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Sanctioning Foreign Policy: The Rhetorical Use of President Harry Truman

Authors

  • JASON A. EDWARDS

    Corresponding author
    1. Bridgewater State College
      Jason A. Edwards is assistant professor of communication studies at Bridgewater State College. His recent book, Navigating the Post-Cold War World: President Clinton's Foreign Policy Rhetoric, examines how Bill Clinton attempted to chart a different course in U.S. foreign relations.
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  • AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Rick Herder, Maureen Vernon, and the anonymous reviewers of this article for their critiques and suggestions.

Jason A. Edwards is assistant professor of communication studies at Bridgewater State College. His recent book, Navigating the Post-Cold War World: President Clinton's Foreign Policy Rhetoric, examines how Bill Clinton attempted to chart a different course in U.S. foreign relations.

Abstract

This article examines how contemporary presidents invoke the memory of President Harry Truman within their foreign policy discourse. Specifically, it is argued that Truman has become an authorizing figure—a person of historical importance that rhetors invoke and interpret in justifying their own policies and principles. Presidents Reagan, Clinton, and Bush cited and interpreted Truman's words and deeds in various ways to serve different foreign policy ends. Exploring how contemporary presidents use and appropriate Truman's memory presents an opportunity to mine the contour of the thirty-third president's foreign policy legacy and to obtain a better understanding of collective memory in presidential rhetoric.

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