Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Reed College of Media


Reed College of Media

Committee Chair

Steve Urbanski

Committee Co-Chair

Elizabeth Fones-Wolf

Committee Member

April Johnston

Committee Member

Diana Martinelli.


While many scholars have examined the rhetoric of presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan individually, there is a gap in literature concerning crisis rhetoric specifically and little has been done in the way of comparing these two men. This study is a textual analysis of six speeches given by Roosevelt and Reagan during times of crises. Because both presidents were important in defining an era and considered great communicators, this study compares the similarities and differences of their use of presidential crisis rhetoric. Previous research shows clear patterns in presidential rhetoric, including the common use of civil religious words and symbols, collective focus and imagery. This study analyzes Roosevelt's and Reagan's speeches for the use of predefined and common rhetorical devices in times of crisis. In the six speeches studied, the analysis indicated that each president regularly used the uplifting of democracy and civil religion when addressing the nation in times of crisis. Also, the research suggests that the presidents' differing political affiliations influenced the way they spoke about the use of the Constitution and their executive power in order to address crises. Thus, Roosevelt and Reagan's use of the pre-defined rhetorical terms listed in this study and the use of political party-specific rhetoric concerning the power of the executive branch may have influenced the effectiveness of their overall crisis rhetoric in regard to United States' citizens and may offer a broader understanding and interpretation of the contemporary political world.