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Eisenhower’s Farewell Address: Rhetorical Analysis

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Eisenhower’s speech is quite interesting to analyze because it may seem that his standpoint doesn’t seem consistent with that of a career of a military man. He was worried about the negative influence of government on the military-industrial complex. Eisenhower warned people about the potential misuse of military power by claiming, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.

The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” (1961). At the same time, he claimed that military establishment is “A vital element in keeping the peace” (1961). He understood that people are tired of wars. However, it is essential to have military power to protect the US against possible threats. Still, at the same time, it is needed to keep balance and avoid misusing military power. Hence, the military-industrial complex must be a restraining force, not an aggressive one.

Informative and Persuasive Elements of Eisenhower’s Farewell Address

This speech has some informative and persuasive elements. An informative speech is focused on providing the audience with information about a certain event, thing, object, person or concept (Griffin, 2014, p. 222). In his speech, Eisenhower informed people about possible problems related to the military-industrial complex and that there is still a threat posed by “a hostile ideology global in scope.” He was talking about communism and wanted to make people understand that this threat is significant and can last for decades. Additionally, there are some elements of persuasive speech. Persuasive speeches focus on changing or reinforcing the audience’s thoughts, feelings and actions (Griffin, 2014, p. 279).

Eisenhower said that people should care more about the future and “avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow.” (1961). So obviously, he tried to persuade people to avoid overconsumption of resources because it can lead to negative consequences. It should also be mentioned that this speech can be defined as a special occasion commemorative speech because Eisenhower provides information about the events of the past and their significant influence on the modern world. He emphasizes the importance of peace and the idea of a future where everyone is happy and equal, which became quite popular after the war.

Simplicity in Eisenhower’s Address

Eisenhower used quite simple and concrete language. As a president, he wanted to deliver his information to all people in the US; therefore, it was important to use language everyone could understand. He clearly states, “A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment” and “. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” (1961). He also used some abstractions. Still, they were also easy to understand. For instance, at the end Eisenhower claimed “those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity;” (1961). Additionally, he doesn’t mention communism by its name but calls it as “hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method.” (1996). These rhetorical methods make Eisenhower’s speech so easy to understand.

Works cited:
Griffin, C. L. (2014). Invitation to Public Speaking – National Geographic Edition: Cengage Learning.

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