Monday, April 18th, 2011: I wish my dad was still online. :(

Rhetorical Analysis: Julia Gillard’s  “Be Bold” Speech to the Joint Meeting of US Congress

KCB103 Assessment #1: Take Home Exam

 

 

 

Table of Contents

1.      Introduction. 3

2.      Agent. 3

3.      Scene. 3

4.      Act. 4

5.      Agency. 4

6.      Purpose. 5

7.      Conclusion. 5

 

1.     Introduction

On March 9th of 2011, Julia Gillard, the current Australian Prime Minister, appeared before a Joint Meeting of Congress to make remarks about U.S.-Australia relations (C-SPAN, 2011) in a speech titled “Be Bold”.  The prime minister spoke about the ANZUS treaty, signed in 1951 solidifying the alliance between the U.S. and Australia.  Other topics discussed include Afghanistan, the global economy, the G20, climate change and free trade (C-SPAN, 2011).  Ms. Gillard discussed, with great reverence and depth, the relationship between both countries, and their willingness to support one another through times of hardship.

My rhetorical analysis of this speech will detail Ms. Gillard’s use of persuasive speech techniques, to convey the message of camaraderie between Australia and the US in order to uplift the confidence of a weary nation and ensure the longstanding of the ANZUS treaty, by using Burke’s Pentad Method.

2.     Agent

Julia Gillard, the 27th Prime Minister of Australia, was sworn into office in June of 2010. She is the first female Prime Minister of Australia and a member of the Australian Labor Party. Ms. Gillard is the 4th Australian Prime Minister to be given the honor of addressing the Joint Meeting of the US House & Senate in history, and the first foreign dignitary to address the 112th US Congress, which took office in January (Osborne, 2011). The other three Australian Prime Ministers to share the same honor of addressing the US congress were:  Robert Menzies, Bob Hawke and John Howard (Cowan, 2011).

3.     Scene

On Wednesday, March 9th, 2011, at 11:10am Eastern Standard Time, in Washington, DC, at the US. Capitol House of Representatives in the House Chamber, a Joint Meeting of Congress was held. Joint Meetings of Congress occur when there is a unanimous consent amongst the US House and Senate to recess and meet. These are usually convened to hear addresses from U.S. officials other than the President, or for foreign dignitaries (Wikipedia, 2011c)

To commemorate 60 years of the ANZUS alliance (Kenny, 2011), a military alliance which binds Australia, New Zealand, and the US, separately, to cooperate on defense matters in the Pacific Ocean area (Wikipedia, 2011a), Ms. Julia Gillard was invited to meet with President Barack Obama and address congress on her first Prime Ministerial visit to the United States (Cowan, 2011). The last Australian Prime Minister to visit the US and attend a defiant joint session of Congress on September 11th, 2001 was John Howard, who was acknowledged with a standing ovation. John Howard described this occasion as a “moving moment” (Wikipedia, 2011c).

While Australia was shielded from the worst of the recession, the American economy is still in the despair. Unemployment remains unacceptably high and confidence tentative, if not stalled. Across the country, shop-fronts are shuttered and foreclosed, or repossessed leaving homes sitting empty. Queues at food banks are depressingly healthy. States are embroiled in fierce budget battles that either have or will result in lay-offs and cuts to public programs. Inner-city public schools are achingly under-resourced, while private companies are hoarding cash reserves, as yet unwilling to hire new workers, due to the nervous mood of the business community (Connolly, 2011). The US is feeling unloved at the moment and Ms. Gillard was there to stress how important and needed it still is (Coorey, 2011). It was in this environment that Ms. Gillard issued a challenge to Americans that seemed oddly out of step with the tone of the moment: be bold and be optimistic about the hard decisions ahead of you (Connolly, 2011).

4.     Act

The speech sought to elevate Australia & US relations to perhaps their closest level ever and it was a move that clearly pleased its audience. The speech had its desired effect on US citizens with Ms. Gillard rating higher than US President, Barack Obama on CongressRatings.com, a website set up to score American politicians and world leaders. Ms. Gillard received 8 out of 10; while Mr. Obama ranked a 3.2 (Kenny, 2011). The Prime Minister pledged to “stand firm” with the United States but asserting the importance of the Asia-Pacific region (Cowan, 2011). Time and again, she stroked the American ego, stressing Australia’s undying loyalty, unstinting support and unflinching unity on everything from security matters, to economic issues and cultural values (Kenny, 2011). She noted that the global economic outlook remains uncertain and said that the eyes of the world are still on the United States (Cowan, 2011). In efforts to appease fellow Australians, The Prime Minister also gave nods to the efforts of her predecessors, John Howard and Kevin Rudd (Cowan, 2011). But it would not help her in Australia where her approval rate is plummeting and Labor is recording its lowest primary vote ever in the national polls, as Gillard’s problem is credibility (Costello, 2011).

