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The National Address And Being American Identifying Schemas Used In Checkers

1638 words - 7 pages

In order to perform a proper discourse analysis to find schemas in Richard Nixon’s Checkers speech the contextual relationship to the spectator and framing of the speaker must be identified. In September of 1952 Richard M. Nixon, the Vice Presidential candidate for Eisenhower, was accused of receiving slightly over $18,000 given to him in a “supplementary expenditures fund” provided by numerous wealthy donors. This accusation led to serious media backlash and the call for Nixon to remove himself through the ballot. Before heeding to the call of the public and the press Nixon felt he needed to present his case to the American public and in doing so won back the trust of Americans and remained on the ballot. Nixon’s primary point throughout his speech is to prove his trustworthiness and patriotism. Scenarios like these only weaken the public opinion and trust in the government which is precisely why Nixon presented the identity and language stemming from the schemas they’re associated with.
The Checkers speech makes use of the interrelated schemas associated with a NATIONAL ADDRESS and being AMERICAN which lend to Nixon’s human qualities. A sense of authority is presupposed upon the spectator (assuming they’re American) through the schematic association a NATIONAL ADDRESS is understood by the public as a means to address a serious and urgent matter. Senators are elected into to represent the majority of voters in their districts of a state which in turn lends to the creation and adaptation of their qualities both in their personal and professional identities. However, in this case there is also a disparity between the two professional identities Nixon possesses; his identity as the Senator of California and his identity as the Vice-Presidential Candidate. Understanding these professional identities is crucial to the understanding of Nixon’s choice of role assumption in this situation. The reason establishing these professional identities is so imperative is that Nixon attempts to recreate neither of his professional entities by instead presenting himself informally as both a patriot, representative, and a common American within a professional setting. “My Fellow Americans: I come before you tonight as a candidate for the Vice Presidency and as a man whose honesty and integrity have been questioned.” The schematic association of Nixon with being AMERICAN intensifies the effectiveness of the speech as Nixon breaks the schematic expectations of a NATIONAL ADDRESS and slowly erases any doubt regarding his AMERICAN-ness. The discoursal self used by Nixon would become increasingly popular as politicians realized the effectiveness it has when making addresses to the public through television. Nixon’s identity performance coming off as genuine is perhaps the most important aspect of the speech for the man attempting to prove to the American public and his constituents that he is not a crook.
Interestingly, the word ‘fund’ at the time of the...

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