Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Nathan Johnson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Lennon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joshua Scacco, Ph.D.


Bush, epideictic, Obama, presidential, rhetoric, Trump


This study is concerned with American presidential rhetoric at the cross-section of hero rhetoric and memorial address. It analyzes presidential memorialization of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. 9/11 is arguably the most significant tragedy in recent American history. The purpose of this study is to identify the type of hero each president since 9/11 has attempted to construct of himself for the public and discuss the rationale behind that hero construction. To complete this objective, I analyze the second 9/11 memorial speech from the presidencies of Bush, Obama, and Trump for hero construction. A close reading examining the rhetorical genre, historical context, and keywords reveals the following hero constructions: Bush establishes himself as the war hero who fights back aggressively against a threat; Obama establishes himself as the peacemaker hero who encourages unity and rejects hate that is a result of tragedy; Trump establishes himself as the patriotic activist hero who seeks to return America to a glorious age before the tragedy occurred and prevent future tragedies. This research fills a gap in hero rhetoric and crisis rhetoric which does not have the three presidents in conversation with each other.