Governor George C. Wallace delivered his inaugural address in 1962 in Montgomery Alabama. Throughout his speech, he conveys to his audience that Southerners such as themselves are superior to people of color and always will be. Not only does he preach the inferiority of colored people, he also condemns those who believe the opposite. He forces them into an imaginary box labeled as evil, a synonym he uses for liberals and communists. Analyzing pages 9-12 of his speech he effectively uses past Southern’s authority as ethos, broad but solid facts as logos and emotional assertions for pathos. This further drives his argument by leading his listeners to unconsciously recognize the path of segregation and white supremacy as the ultimate good and other options as the ultimate evil.
Although weak in reliable facts that include actual numbers, Wallace uses general claims that effectively support his message. On page 10 he says, “…there are not enough native communists in the South to fill up a telephone booth… and THAT is a matter of public FBI record.” When he claims such little population of native communities in the South he already gives his audience the thought that his message is not just favorable in Alabama but a driving force in all southern states. This majority favored attitude also leads to a logical reason of, how could something so many people believe so strongly in be wrong? And because his audience all have “the south” in common they couldn’t question the values held so strongly by those who are just like them. Emphasizing that the lack of communist forces is apparent though ‘FBI records,’ highlights how Wallace is able to give evidence that his so creditable a government organization is able to create statistics about and release them for the whole country to see, further building confidence among his audience.
Although proving his authority early on in the speech he further glorifies himself by using the label of being a southerner. This leads to the audience having faith in him because of those in the past like him but also having faith in themselves and in turn exalting him because he is like his audience and proved that to them. On page 11 Wallace declares, “We remind all within hearing of this Southland that a Southerner, Peyton Randolph, presided over the Continental Congress in our nation’s beginning… that a Southerner, Thomas Jefferson, wrote the Declaration of Independence, that a Southerner, George Washington, is the Father of our Country… that a Southerner, James Madison, authorised our Constitution, that a Southerner, George Mason, authored the Bill of Rights and it was a Southerner who said, ‘Give me liberty or give me death,’ Patrick Henry.” Here he mentions six southerners who have, what he says, “played a most magnificent part in erecting this great divinely inspired system of freedom…” This elicits an almost forced feeling of southern superiority. Wallace puts into the audience’s head the question of, if all of these southerners did these magnificent things to shape the country and its future, how could they not be superior? And how could Wallace, who is so much like them, not be just as remarkable? Wallace puts himself on a podium with all of the other great southerners before him and in unison, they articulate Wallace’s message of segregation and white Christian superiority. This image is put into this audience’s mind thus giving him authority along with his message.
Emotional connection with the audience is consistent throughout Wallace’s speech. There is southern pride, Christian pride, and the pride of being the superior race, however, there is also defense. When an individual or group feels threatened they make it known that who they are and what they believe in cannot be shaken nor discouraged. Wallace displays this unshakable emotion on page 9 when he says, “But we warn those, of any group, who would follow the false doctrine of communistic amalgamation that we will not surrender our system of government… our freedom of race and religion for that freedom was won as a hard price, and if it requires a hard prices to keep it… we are able… and quite willing to pay it.” He doesn’t point out that he as an individual is warning others, but specifically used the word ‘we’ to make a connection with the audience that makes them feel part of this unshakable faith and pride that he’s describing. Wallace uses the word ‘surrender’ as well. Surrender is a big tone word that is defined as cease resistance to an enemy. To say he and those like him will NOT surrender creates a persuasive and inclusive defiance tone indicated by words that relate to surrender like ‘enemy’. The word enemy always has a negative connotation; for Wallace to be inclusive and say that they will resist to their common enemy is a really powerful motivator for his audience to agree with him. Lastly, he says how willing and able they are to fight for their hard earned freedom. This connects to the resistance of the enemy because only will they will oppose but also rise up and challenge anyone of any kind standing in their way. Wallace consistently uses emotional elements as well as inclusive components to create an emotional appeal and even emotional unity throughout his audience.
As a whole, Governor Wallace delivered a speech that was structurally fluent and as well perfectly supported by key rhetorical devices. He immediately and consistently uses emotional appeal, broad factual statements and southern jurisdiction to accomplish an overall feeling of agreements throughout his audience. Although slightly cynical, intolerant and prejudiced he successfully conveyed to his audience his message that white Southerners such as themselves are superior to people of color and always will be, denouncing anyone who believes otherwise.
Kipling, Rudyard. The White Man’s Burden: The United States & The Philippine Islands, 1899. Rudyard Kipling’s Verse: Definitive ed., Garden City, New York, Doubleday, 1929.
Wallace, George C. “The Inaugural Address of Governor George C Wallace.” Montgomery, Alabama, 14 Jan. 1963. Address.
Newman, John J., and John M. Schmalbach. United States History: Preparing for the Advanced Placement Examination. 3rd ed., New York, Amsco School Publications, 2014.