Research on Bill Clinton Speech

In the present research I would like to discuss the speech of former United States’ president Bill Clinton. The speech took place in the White House at August 17 1998 and was delivered to the audience live through television. The precondition for this Bill Clinton’s speech was charges of infidelity and perjury followed after judicial consideration if relationships of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski as several months ago. In his speech Clinton talks to American people about the situation around this problem. Let us analyze the present text according to key elements of descriptive rhetorical analysis.

Purpose. The purpose of the speech is conditioned by a major idea of author. Bill Clinton’s thesis states that he wants to apologize for his inappropriate behavior, to protect his family and privacy, and to ask people to be patient and let the president to solve rather national than personal problems. Therefore, the purpose of his speech is to call American citizens for accepting and understanding his acts.

Persona. Persona is the role of author that he plays in his act. To my mind the author of the speech, Bill Clinton, adopts the role of victim in this act, as he asks not to pursue his private life. From the other hand, he adopts the role of president himself while mentioning national interests.

Audience. The audience of the speech consists of listeners that author is targeted at. Bill Clinton aimed his text to all the people of the United States of America. To participate in this act a person should believe and trust his president, love and care about his country. However, as we can see from his speech, the audience group that author tries to influence most is jury and council investigation participants, journalists and other people who can affect public opinion. These people are relevant agents of change here. Still Clinton invites every American citizen to play a role of jury in this speech.

Tone. The overall tone of the present speech includes the rhetor’s attitudes towards the subject and the audiences. Bill Clinton’s attitude towards the subject can be described as soundly concerned. He worries about it, and personal emotions are involved in the speech. Regarding the author’s attitude towards the audiences, he plays the role of leader and moralist from one side and acts as a suspect from another one.

Structure. Structure element shows how the speech is organized, including all the content elements and relations between them. The introduction sector introduces the material to the audience. In the present case introduction is made of three opening paragraphs. The president briefly mentions the precondition for his speech and draws its perspective. In the body part the ideas are usually developed according to either type of organization, chronological, topical, or logical. In the present speech Clinton uses both chronological (describing events from earlier to later ones) and logical (describing ideas logically related) types of organizing ideas. The last part, conclusion, emphasizes major subject of the speech. In this case it is four last paragraphs. The author underlines his purpose here asking to pay attention to national problems. The rhetor’s made some transitions between paragraphs to make relationships between ideas presented in different paragraphs.

Supporting materials. These elements present evidences for the argument. In the current speech the supporting materials includes statistics (while mentioning numbers, like 20 years), literal analogies (the question no other citizen would want to answer), and some figurative analogies (like “repair the fabric of our national discourse”).

Strategies. The strategies used consist of several elements. Style of the speech is rather informal, without any specific terms. Appeals made in this text to needs, desires, and values include appeal to the legal ground (the right of every American citizen for privacy), appeal to national consequence (solving problems of our country), and appeal to personal values (mentioning family and God). The strategy involved to animate ideas was using humorous expressions (“investigation itself is under investigation”). The strategy used to alter attitudes and associations included sharing the author’s personal feelings and emotions (I deeply regret). In order to assist in proof Enthymematical strategy was used to involve the audience in the completion of speech.


Transcript of President Bill Clinton speech. 17 Aug. 1998. All Politics, CNN. 13 Sept. 2006.



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