The text under analysis is Richard M. Nixon’s speech named Checkers Speech. At the time it was given, September 23, 1952, Nixon was a young Senator from California and a running mate of Dwight D. Eisenhower, a candidate for Presidency. The speech was a response to the accusation made concerning Nixon’s spending $18,000 of the Trust money for his personal expenses. In the speech, Nixon aims at persuading his TV audience, which was estimated to be approximately 60 million people, that he has nothing to hide and he is honest with the voters. To prove it, he gives the background information of his financial affairs and says that he is ready to present all documents confirming his words. Thus, it is clear that Nixon’s primary goal in giving Checkers Speech was to convince the audience in the falseness of all accusations against him. As the history shows, he succeeded in doing it. Moreover, he turned the crisis into a triumph and won the support of wide audience. That success should be undoubtedly attributed to Nixon’s efficient implementation of all three main rhetorical modes of persuasion, i.e. ethos, logos, and pathos, expressed through different linguistic means, such as rhetoric questions, parallel constructions, repetitions, allusions, antitheses, etc.
It can be said that all three key modes of persuasion are almost equally represented in the text of the speech. It is obvious that under the circumstances it was of utmost importance for Nixon to realize the ethos of the text to its full. Ethos means the speaker’s credibility and, thus, the trustworthiness of the speech itself. So, Nixon’s goal was to regain his audience’s trust which had been partially lost due to the accusations. To achieve it through the speech, he tries to present himself as a professional in his sphere of activity. He reminds that he is currently running for the Vice-Presidency as Dwight D. Eisenhower’s running mate. He makes numerous attempts to build up trust by providing exact data, figures, information about salary sizes as well as names of officials that can prove the facts he presents as rebuttal to the accusations. In order to demonstrate how knowledgeable he is in political and administrative affairs, Nixon proposes to explain how a Senate office operates. He gives a complete financial history of his own and of the office he is in charge of. He also makes allusions as well as references to documents, newspaper articles, and TV programs that may be relevant to the subject in question. Besides, Nixon suggests that the audience should consider the results of an independent audit made to check the financial activity of the Fund. And to avoid being unsubstantiated, Nixon says that he has a legal report in his hand and he names those who were in charge of the audit: “It is an audit made by Price Waterhouse & Co. firm, and the legal opinion by Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher, lawyers in Los Angeles, the biggest law firm, and incidentally, one of the best ones in Los Angeles” (Nixon). All these details add to strengthening the ethos of the message sent in the speech.
In political speeches, logos of the message should also be powerful. Therefore, Nixon’s Checkers Speech does not lack it. From the very beginning, Nixon sounds logical enough. His explanations of the reasons for giving the speech are the first elements contributing to creating the logos of the text. Besides, throughout the speech the audience is offered for consideration different examples of Nixon’s logical reflections – over variants of conduct for politicians who want to increase their funds for extra expenses or over different ways how potential presidents can come into money. Such examples show that Nixon is able to think logically and, thus, he is unlikely to do anything irrational. In addition, there are lexical and syntactical means of increasing logos of the speech. For example, in several passages of his speech Nixon uses repetitions of the key words denoting the subject under discussion in that very passage: “And then he gets an allowance to handle the people that work in his office to handle his mail. And the allowance for my State of California, is enough to hire 13 people. And let me say, incidentally, that this allowance is not paid to the Senator” (Nixon). So, we see Nixon repeat the word “allowance” in each consecutive sentence, even though it could be easily replaced with the pronoun ”it” to avoid tautology. To show that he gives his audience extra information about the allowance and its allocation in the Senator office, Nixon introduces every new sentence with the same linking word “and” which indicates addition. Besides, abilities of logical thinking and information presentation are clearly seen in certain syntactical constructions: “and if they don't, it will be an admission that they have something to hide” (Nixon). Thus, a sentence with a conditional clause is a good example of logical argumentation which adds to the persuasiveness of the statement. Besides, this very sentence as well as a number of others in the speech is a kind of call to action for the speaker’s opponents. Nixon seems to be tossing a challenge to them. And by doing so, he shows the voters his own strength in confronting the accusations and, along with it, he underlines his opponents’ weakness by doubting that they can do the same.
Pathos is the third mode of persuasion activated in Nixon’s Checkers Speech. And while ethos and logos are very important for demonstrating the speaker’s professionalism as a politician, pathos is the best at establishing the necessary rapport between him and his audience. Pathos is an appeal to the audience’s emotions and feelings. So, it works even more efficiently in case with common people rather than in case of some professional communication. As for Checkers Speech, it is very emotionally colored and full of emphatic constructions. After analyzing the whole speech, it becomes clear that such emotional coloring is aimed at attracting attention of wider audience and, especially, the attention of common people. Boring bare facts used by Nixon to build up ethos and logos of his Checkers Speech will not be enough to appeal to ordinary people – the real voters. Therefore, there are such sentences in the speech as follows:
“But she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat, and I always tell her she would look good in anything” (Nixon).
“I can say that never  have I made a telephone call to an agency, nor have I gone down to an agency on their behalf” (Nixon).
These sentences acquire their emotional coloring due to certain syntactical constructions, i.e. inversions and the use of the emphatic “does”.
Emotional impact of the message is also increased owing to numerous parallel constructions and repetitions which the speaker uses to attract attention to particular ideas: “I am proud of the fact that not one of them has ever asked me for a special favor. I am proud of the fact that not one of them has ever asked me to vote on a bill other than my own conscience would dictate. And I am proud of the fact that the taxpayers by subterfuge or otherwise have never paid one dime for expenses which I thought were political” (Nixon).
In addition, there are a lot of rhetoric questions and all other types of questions in the speech. They perform the same function, which is to attract attention to the things which the speaker wants his audience to remember. However, they are also used to create an atmosphere of a dialogue which always makes communicators feel closer to each other. The same effect of being on friendly terms with listeners is achieved through the use of particular language means. For example, Nixon starts his speech with the address “My Fellow Americans” and then he continues by calling his audience either “fellows” or “folks”, which implies he wants them to take him as one of them. He talks about “this country of ours” underlying that they are citizens of one and the same country and, therefore, should be united to protect their country because it needs protection. Nixon says: “I think my country is in danger” (Nixon). And then, using an antithesis to emphasize his righteous intentions, he exclaims that he wants “prosperity built on peace rather than prosperity built on war” (Nixon).
Pathos of Checkers Speech is also created by Nixon’s mentioning the events and people who cannot leave common people indifferent. Thus, he talks about his wife and little daughters, about his love for them and their love for their new dog Checkers, about his difficult childhood years and his war experience. All these insights into his private life, the presence of his wife, and his expressed determination to keep the dog that they all love make pathos one of the strongest appeals in Nixon’s Checkers Speech.
So, in general, the analysis shows that the persuasiveness of any speech undoubtedly depends on the efficient implementation of all three rhetoric appeals. Nixon’s Checkers Speech is a good example of successful use of language and rhetoric means to achieve the desired effect. It demonstrates how a speech organized in the correct way rhetorically can turn a terrible political crisis into a huge political success.
Nixon, Richard M. “Checkers Speech.” Great Speeches Collection. The History Place, n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.