Robert McCabe

Document Type


First Faculty Advisor

Holtzman, Richard


President; Leadership; Crisis; Rhetoric


Bryant University

Rights Management

All rights retained by Bryant University and Robert McCabe


My capstone project seeks to determine what are U.S. presidents attempting to accomplish in (or with) their speeches? This matters because presidential responses to crises can reflect how a president’s leadership abilities are perceived by the people he serves. This perception plays a large role in determining how much political strength the president has to accomplish his agenda. I address this research question by analyzing four different speeches: President Kennedy’s Address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors on the Bay of Pigs, President Kennedy’s Address on the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Bush’s National Cathedral Speech after the September 11th attacks and President Bush’s speech in Jackson Square after Hurricane Katrina. I seek to determine whether or not these speeches are considered either “successes” or “failures” based off of public approval ratings and polls provided by sources such as Gallup. I analyzed factors such as the tone and political context of the speeches to explore why the presidents are using specific rhetorical strategies. My argument is that, although approval ratings matters in determining public approval, other factors, such as political context and the location of the speeches, also play a role in determining how people view the success of the president’s address and overall handling of the crisis. In addition, I also would like to acknowledge that the speeches will not directly cause a “solution” to the crisis. The purpose of my study is to examine whether the president was able to accomplish his goals in his speeches given during the crisis. I believe that the political context in particular will play a large role in explaining the president’s goals and a specific agenda for their given speeches. While there are various ways in which success and failure can be measured, this project does so by looking at public approval ratings after the speeches.