Why did Gerald Ford speak in public once every six hours during 1976? Why did no president spreak in Massachusetts during one ten-year period? Why did Jimmy Carter conduct public ceremonies four times more often than Harry Truman? Why are television viewers two-and-a-half times more likely to see a president speak on the nightly news than to hear him speak?
"The Sound of Leadership" answers these questions and many more. Based on analysis of nearly 10,000 presidential speeches delivered between 1945 and 1985, this book is the first comprehensive examination of the ways in which presidents Truman through Reagan have used the powers of communication to advance their political goals. This communication revolution has produced, Roderick P. Hart argues, a new form of governance, one in which public speech has come to be taken as political action. Using a rhetorical appraoch, Hart details the features of this new American presidency by carefully examining when and where presidents spoke in public during the last four decades and what they said. Even though presidents have been speaking more and more, Hart reveals, they have been saying less and less. Rather than leading the nation, the modern president usually offers only the hollow "sound" of leadership. Written with great flair and acuteness, "The Sound of Leadership" will become a standard guide to the voices of modern presidential politics.
An exhaustive analysis of the public speaking of modern-day presidents from Truman to Reagan, by Hart (Communication/Univ. of Texas, Austin), author of Public Communications, The Political Pulpit, and Verbal Style and the Presidency. For most of us, it began with the Kennedy-Nixon Debates, when an entire election seemed to hinge on poor makeup. Down the years it continued: Carter donning a cozy sweater for his version of a fireside chat, or Reagan's christening as "the Great Communicator." Suddenly, it seemed that what was said wasn't as important as how or where it was said or how the speaker looked saying it. Hart has analyzed over 10,000 presidential speeches in an effort to demonstrate that in the age of media glitz, public speech has replaced public action. Presidents, he suggests, have trained the public to feel that as long as the President is talking, much is being done. In a dizzying display of research, Hart argues that ritual is predominant over thought, that communication has become tarnished, and that all depends upon image. He provides a training guide, in a sense, to instruct citizens on just what to listen for and how to be selective. Besides the effect on the public of this verbal saturation, Hart shows the squalid effect on presidents as well, as they forfeit all "hiding places." Presidents must discuss with the public "why they sleep as often as they do, why they converse with their adolescent children about foreign policy, and what they say to their wives when settling down for the evening." Despite a tendency to be overly analytical ("the simplest speech act - say, a street-corner greeting - is a primitive power move"), Hart's research is solid, non-biased, awesome - and a good preparation for avoiding the next campaign's assault of words. (Kirkus Reviews)