Monday, November 30, 2009

Lincoln, Gettysburg, the Bible, and the Book of Common Prayer

from the publisher:

This is a new look at the sources of one of history's great speeches. While it has long been determined that Abraham Lincoln's writings were influenced by the King James Bible, until now no full-length study has shown the precise ways in which the Gettysburg Address uses its specific language. Refuting the view that the address was crafted with traditional classical references, this revealing investigation provides a new way to think about the speech and the man who wrote it. A. E. Elmore offers chapter and verse evidence from the Bible as well as specific examples from the "Episcopal Book of Common Prayer" to illustrate how Lincoln borrowed from these sources to imbue his speech with meanings that would resonate with his listeners. He cites every significant word and phrase - conceived, brought forth, struggled, remaining, consecrate, dedicate, hallow, devotion, new birth, to name a few - borrowed by Lincoln from these two religious texts for use in his dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Elmore demonstrates how Lincoln transformed the lovely old language of the Bible and the "Book of Common Prayer" into something as close to classical perfection as any public speech has ever achieved. He further reveals how Lincoln used the language of his political and military enemies to promote his antislavery agenda and to advance the gospel of equality originally set forth in the Declaration of Independence. "Lincoln's Gettysburg Address" focuses on a number of overlooked themes and ideas, such as the importance of literary allusion and the general public's knowledge of the Bible in the age of Lincoln. It provides fresh answers to old questions and poses new ones. No one who reads this highly engaging study will ever think about Lincoln or the Gettysburg Address the same way again.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

President Obama at Ford Hood - Echoes of Eloquence

President Obama's speech at the memorial service for those killed at Ford Hood seemed to me simple, dignified, and morally firm. He came as the Commander in Chief, and it was his role to comfort the survivors, honor the fallen, and speak of our common resolve. There were deliberate echoes of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, with its own echoes of the Declaration of Independence, of FDR's War Message, and of John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath.

Is there an echo of John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, from the speech near the end of the novel when the son says goodbye to his mother? --

"Whenever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Whenever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there... I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad an'-I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry an' they know supper's ready. An' when our folks eat the stuff they raise an' live in the houses they build-why, I'll be there."

- John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 28

Here is the president's echo. President Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President at Memorial Service at Fort Hood,” Fort Hood - III Corps, Fort Hood, Texas. 10 November 2008:

But here is what you must also know: Your loved ones endure through the life of our nation. Their memory will be honored in the places they lived and by the people they touched. Their life's work is our security, and the freedom that we all too often take for granted. Every evening that the sun sets on a tranquil town; every dawn that a flag is unfurled; every moment that an American enjoys life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- that is their legacy.

And there were echoes of Lincoln at Gettysburg and Franklin Delano Roosevelt's War Message of December 8, 1941:

We are a nation that endures because of the courage of those who defend it. We saw that valor in those who braved bullets here at Fort Hood, just as surely as we see it in those who signed up knowing that they would serve in harm’s way.

We are a nation of laws whose commitment to justice is so enduring that we would treat a gunman and give him due process, just as surely as we will see that he pays for his crimes. We're a nation that guarantees the freedom to worship as one chooses. And instead of claiming God for our side, we remember Lincoln’s words, and always pray to be on the side of God. We're a nation that is dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal. We live that truth within our military, and see it in the varied backgrounds of those we lay to rest today. We defend that truth at home and abroad, and we know that Americans will always be found on the side of liberty and equality. That's who we are as a people.

Presidential Rhetoric and the Public Agenda

Andrew B. Whitford and Jeff Yates, Presidential Rhetoric and the Public Agenda: Constructing the War on Drugs (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009).

from the publisher:

The bully pulpit is one of the modern president's most powerful tools -- and one of the most elusive to measure. Presidential Rhetoric and the Public Agenda uses the war on drugs as a case study to explore whether and how a president's public statements affect the formation and carrying out of policy in the United States.

When in June 1971 President Richard M. Nixon initiated the modern war on drugs, he did so with rhetorical flourish and force, setting in motion a federal policy that has been largely followed for more than three decades. Using qualitative and quantitative measurements, Andrew B. Whitford and Jeff Yates examine presidential proclamations about battling illicit drug use and their effect on the enforcement of anti—drug laws at the national, state, and local level. They analyze specific pronouncements and the social and political contexts in which they are made; examine the relationship between presidential leadership in the war on drugs and the policy agenda of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Attorneys; and assess how closely a president's drug policy is implemented in local jurisdictions.

In evaluating the data, this sophisticated study of presidential leadership shows clearly that with careful consideration of issues and pronouncements a president can effectively harness the bully pulpit to drive policy.

"Original and important. Presidential Rhetoric and the Public Agenda is a well—conceived contribution to the literature on the rhetorical presidency and bureaucratic action." -- Andrew Rudalevige, Dickinson College

"President Nixon announced the war on drugs forty years ago, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently wrote that 'it appears that drugs have won.' In their careful analysis in this important book, Whitford and Yates demonstrate that the rhetoric of presidents can influence the course of public policy, particularly including implementation. Words matter, even in the supposedly technical aspects of policy implementation, and they do so in a way that frames and, yes, 'constructs' the policy itself." -- Bryan D. Jones, The University of Texas at Austin

"Whitford and Yates make a strong case for the proposition that presidents can, and do, use public rhetoric to affect how policy is implemented by executive agencies. Whereas most previous studies of presidential rhetoric have focused on appeals made to the mass public, they focus on the effects of public speeches on field agents charged with implementing policy. That such an effect might exist is not obvious. Nonetheless, their argument is nuanced and well—crafted and their evidence -- both qualitative and quantitative -- is compelling. The end result is a thought—provoking study that challenges standard views of executive power. I have no doubt that this book will become required reading for all students of the presidency and the bureaucracy." -- Kevin Quinn, Harvard University

Andrew B. Whitford is a professor of public administration and policy at the University of Georgia's School of Public and International Affairs. Jeff Yates is a professor of political science at Binghamton University and the author of Popular Justice: Presidential Prestige and Executive Success in the Supreme Court.

Monday, November 9, 2009

We Are . . . Penn State

I have heard this story before, and it's worth repeating -- here it is, in today's Penn State Newswire:

Penn Stater celebrates 'Men of '47'

A new article in The Penn Stater magazine tells the story of the unheralded 1946 and 1947 Nittany Lion football squads -- two teams that helped establish Penn State nationally as a top program and, more importantly, made the University a key factor in the nation's slow march to racial justice. The men who made up those two teams are widely thought to have inspired the University's iconic "We Are..." chant. Read more, and download a copy of the story from the magazine's November-December issue, at The Penn Stater blog: online.

Earlier this year, Penn State Live also paid tribute to the teams. Watch the story of the "game that wasn't," when the entire Penn State football team refused to play at the segregated Orange Bowl in 1946, at online. Hear from Wally Triplett himself, talking about being first African-American to play in the Cotton Bowl in 1947, at online.

Read the full story on Live: