Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mitt Romney's speech: The precedent

On December 6, 2007, Mitt Romney, governor of Massachusetts and candidate for president of the United States, delivered a speech meant to place himself firmly in the big tent of American civil religion. Ostensibly the speech was Romney's statement of religious liberty; more likely it was an attempt to get beyond Romney's "comma problem." (Unfortunately, the only source I can find on this issue is Wikipedia.) Romney's aides said that he wanted to address his "comma problem": that every time the press mentioned his name it was followed by this appositive, "(comma) who is Mormon (comma)."

Romney's speech has been compared, both favorably and unfavorably, with John F. Kennedy's speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in 1960. Here's the speech in its entirety:

And here is the clip in which Romney defends his faith and, like Kennedy, argues that if elected his faith would not influence his decisions:

What is the rhetorical purpose of the two speeches? What is the audience? Who are they trying to convince, and what strategies do they rely on to convince them? How do these speeches provide more evidence of Beal's dyad of hospitality and security? If a Muslim ever ran for president, say 50 years from now, would he/she have to give a similar speech? Is this, then, a genre of religious rhetoric, a reliable strategy to a recurring rhetorical situation?

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