Dogs Rescue Presidencies: Twice on Sept. 23
Source Newsroom: Wake Forest University
Less than a month after the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech comes another red-letter day in rhetoric. On September 23, not one but two presidencies were saved by dogs – technically by speeches starring dogs.
People do not think of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard M. Nixon as political contemporaries, but they very nearly were. They are joined in speech making history in an unrecognized ways. Both gave speeches to save their careers, and succeeded. Both speeches are known by the name of the dog that was the rhetorical centerpiece, and both speeches were given on September 23rd. FDR spoke in 1944 and Nixon in 1952.
Nixon’s speech, popularly known as “Checkers,” is the one that resurrected his political career as the Republican vice presidential running mate of Dwight D. Eisenhower. FDR’s remarks came in the midst of his final presidential campaign in his campaign address to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers. His biting ridicule of the Republicans, expressed through judgments attributed to Fala, his Scottish terrier, convinced a wary electorate that, despite some early stumbles, he still had the fire to be a successful campaigner. These remarks became forever known as the “Fala” speech.
In each of these speeches, the dog embodies cuddly emotions and softens the speaker’s pointed denunciation of the wrongdoers.
John Llewellyn, a communication professor at Wake Forest University and scholar of rhetoric whose work includes analyzing persuasive language from the nation’s most prominent politicians, is available to discuss how two dogs saved two presidencies on September 23rd.