Tag Archives: Relational Self

Leveraging the Hero: Witnesses and Personal Stories as Persuasive Devices in Trump’s 2018 State of the Union Address

Acknowledging guests during the State of the Union address is not a new practice; however, it has had a peripheral role in the overall architecture of the speech, with presidents typically acknowledging up to seven guests. In his 2018 State of the Union address, president Trump acknowledges no less than eighteen guests, transforming this otherwise marginal practice into an essential part of his discourse. This article analyzes, from a socio-rhetorical perspective, President Trump’s unprecedented use of real-life individuals for image-building purposes during the 2018 State of the Union Address. I use sociological, rhetorical and linguistic concepts such as framing, narrative persuasion and demeanor indexicals to analyze the way Trump portrays the guests as heroes, integrates each into a brief narrative, and finally positions himself as hierarchically superior to them. Finally, I suggest potential directions for further research into the sociological, philosophical, political and cultural implications of this uncommon persuasive strategy.

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