John F. Kennedy and the Liberal Persuasion cover
John F. Kennedy and the Liberal Persuasion
The first serious study of his discourse in nearly a quarter century, John F. Kennedy and the Liberal Persuasion examines the major speeches of Kennedy’s presidency, from his famed but controversial inaugural address to his belated but powerful demand for civil rights. It argues that his eloquence flowed from his capacity to imagine anew the American liberal tradition—Kennedy insisted on the intrinsic moral worth of each person, and his language sought to make that ideal real in public life. This book focuses on that language and argues that presidential words matter. Kennedy’s legacy rests in no small part on his rhetoric, and here Murphy maintains that Kennedy’s words made him a most consequential president. By grounding the study of these speeches both in the texts themselves and in their broader linguistic and historical contexts, the book draws a new portrait of President Kennedy, one that not only recognizes his rhetorical artistry but also places him in the midst of public debates with antagonists and allies, including Dwight Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater, Richard Russell, James Baldwin, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert Kennedy. Ultimately this book demonstrates how Kennedy’s liberal persuasion defined the era in which he lived and offers a powerful model for Americans today.
Publication Date: January 1st, 2019
444 pages| 6 in x 9 in
John M. Murphy is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois. 

Early Praise

“John M. Murphy has produced a well-written, artfully crafted study of JFK within the context of the shifting definitions and possibilities of American liberalism. Murphy takes Kennedy’s rhetoric seriously and in the process also focuses on the influence of public rhetoric in shaping our public life. He illuminates the short presidency of JFK and the political and philosophical context in which it was embedded.”
Mary E. Stuckey, Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences, Penn State University, and author of The Good Neighbor: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Rhetoric of American Power and Political Vocabularies: FDR, the Clergy Letters, and the Elements of Political Argument
“Eloquence, like truth, may be a thing of the past and perhaps as great a loss for public life. John M. Murphy’s careful exegesis of JFK’s oratory offers a compelling demonstration of why the right words matter. He also shows how liberalism, for all its disappointments, can provide a public language of reciprocity and self-reflection. We abandon these ideals at our peril.”
Robert Hariman, Professor, Department of Communication Studies, Northwestern University
“John M. Murphy has crafted a masterful account of JFK’s rhetorical genius and vision for America. Murphy’s synthesis of criticism and modern theories of presidential rhetoric is a model for future scholarship in political communication.”
Kirt H. Wilson, Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Political Communication, Penn State University

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