Vanessa Beasley, associate professor of Communication Studies at Vanderbilt University, is available to discuss President Trump’s address to the nation on immigration and the southern border tonight. Beasley is an expert in political rhetoric, particularly presidential rhetoric, and can discuss what she’ll be listening for as well as provide immediate reaction afterward.

Beasley says she’ll be paying attention to three things. 

The setting

Beasley says the choice to deliver the speech in the Oval Office is a telling one, because the Oval Office is a uniquely presidential space that signals to citizens that the president is acting independently. “Presidents tend to give speeches from the Oval Office for one of two reasons,” she says. “One is to inform the nation of a crisis and explain his or her plan to address it. The second is like a fireside chat, which allows the president to define an issue on his or her own terms.” Beasley will be watching to see whether President Trump sticks to either of those precedents or goes his own way.

The function of the speech

Beasley says President Trump may use the speech to achieve something he could not otherwise through traditional channels because a live televised speech is one of the few contexts where the president’s words truly have the power to affect the course of events without others around to filter or redirect his language. “When he declares a State of Emergency, that changes everything,” she says, noting that it shifts the way the government responds to the issues on the southern border, such as calling up the National Guard. 

The title of the speech 

Beasley says the title of the speech is also interesting because it also highlights the humanitarian issues at the border. Up till now, the president has focused almost entirely on the security angle and has not set forth much in the way of policy recommendations to address the wellbeing of the migrants themselves. “I’ll be listening to hear how he defines and discusses the humanitarian issue.” 

Beasley is available by phone for post-speech reactions until 10:30 p.m. CST, as well as 7:30-9:45 a.m. CST Wednesday morning. Please call 615-322-NEWS and select option 1 to be connected.