Master's Theses

Document Type


Date of Award

Spring 2016

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Communication Studies


Dr. Connie Eigenmann


The United States of America was founded on rhetorical justifications and has been governed through most of its history by a system designed to operate on rhetorical principles. The process depends on persuasive practices in the selection of the executives and the legislators responsible for governing. The base of this system is in the citizens responsible for electing the leaders and, ultimately, approving or rejecting the actions proposed by those leaders. Persuasive communication is a vital part of governance at every step. Citizenship in such a government is an active process. This paper argues that citizens, to be actively engaged, can and should use rhetorical principles as tools for evaluating persuasive messages. Aristotle’s principles of ethos, logos and pathos can serve the function of evaluative tools as well as persuasive tools. Rooted in human nature, these principles are as useful in America of the 21st century as in Athens 2,400 years ago. Aristotle’s principles are used here to analyze an historical communication artifact, Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union address, and an example of a modern announcement of a presidential candidacy, Ted Cruz’s Liberty University speech, to demonstrate that these principles can serve evaluative purposes.


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Copyright 2016 Kurt Beyers

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