Monday, October 4, 2010

Ronald Reagan's "Evil Empire" Speech Analysis

Figure 1

"President Reagan addresses the Annual Convention of the National Association of Evangelicals." Photograph. 8 March. 1983. History Stuff. Web. 4 Oct. 2010.

With the tension of the nuclear arms race at its peak, the abortion debate raging, and the previous year’s infanticide rates at their highest, President Reagan decided it was the opportune time to make a speech addressing all of those issues. On March 8th, 1983, in front of the National Association of Evangelicals, President Reagan made his speech “Evil Empire,” which proclaimed the need to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in both the United States and the Soviet Union, make abortion illegal, and give harsher punishment for infanticide. Reagan’s references to the Bible and use of pathos and logos in his arguments help to convey his point to his audience.

When Reagan speaks about abortion, he uses references to the Bible and a pathos argument to convince his audience that abortions should be illegal. Reagan appeals to his audience's emotions when he proclaims that "unless and until it can be proven that the unborn child is not a living entity, then its right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness must be protected," and when he gives a statistic on how many unborn children's lives are taken, per year, by abortion. The first statement gets a very loud and approving reaction from the audience, showing that they believe that the rights of unborn children should be protected; the statistic makes the room go completely silent in horror and sadness at the loss of human life. When speaking to the opposition about a new legislation to give parents notice of a their daughter's scheduled abortion, he states that "the fight against parental notification is really only one example of many attempts to water down traditional values and even abrogate the original terms of American democracy." Traditional values, according to Reagan, included practicing the Christian faith; abrogating or abolishing democracy, according to Reagan, is "the construction of a wall of hostility between government and the concept of religious belief." Reagan also mentions a consequence that has become apparent since abortions have become legalized, "The practice of abortion would lead to a decline in respect for human life." This emotional appeal is his lead in to his commentary on infanticide and infant mercy killings.

On the topics of infanticide and the reduction of nuclear weapons, Reagan uses logos argumentation to win over his audience. When speaking about infanticide, he gives clear statements about what he is doing to address the problem and why he is taking that step, "I have taken the further step of requiring that each and every recipient of federal funds who provides health care services to infants must post and keep posted in a conspicuous place a notice stating that 'discriminatory failure to feed and care for handicapped infants in this facility is prohibited by federal law.'" He also tells his audience to not get discouraged, because there is a "great spiritual awakening in America," which shows his belief that the country's moral base is centered around God.

When speaking about reduction of nuclear weapons in the United States and the Soviet Union, Reagan tells the audience how he knows that a freeze on nuclear weapons wouldn't be effective because both countries would need "verification and compliance." While the United States would verify and comply, the Soviet Union would do neither, and continue to produce in secret. Therefore, he knew he would have to take a different approach to solving the nuclear arms problem. He decided reduction was the way to go and tells his audience, "To speak out against those who would place the Unite States in a position of military and moral inferiority." His point is that the United States is more morally sound than the Soviet Union, and we also have a superior military, therefore, under a reduction agreement, the United States would win.

In Ronald Reagan's "Evil Empire" speech to the National Association of Evangelicals, his references to the Bible, and his use of pathos and logos in his arguments convinces his audience, call them to action, and motivates them to not be discouraged by the opposition quite successfully.

Work Cited

Reagan, Ronald. "Evil Empire" Orlando, Florida. 8 March. 1983. American Rhetoric. Web. 4 Oct. 2010.
Works Consulted
Krieger, David, and Rick Wayman. "Timeline of Nuclear Age." Nuclear Files. Web. 04 Oct. 2010.

"Abortion Debate Timeline." National Right to Life. Web. 05 Oct. 2010.