2018 UCRC Keynote


“The Better Angels”:  Presidential Rhetoric, Democratic Ideals, and Donald Trump. 

The paper will examine the ways that American presidents have talked about the nation and its promise.  It will argue that President Trump’s most serious error in his first year in office is not his nationalism, his implicit racism, his misogyny, his name calling, or any other characteristic of his discourse; instead, it is his inability to recognize and articulate the promise of America and its ideals.  Such oversight constitutes a betrayal of the American tradition.  Examination of Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign and his first year in office will illustrate this shortcoming.  The implications for both the practice of democracy and presidential rhetoric will be discussed.

Dr. Martin J. Medhurst, Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Communication & Political Science, Baylor University

Martin J. Medhurst is Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Communication and Professor of Political Science at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He is the author or editor of thirteen books, and more than 100 articles and book chapters. His books include: Rhetorical Dimensions in Media: A Critical CasebookEisenhower’s War of Words: Rhetoric and LeadershipBeyond the Rhetorical Presidency; Presidential SpeechwritingThe Rhetorical Presidency of George H. W. BushThe Prospect of Presidential RhetoricBefore the Rhetorical Presidency; and Words of a Century.

Professor Medhurst is the founder and editor of the interdisciplinary journal Rhetoric & Public Affairs and of the scholarly book series of the same title. He has also served as general editor for the Presidential Rhetoric Series at Texas A&M University Press. He currently serves as the general editor of the ten-volume series, A Rhetorical History of the United States, published by Michigan State University Press.

Dr. Medhurst is the recipient of several honors and awards, including the Julia T. Wood Teacher-Scholar Award, Michael Osborn Teacher-Scholar Award, the Religious Communication Association Scholar of the Year Award, the National Communication Association Distinguished Scholar Award, the Marie Hochmuth Nichols Award for Outstanding Scholarship, and the NCA Golden Anniversary Monograph Award for Outstanding Scholarship.