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Ethnography: Self and citizenship in inaugural speeches

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sociology
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Knox College

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documents in English
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term papers
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  1. Introduction
  2. The ideological forces
  3. The principles of the democrats
  4. The party split between valuing cooperation and valuing the individual
  5. Contrast between languages between George W. Bush and Barack Obama
  6. Character
    1. Definition of middle-class American temperament
    2. Bush's two inaugural speeches
  7. America/American
    1. Usage of the word Amercian by Obama
    2. Bush's usage of the word America
  8. Tyranny/evil
    1. Bush's 2001 speech
  9. Conclusion
  10. References

People of my generation have largely learned to distrust the government. The past eight years of conservative leadership have taught us, both by example and by policy, that the idea of government as of the people, by the people, and for the people, as Abraham Lincoln described it, is a fallacy. In general, we don't identify with government officials as our elected representatives. We fear them, view them with extreme skepticism, and challenge their words and actions.

In Inventing the Psychological, John Demos tells us that it wasn't always this way. ?In the colonial period of American history,? he writes, ?family and community had been experienced as complementary to one another; indeed the household unit was typically viewed as the ?little commonwealth' which prepared the individual in a wholly natural way for social and political roles in the wider world [Pfister and Schnog p. 67].? When the Industrial Revolution hit, the family moved to the city, and men went outside of the home to work instead of staying on the family farm, what Demos calls ?structural differentiation? took place: each member of the family took on a distinct role, and the family itself became distinct from the wider world [68].?

[...] In a perfect world, I'd be able to analyze maybe hundreds of other angles in the differences and similarities between inaugurals through history: what presidents who become legendary have in common, how presidents behave in times of economic crisis, how the conception of the American self changed as reflected in speeches around historical events such as the Great Depression and the Industrial Revolution, or how presidents' campaign speeches, inaugurals, and post-election speeches differ. I would also have liked to have had time to look harder at the overarching themes of more speeches, to try to perceive a national attitude that shifts through time. [...]


[...] Bush and Barack Obama used language in their inaugural speeches belies this ideological dichotomy between individual and community, Republican and Democrat, and old and young. An Ahearn-style analysis of Bush and Obama's use of emotionally-charged words that deal with the meanings of citizenship allows us a window into the changing ways that these two men and those they represent view the American self and its role, and can give us a glimpse of the larger discourse in play. Of course, there are contradictions and ambiguities present, but the trend of a shifting American mindset is clear. [...]


[...] Inauguration Day is a day of celebration and hope for the new administration. As such, certain aspects of each speech turn out largely the same: no matter what views the new president holds about the value of individuality vs. the strength of working together, citizens will always be called upon to do what they must for their nation, America will always be held up as a force for good across the world, and our enemies will always be challenged. The social function of an inaugural is not to promote self- analysis but to encourage [...]

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