“The Checkers Speech” It was the midst of the 1952 presidential campaign when the New York Post’s newspaper story came out accusing Senator Richard Nixon of having a secret political fund. This accusation caused Nixon to face the reality of virtually being dropped as the presidential candidate of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s running mate. On September 23, 1952, Nixon sat down to address one of the largest television audiences in political history until Nixon’s 1960 debate with John F. Kennedy.
While millions of American’s tuned into prime-time television, they sat and watched Senator Richard Nixon defend himself by delivering his influential and famous speech, which is known as his “Checkers Speech. ” From the beginning of time, as seen in all political campaigns, the fight to win over the American public is mainly shown through these persuasive political speeches. In this particular speech, Nixon uses the art of rhetoric to persuade, manipulate, and gain the trust of his audience. By using the empowerment of the new medium of television, he uses this political tool to manipulate.
He bares his heart out through his words, and gives himself credibility by portraying himself as an honest, family man with good character. These key elements of a rhetor such as gaining the audiences’ approval by their persona, tone, and structure in which they deliver their thesis. All of these are important for a political speaker, so it enables them to overpower the numerous accusations that come along with the campaigning. Richard Nixon was a former Navy marine, which then led him to win a seat in the House of Representatives.
Two years later he became a member of the House Committee, and investigated an espionage case, which turned him into a national figure as well as a controversial one. After two terms he was elected into the U. S. Senate. The young Richard Nixon had only six years of a political background when Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated him as his running mate in the 1952 election. With the rise of Nixon’s political career, it came to a halt when the New York Post’s headline stated, “Secret Rich Men’s Trust Fund Keeps Nixon in Style Far Beyond His Salary. Having relatively no political experience, he showed his virtuous qualities through this speech, knowing that had his future on the line.
Richard Nixon was accused of accepting secret funds for his election campaign, but he cleared himself of these accusations and changed his audiences’ point of view through this speech. He used a brilliant political maneuver to directly address the public via the new medium of television. He began with stating, “…I feel that the people have got to have confidence in the integrity of the men who run for that office and who might obtain it. After this, he structures his speech through persuasion to give explicit reasons examples as to how he is the one that the people should be confident in. Charged with accepting $18,000 from a group of his supporters, he confidently stated that he did not take one cent of it. He went into detail about the lack of funds he used, his earnings throughout the years, and how his wife was a main contributor to his campaign. He brings in the opposition of his opponent, how he puts his wife on the pay roll with his power, which is a gain in income for him and his campaigning.
By doing this, Nixon clears the competition by having the He recited the audit that was taken on him through Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher, one of the biggest law firms in Los Angeles. It concludes that Nixon did not obtain any financial gain from the collection and disbursement of the fund by Dana Smith. He gains his credibility by his hard and honest efforts throughout his life to get him where he is today. By the end of the message he informs the people that he did in fact accept a gift during the election—Checkers, their cocker piel dog.
He explains how a Texas man heard his wife on the radio mention how their two children wanted a dog, and the next day he sent them a little cocker piel. Nixon explained how it is the one and only gift that he would keep for the sake of his children. Through this, it touched the hearts of Americans, giving him the image of a family man. After all of his truthful evidence, he submits the decision to the Republican National Committee whether his position on the ticket will help or hurt.
With this influential speech, he changed the points of views of millions, and saved his name on the ballot, which potentially helped Eisenhower to win. The Checkers Speech is a widely known for its positively argumentative structure against the accusations of the press. He takes into account that being a politician it comes along with the rumors and scandals. He wanted to clearly state that these charges are an honest misunderstanding and he pleads to tell entire truth of his funds.
Embedded in an extensive and complex listing of his personal finances, he closes by announcing that he did receive a gift and intended on keeping it—the dog. This is the point that caught the attention of millions and saved his political career, as well as possibly saving Dwight D. Eisenhower’s. Having read this speech, I would like to go into further research on why this speech was so persuasive. I would like to research the kind of language Nixon used, and if this speech wasn’t publicly televised, if it would have had a greater impact. Which of the theoretical lenses did he use?