From School Library Journal
Adult/High School—These selections work as an effective lens through which to look at and think about major political issues. Cohen's introductions to the speeches provide helpful insights into the history and themes of each period. History buffs will be interested in the mannered way the candidates spoke—about the Vietnam War, the economy, civil rights, and more. The book also functions as a strong tool to learn the basics of rhetoric. From the highbrow speeches of Woodrow Wilson and the folksy wit of Harry Truman to the polished prose of Ronald Reagan and the podium-pounding style of Jesse Jackson, each candidate had his own special way of addressing the people. Although many of the speeches are edited here, Cohen provides notes throughout to mark what has been removed and offers a Web site for anyone interested in reading the full texts. The concluding bibliographic essay functions as an effective pathway to even deeper research.—Matthew L. Moffett, Pohick Regional Library, Burke, VA
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An anthology with commentary, Cohen’s selection of campaign speech making spans the century, from William Jennings Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” speech of 1896 to Bill Clinton’s 1992 acceptance speech. Representing a declamation from most of the presidents of that period, plus several from unsuccessful candidates such as Adlai Stevenson and Barry Goldwater, Cohen’s volume demonstrates the rhetorical structure and political purpose of the speeches. A practitioner of and lecturer on political speech writing, Cohen identifies the speakers’ general temporal pattern of connecting America’s past and present to an attack on whatever or whoever seems to be impeding its progress toward a better future. Pausing to digress on how the speaker has deployed stereotypical images of the Democratic and Republican parties, Cohen proves most insightful about the standard of success of these speeches: winning the election. For that, eloquence is secondary to aligning with the electorate’s mood, as Harding and Truman proved. With historical coverage indicating the images the candidates of 2008 must counter (Democrats as doves; Republicans as privileged), Cohen offers a timely source for understanding the craft behind this year’s oratory. --Gilbert Taylor