Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Rhetoric, Theory and Culture (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Humanities

Advisor 1

Victoria Bergvall

Committee Member 1

Abraham Romney

Committee Member 2

Craig Waddell

Committee Member 3

Kari Henquinet


This thesis examines the ways in which rhetors in presidential discourse simultaneously associate with and dissociate from their audiences in an attempt to consolidate power while subtly masking their actions. Drawing on comparative rhetoric and Andrus’ (2013) Rhetorical Discourse Analysis (RDA) that combines rhetoric and (critical) discourse analysis, I analyze the expressive values of selected lexical items, and the inclusive and exclusive uses of “we” in selected State of the Nation/Union Addresses in Ghana and the United States. I argue that presidents’ unique position during these speeches as both heads of nations and heads of their political parties presents a challenge in their twin roles as assessors of national performance and promoters of policies, with the result that they associate with different audiences for purposes of political gain, based on whether the stance is epideictic (celebrating unity) or deliberative (setting a policy agenda). Further, a focus on the Ghanaian text uncovers the complexities inherent in such adopted Western rhetorical genres, and yet adapted Ghanaian discursive practices. I draw on these complexities to call for more attention to traditional socio-cultural norms and expectations that affect borrowed rhetorical practices in particularly postcolonial African contexts, as a way of re-envisioning nuances of power relations and rhetorical strategies in these milieux. This, I argue, could be a significant contribution to scholarship in both comparative rhetoric and Critical Discourse Analysis in non-Western contexts. The study also demonstrates how an interdisciplinary approach 8 such as RDA could unravel aspects of such speeches—persuasion and power differentials aimed at agenda setting—that a single approach might otherwise probably not reveal.