Huntington, Ind.—On Inauguration Day, President-elect George W. Bush will be able to drop the word “elect” from his title and he must try to galvanize the support of the American people. According to Dr. Christopher Leland, a Huntington College professor who specializes in political communication, the Inaugural Address takes on even greater importance this year.
“George W. Bush will face added pressure on Inauguration Day because he is looking at two firsts—an almost equally divided House and Senate, and one of the most contentious elections in years,” says Leland.
Leland suggests that the success or failure of Bush’s Inaugural Address will hinge on five key elements. First is “unification.” Typically a speech that unifies uses terms such as “the people” effectively.
The second criterion is a reference to “shared values.” “Bush will have to hit upon what we have in common, not the issues that have divided the election,” Leland adds.
Third is a brief introduction of the themes of his administration. “Again, these will be broad and sweeping concepts that we all may agree upon,” Leland says.
Leland believes one of the most important features of the Inaugural Address this year will be Bush’s ability to prove his “suitability for the role of President.” “Communication scholars have seen this demonstrated by presidents describing their awe of the position to which they have been elected, and the humility with which they accept the post,” Leland states.
The final element that Americans should listen for will be “praise.” This can take the form of praise for the office, the nation, the people, and shared values. “Additionally,” Leland, asserts, “the President must give us a sense of the fusion of the past, present, and future. George W. Bush must position himself securely in history and mark a vision for where the country is headed.”
A political speechwriter himself, Leland suggests that this speech will set an important tone for Washington, the nation, and the world. The speech takes place at the Capitol Building in Washington on January 20.
Dr. Leland brings a great deal of professional communication experience to his classroom teaching at Huntington College. He serves as a speechwriter for the National Governors’ Association, and works as a professional political consultant to local, regional, and national political campaigns.
Most recently, Dr. Leland co-authored a book called “The Electronic Election: Perspectives on the 1996 Presidential Election,” which was released in November 1999. He also co-authored the soon-to-be-released book, “The Rhetorical Clinton,” with Dr. Stephen Smith, Clinton’s former Chief of Staff as Governor of Arkansas.
As a workshop and seminar leader, Dr. Leland makes presentations for major corporations on various topics which include: Team Building Through Communication, Speaking For Success, and Communicating the Corporate Image. Corporate clients have included Johnson and Johnson, Hershey Chocolate, Wal-Mart Incorporated, Koch Industries and Coopers and Lybrand.
Dr. Leland joined the Huntington College faculty in 1996. He previously served on the communication faculty at Wichita State University as an assistant professor and director of speech and debate. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma, M.A. from the University of Arkansas, and B.A. from Ripon College.
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