Rhetorical Strategies Used by President George Bush After the September 11 Terrorist Attacks
On September 11, 2001, the Islamist terrorist group known as al-Qaeda launched a series of terrorist attacks on the United States of America, specifically in the New York City and Washington D.C areas. Nineteen al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four planes with the intention of using them as suicide attacks that would crash those planes into designated buildings, or targets. Two of the four passenger jets were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, both of which collapsed entirely within two hours of being hit. The third plane was crashed into the Pentagon, and the west side of the building, which is the Headquarters of the US Department of Defense, partially collapsed. The fourth hijacked plane was intended for the US Capitol Building in Washington D.C, but instead crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after the passengers of the plane interfered with the hijackers. The attack on September 11th was devastatingly fatal—almost 3,000 people died in the attacks, including all of the al-Qaeda hijackers and every passenger aboard the four planes.
On the evening of September 11, 2001, in the wake of these attacks, President George W. Bush issued an address to the nation. In his speech, Bush addresses the citizens of the United States, which is his target audience. However, due to the nature of the attacks, people from all over the world viewed Bush’s address from their televisions, and people from both the United States and the rest of the world were able to access the speech later on the Internet. Bush’s main purpose in his address is to issue a formal presidential response to the terrorist attack, but more importantly, it is to reassure the American people in a time where fear was prevalent, awaken their resolve for justice, and ignite their desire to protect the concept of freedom. Because of the purpose of Bush’s address, there is an exigency that is both very important and specific. Bush is responding to an attack that happened that same day, which gives his speech a sense of relevance and urgency, because as the leader of the country that was just attacked, he needs to ensure that the government programs and leaders remained intact, so that his people did not spiral into chaos and disarray. Also, because the World Trade Center was a center for global commerce, its destruction could have potentially caused damage to both the Manhattan and global economy. This provides its own exigency, because Bush needed to reassure the world of the stability of the economy in order to avoid further widespread panic.
Because of the purpose of his address, the discourse that Bush employs in his speech is epideictic. Epideictic discourse is concerned with praise and blame, and also attempts to form attitudes, which is what Bush does in his address to the nation. Bush is attempting to satiate the fears of the American people in his...