our emergency teams are working in New York City and Washington D.C. to help with local rescue efforts. Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured, and to take every precaution to protect our citizens at home and around the world from further attacks.

Although he establishes a strong sense of power and action; he strategically makes use of the words “I” and “our” to reduce the amount of responsibility he holds as President. Taking notice of how he says, “I implemented our government’s emergency response plan” it is evident that he credits himself for the immediate response of the emergency units. However one can also take notice how he claims “Our military, Our emergency, Our first priority” and recognize how Bush quickly reduces his responsibility and defers some of it to his fellow subunits in control of the situations. Through his diffusion of responsibility, George Bush lacks effective rhetoric because viewers can recognize that while he is claiming that America stands firmly, he himself becomes weak in not taking full responsibility for the affects of the help. That is to say if something were to have gone wrong during the attempts of the rescue teams, Bush does not take full responsibility as he claims that he and others are working toward the goal of helping those in need.

Finally, George Bush makes a strong use of pathos to evoke a “roller coaster of emotions” from the audience he addresses in his 9/11 speech. He begins his speech by setting a very upsetting and morbid tone. His introduction starts with:

Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes or in their offices: secretaries, businessmen and women, military and federal workers, moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes fling into buildings, fires burning, huge--huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat.

The strong emotions that are generated by the beginning of his speech demonstrate his effective use of pathos. He uses the method of listing horrific images to coincide with the overwhelming feeling of despair Americans were feeling during that time. The overuse of listing such images can be interpreted as too much to handle, however, Bush is producing sorrowful feelings from the audience so that he can lift them during the rest of his speech. For example, at the end of his introduction, Bush quickly changes the pace from sorrowful images to dignified; the emotion he wants his citizens to gain from his address. The last two sentences of his introduction are using pathos when after he says, “These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat”, he claims, “ But they have failed. Our country is strong.” Although rather short, his premise in proving that “our country is strong” instills dignity in what were then defeated Americans. The transition of emotions is effective, and therefore former President Bush exerts a successful use of pathos in his address.

Later in his address Bush creates images that evoke more dignity. He makes a claim that, “These acts (of terror) shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon of freedom and opportunity in the world.” George Bush poetically invokes pride through the analogy of America being as strong as steel. He also uses images such as “brightest beacon of freedom and opportunity make Americans feel as new sense of pride and dignity. He takes viewers on the first leg of the coaster in altering their emotion from sadness to dignified, but instills more emotions later in his address.

The last emotion the former president evokes from the audience is hope. George Bush strategically generates this emotion at the end to leave viewers feeling slightly better on the situation at hand. In his conclusion, the then president unifies viewers in saying, “This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.” His conclusions strikes different chords in conjuring hope amongst viewers. He ultimately depicts a unified country and reminds viewers that something similar to this tragedy has happened before, proving that our country has overcome similar challenges. In addition, he reminds viewers of “all that is (still) good and just in our world” evoking more hopeful thinking from Americans. At the end of his address, Bush uses many positive images that cancel out the tragic ones from his introduction and thusly ends his address portraying great amounts of hope to comfort Americans.



The last use of pathos that Bush applies in his address involves his own portrayal of the emotions that he wishes to instill to his audience. It is important for him to touch upon these emotions, and make the audience feel the sorrow, dignity, and hope, however, it is more important for him to remain strong and uphold his powerful image as our leader. He strongly upholds this dominant character throughout the speeches entirety. His almost stone-like facial expression allows audiences to perceive him as dignified and they can therefore instill more trust in his capabilities as our nation’s leader. Had former President Bush imitate all the emotions he was mentioning, the audience may have altered their perception in seeing him as weak if he were to render sorrowful expressions in front of the people who elected him as leader. It is important to keep in mind that at this time, Bush had only been president for a matter of time and still had to prove himself as a qualified leader. It therefore made sense that he only verbally depicts emotions such as sorrow. Former President George Bush accomplishes a well organized speech by his proper and effective use of pathos in addition to logos and ethos.

President Bush’s 9/11 address to the nation held so much significance to our history in that it was his job to restore a fallen nation in a single speech. His effective use of logos, ethos, and pathos, and the overall setting of the address, allowed him to demonstrate a strong use of rhetoric. The logic represented in his speech proved of its worthiness as he assured Americans of the stability of our nation. Although he delegated some of his responsibilities to lesser powers, Bush was able to implement great ethos in characterizing himself as a qualified and dignified leader. Lastly, the emotions he felt were necessary to include in his speech ultimately lifted American’s crushed spirits and generated a new sense of hope in our nation. Former President Bush was able to take the demolished spirits of Americans and reconstruct their hopes to recognize that “Our country is strong.”

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