- Term Papers, Book Reports, Research Papers and College Essays

Language in Presidential Debates

Essay by review  •  December 13, 2010  •  Essay  •  2,190 Words (9 Pages)  •  825 Views

Essay Preview: Language in Presidential Debates

Report this essay
Page 1 of 9

Language was a very important tool in the 2004 presidential campaign. The way that both John Kerry and President George W. Bush used language was extremely important in this election. The way a candidate uses language can make people feel connected if used effectively and aloof is used ineffectively. There are many components of language such as word choice, vocabulary, repetition of words, and dialect used in political discourse. Each candidate used several of these components in their campaigns. I will analyze a speech from each candidate and focus on how effectively or ineffectively each candidate used language in the 2004 presidential election.

In order to best analyze political discourse in the 2004 presidential campaign it is important to look at the different uses of language in each candidate's campaign. John Kerry used several components of language throughout his campaign. In his speech given at the Democratic National Convention many of these components were displayed. Kerry delivered the speech in Boston on the 29th of July 2004. Kerry opened his speech by giving his audience a positive message about America and its future, saying, "We are here tonight because we love our country. We are proud of what America is and what it can become" (Command). This opening is very common in political discourse, it conveys a very positive message filled with hope and also unites his audience using the pronoun "we". Kerry also uses other language components to connect with his audience and their ideologies. Speaking about his mother, Kerry says:

She was my den mother when I was a Cub Scout and she was so proud of her fifty year pin as a Girl Scout leader. She gave me her passion for the environment. She taught me to see trees as the cathedrals of nature. And by the power of her example, she showed me that we can and must finish the march towards full equality for women in this country. (Command)

Kerry uses a powerful simile when he refers to trees as cathedrals of nature. Kerry uses word choice and vocabulary to convey his passion for the environment but by using the word cathedral he also shows his connection with religion. Kerry's word choice is very important because it helps present to his audience a candidate who is concerned with both religion and the environment. Religion and the environment were important issues in this year's election. Not only did Kerry show his own concern with these issues, he also helped capture the attention of audience members who place importance on these issues. Further in his speech John Kerry tells of his plans for the oval office:

I will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war. I will have a Vice President who will not conduct secret meetings with polluters to rewrite our environmental laws. I will have a Secretary of Defense who will listen to the best advice of our military leaders. And I will appoint an Attorney General who actually upholds the Constitution of the United States. (Command)

Kerry starts each sentence with "I will" as opposed to "I won't". By using "will" instead of "won't" he is conveying a more positive message. Also by using "will", Kerry is still able to state his criticisms of the President but at the same time able to offer solutions. This particular word choice allows Kerry to camouflage his criticisms with his agenda. It also shows Kerry as a proactive leader, rather than merely stating what he won't do he tells his audience what he will do.

In the ensuing paragraph, Kerry again displays his very particular word choice and vocabulary. Speaking about his running mate John Edwards, Kerry refers to him as, "a son of a mill worker" (Command). Kerry goes out of his way to make a point of saying that John Edward's father was a mill worker. Kerry uses political discourse to identify with the middle class and the working people. When I think of mill workers I think of hard honest labor. Perhaps this is the picture Kerry was attempting to paint for his audience.

Besides word choice, John Kerry also heavily relied on repetition throughout his speech. Kerry used repetition to emphasize and highlight important concepts of his speech:

What does it mean in America today when Dave McCune, a steel worker I met in Canton, Ohio, saw his job sent overseas and the equipment in his factory literally unbolted, crated up, and shipped thousands of miles away along with that job? What does it mean when workers I've met had to train their foreign replacements?

America can do better. So tonight we say: help is on the way.

What does it mean when Mary Ann Knowles, a woman with breast cancer I met in New Hampshire, had to keep working day after day right through her chemotherapy, no matter how sick she felt, because she was terrified of losing her family's health insurance.

America can do better. And help is on the way.

What does it mean when Deborah Kromins from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania works and saves all her life only to find out that her pension has disappeared into thin air - and the executive who looted it has bailed out on a golden parachute?

America can do better. And help is on the way.

What does it mean when twenty five percent of the children in Harlem have asthma because of air pollution?

America can do better. And help is on the way. (Command)

Kerry repeatedly uses the phrase, "America can do better. And help is on the way". John Kerry is telling the people that he can help America become a better nation. Repetition is a very important component of language used in political discourse. It is an important and useful technique because it is catchy and it will stay with the audience more so than any other part of the speech. A perfect example of this is the chorus of a song. The chorus of any song is the most easily recognizable and most remembered part of a song. A fine example of this was the pop music hit "Macarena". The verses are highly confusing and hard to understand but everyone knows the chorus where they shout, "Hey Macarena!" This is the part of the song that people are most likely to remember because it is repeated the most often; it is the part that people will remember. This is exactly what John Kerry is doing in this portion of his speech. Kerry is using the stories about America as his verses and using "America can do better. And help is on the way" as his chorus. He wants his audience to remember that particular phrase long after he is done speaking.

Much like Senator Kerry, President George W.



Download as:   txt (12.1 Kb)   pdf (139.1 Kb)   docx (13.4 Kb)  
Continue for 8 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2010, 12). Language in Presidential Debates. Retrieved 12, 2010, from

"Language in Presidential Debates" 12 2010. 2010. 12 2010 <>.

"Language in Presidential Debates.", 12 2010. Web. 12 2010. <>.

"Language in Presidential Debates." 12, 2010. Accessed 12, 2010.