The Evolution of Roosevelt's Rhetorical Legacy: Presidential Rhetoric about Rights in Domestic and Foreign Affairs, 1933-2011


  • AUTHOR'S NOTE: I thank Joseph Delfino for outstanding research assistance, and Bruce Miroff, George Edwards, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and criticism. Rhodes gratefully acknowledges support from a Faculty Research Grant from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.


Scholars view the domestic and foreign commitments of the New Deal and Great Society as embodying rights with quasi-constitutional status. But little research has examined whether presidents have encouraged citizens to perceive New Deal/Great Society commitments as rights deserving of extraordinary veneration. Based on a quantitative content analysis of hundreds of major presidential addresses and a qualitative analysis of inaugural addresses over the period 1933-2011, this article shows that presidents have largely declined to characterize major domestic commitments as rights but that they have repeatedly described the United States' mission in foreign affairs in terms of protecting human rights.