Comparison Of President Bush's RTE Interview And His Address To Congress

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Bush Speech And RTE Interview Comparison

The ability to move and inspire people through oratory is a powerful gift, and never more so than for national leaders at points of national crisis. In such times they are expected to provide direction and leadership for their people. They must project authority and understanding and have the communication skills to carry the nation with them as they set the agenda and tone for the national response. It is no accident that many of the speeches we are most familiar with were made during periods of conflict or other emergency.

Yet tone and delivery are also dependent on the circumstances in which the speaker is placed.  

Formal and informal talk are forms of speech we use in everyday life, but the way we talk to people changes depending on who they are and the circumstances of the conversation. These differences are clearly illustrated when we analyse the supplied extracts from George W Bush’s speech to congress and his later television interview with a reporter for RTE.

Much of the contrast between the two examples can be explained by the context of the situation in which they were made. The speech to Congress came just nine days after the attack which destroyed the World Trade Centre buildings in New York. The US House Chamber setting is a natural amphitheater and President Bush speaks from the focal point of a central lectern, without challenge or interruption, to a captive and visibly supportive audience. This speech is about portraying control and strong leadership and delivering a message not only to a nation united in grief and anger behind him, but to the rest of the world waiting to see how America would respond to the attacks in New York and elsewhere.

From the outset the speech has a formal register. After a prolonged ovation when he is announced the President opens with a measured deliberate introduction to the assembled Congress and the American people. He uses a low, almost reverential monotone which has the effect of drawing in and refocusing his audience. The opening theme is about unity, this is literally the State of the Union address, but it is set against a backdrop of unprecedented events. He uses a range of devices and emotive language to remind his audience of the strength, unity and resolve of America in the face of adversity.  

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He names a passenger on one of the hijacked planes who “rushed terrorists to save others on the ground….an exceptional man named Todd Beamer,” before introducing Mrs Beamer and asking Congress to help him welcome her. There is prolonged applause for Mrs Beamer and a physical connection and reminder of the events of 9/11 is created through her presence.

He speaks about the endurance of rescue workers continuing past exhaustion, and uses symbolic language such as the unfurling of flags and the lighting of candles. He reminds his audience about people giving blood and saying prayers in English, ...

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