Rhetorical Analysis on Lyndon B. Johnson Vietnam Speech
Brief context: Vietnam war had been going on for a while, and many people were exhausted with the war and formed huge political movements protesting against the war. A lot of Americans had very mixed views regarding the war(they wanted the country to be safe, but hated to see a bunch of young men murdered). Lyndon B. Johnson addresses the whole topic of Vietnam in this speech I’m about to break down.
Source for speech:http://millercenter.org/president/lbjohnson/speeches/speech-4041
“I do not have to tell you that our people are profoundly concerned about that struggle”. He uses words here that seem to minimize and pacify the whole situation. Instead of saying people are protesting and rioting, he says they are profoundly concerned. Instead of saying brutal war where people were dying left and right, he uses the word struggle. It makes it sound like the situation really isn’t as bad as it seems.
“ There are many sincere and patriotic Americans who harbor doubts about sustaining the commitment that three Presidents and a half a million of our young men have made.” Johnson uses the words, “sincere”, and “patriotic” to comfort the protesters. He also makes sure to call them Americans as to not alienate them, and to make them much more inclined to listen to him.
“ Doubt and debate are enlarged because the problems of Vietnam are quite complex. They are a mixture of political turmoil — of poverty — of religious and factional strife — of ancient servitude and modern longing for freedom. Vietnam is all of these things.” Johnson uses a bunch of words that don’t really mean much to a lot of people. These words/phrases such as, “political turmoil”, “ religious strife”, “modern longing for freedom” are very vague and don’t offer any specific meaning.
“ It is the arena where Communist expansionism is most aggressively at work in the world today — where it is crossing international frontiers in violation of international agreements; where it is killing and kidnaping; where it is ruthlessly attempting to bend free people to its will.” When it comes time for the fear-mongering, thats when Johnson gets specific about things and avoids vagueness. He has to make it clear to the public what a threat the communists are, so that the Vietnam war can continue to be justified.
“ We cherish freedom — yes. We cherish self-determination for all people — yes. We abhor the political murder of any state by another, and the bodily murder of any people by gangsters of whatever ideology. And for 27 years — since the days of lend-lease — we have sought to strengthen free people against domination by aggressive foreign powers.” Here, Johnson does the same thing again. When talking about the good things America will bring, he uses vague words like, “freedom”, and “self-determination”. When it comes to the enemy, he gets specific and talks about political murders and bodily murders. He uses the word gangster to put a power mental image of criminality into the minds of Americans.