Rhetorical Analysis of George Wallace’s Inaguaral Address

In his 1963 inaugural address, George Wallace appeals to his audience’s white supremacist values, uses his authority as governor and a christian, and uses logical statements to form a compelling argument that segregation is justified and should be continued. His speech does a great job getting his message across to his audience of religious, white Alabamians, of whom he is their new governor.

Wallace immediately ties his argument to the founding fathers, stating “This is the great freedom of our American founding fathers.” By saying that the founding fathers would agree that segregation is a good idea, he gives his argument authority. This makes it easier for his audience to agree with him as he can prove to them that his claims are justified and have been supported since the very start of the United States. Every time he uses religious reasoning, he is adding further authority to his argument because he is able to claim that God is on his side, and therefore his way is the only way. This works because his audience is made up of evangelical southern Christians, who will readily trust someone who believes in the same God as them. On page eleven, Wallace references multiple influential southerners, and by doing these he borrows their glory. He creates a connection between himself, and more importantly, his argument, and southerners that his audience looks up to. Near the very end of his speech, Wallace begins using personal pronouns that enforce his authority because he is speaking for himself as Governor. He states “I shall ‘Stand up for Alabama,’ as Governor of our State…” which does a good job of reminding his audience of the high position he holds over them, while still making him appear humble and “of” the people.

George Wallace’s use of “if, then” statements give his argument a logical flow that makes it easier for the audience to understand and support. On page nine he mentions that if they become more like communists, then they will lose the enrichment and freedom that they currently experience in their lives. By providing this clear connection between a common enemy and an unpleasant future, Wallace makes it easy for his audience to see the why segregation is the most beneficial for everyone. His biggest appeal to logic occurs on page ten, when he references their southern ancestors and how they reacted to hardships. More simply, he is stating that if their grandfathers didn’t need communism to triumph through the hardships of reconstruction, then communists today should be doing the same hard work that the south’s ancestors did. This works especially well to convince his audience because it also appeals to their southern pride; it is more than just a logical flow of thought. He also references numerical data on page ten, and by just saying “public FBI record” he makes his argument appear more factual than it actually may be. However minimal, his use of facts does its job to make his argument appear factually sound. His audience will be more easily convinced if they believe that there are facts supporting his opinions.

Wallace’s most effective strategies are his appeals to southern pride and white supremacist ideals. He knows his Alabamian audience very well, and uses their religion as a way to connect with them as well. When Wallace states “This is the basic heritage of my religion, of which I make full practice…for we are all the handiwork of God.” he is using their common values as Christians to not only justify his argument, but to appeal to the religious members of his audience who will greatly appreciate his references to God. He references the south’s struggle for reconstruction after the civil war in order to appeal to his audience’s southern pride. His description of their hard work is very timely as he is able to make a clear connection to the current question of communism and the different views on how to help those who are struggling. Southerners are very proud people and hearing Wallace talk about and share their heritage with them encourages a connection between the audience and the speaker. He does this again when quoting Rudyard Kipling, “‘There in the Southland… lives the greatest fighting breed of man… in all the world!’” This only enforces their boundless pride in themselves and their history, solidifying their belief that their views are the most righteous. They will be more convinced that segregation is justified when they are reminded by Wallace how the south has always been in the right. On page eleven he repeatedly uses the words “us” and “we” when discussing their duty as southerners. These terms unify his audience and even suggest the age-old ideal of the white man’s burden. He convinces his audience that it is their duty as citizens of Alabama to take control of the current political “crisis.” These references to current events make his audience feel important and empowered, such as when he says “..let us not fail in this…our most historical moment.” The more powerful Wallace can make his audience feel, the more willing they will be to take heed to his advice and make the changes they want to see.

George Wallace has created a very convincing pro-segregation, “equal, but separate,” argument using his authority, appealing to his audience’s emotions and common values, and making reasonable, logical statements. The state of Alabama surely responded positively to their new governor thanks to his compelling and motivating speech.

 

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