Text and Context in the 1952 Presidential Campaign: Eisenhower's “I Shall Go to Korea” Speech



    1. Professor of speech communication and coordinator of the Program in Presidential Rhetoric in the Center for Presidential Studies in the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. He is the author or editor of eight books and is also the editor of Rhetoric & Public Affairs.
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This article examines the textual context of Eisenhower's famous “I Shall Go to Korea” speech, delivered during the closing days of the 1952 presidential campaign. Four interlocking contexts of discourse are identified–the discourses of cold war, foreign policy, Korea, and the Eisenhower persona. By rhetorically activating each of these contexts, Eisenhower invited his listeners to understand his speech not merely as a campaign pledge but as a rhetorically, historically, psychologically, and ideologically satisfying means of making sense of the Korean War. Dramatically structured in the form of a courtroom case, with Eisenhower taking on the roles of both prosecuting attorney and witness, the “I Shall Go to Korea” speech was rhetorically tailored to take advantage of the audience's preexisting beliefs, values, and attitudes.