5.     Agency

In a speech which was part vow of friendship, part pep talk (Cowan, 2011), Ms. Gillard received six standing ovations and 10 seated rounds of applause. She herself choked back tears as she neared the end of the speech and urged the US to be bold in order to get back on its feet (Coorey, 2011). She used words, emotion and symbolism that were right for her audience. She used words like ‘friend’, ‘be worthy’ and ‘be bold’, phrases that appeal to the US congress, while not necessarily the Australian public.

Julia Gillard also used symbolism.  She shared the following story about a group of Australians who spent 2 months in New York training for potential terrorist attacks at the 2000 Sydney Olympics (Dolan & Naidu, 2011). The hard-line Republican Speaker, John Boehner, welled up when Ms. Gillard told the story of the New York firefighter, Kevin Dowdell, who died a decade ago on September 11th (Coorey, 2011). As stated in line 191 of Ms. Gillard’s speech, she says “Rob came to America to give James the helmet his father signed…Friends for the future”; at this point James Dowdell and Rob Frey who were present in the gallery stood up, with James holding the helmet his father had signed. This magnificent visual of symbolism and emotion were so powerful and memorable that it was received with thunderous applause. There’s no surprise that the overwhelming sentiment from journalists present, was that it will be the emotion that the Americans will remember the most (Dolan & Naidu, 2011).

Despite the high-profile hospitality, the visit barely registered in the US press, although that is not unusual. It probably didn’t worry her advisers either. Gillard’s speech to Congress was not about impressing folks back home. It was about endearing herself to the American audience. But her words were not meant for average Americans, they were firmly directed at the country’s leaders (Connolly, 2011). And she did this well. A lot of international relations consist of flattery. A diplomatic exchange habitually begins with each side telling the other how wonderful they are at something (Costello, 2011).

6.     Purpose

To be successful every communicator needs to focus on their purpose and their audience. The prime aim of the speech was to reinforce and strengthen the ANZUS alliance into the future (Coorey, 2011). Her audience was the joint US Congress, although knowing she would be judged by the Australian people (Dolan & Naidu, 2011) she delivered an optimistic, hopeful message to a politically wearied nation (Connolly, 2011). To Australian ears, the flattery seemed heavy-handed and a bit desperate. But to Americans, at this unpredictable moment in history, there are few things more welcome than an admiring ally. The speech, filled with glowing references to American exceptionalism, was intended to leave a favorable impression – and it did. Ms. Gillard’s positive message served a purpose; one friend bucking another up, and promising loyalty, at a difficult time. But this flattery had another effect. It helped lay the groundwork for Ms. Gillard’s potentially thorny demands: increased trade co-operation, limiting agricultural subsidies, stricter financial sector reform, and peaceful leadership in the face of rising China (Connolly, 2011). As China and India are on the rise, Asia-Pacific is bound to become the world’s most important region in economic and military terms. It is because of this that Australia wanted American leadership in the region, both global and economic. Ms. Gillard’s message was essentially the same (Coorey, 2011).  Ms. Gillard’s five-star treatment in Washington that week reflects a growing awareness in Washington of Australia’s usefulness in ensuring South-East Asia remains a Western sphere of influence (Kenny, 2011).

To truly understand Ms. Gillard’s efforts it’s important to know the history of the two nations. Australia has been involved in most major American military endeavors since World War II including the Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War and both Iraq Wars—all without invocation of ANZUS. The alliance has only been invoked once, for the invasion of Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, DC (Wikipedia, 2011b). Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, in which eleven Australian citizens were also killed, there was an enormous outpouring of sympathy from Australia for the United States. Prime Minister John Howard became one of President George W. Bush’s strongest international supporters, and supported the United States in the invasion of Afghanistan. In 2004 the Bush Administration “fast tracked” a free trade agreement with Australia as a reward for their help (Wikipedia, 2011b). Australia is an important ally in Afghanistan. It was an important ally in Iraq. It is because of this history that allies such as these can speak frankly to each other (Costello, 2011).

7.     Conclusion

It was evident that throughout the speech Ms. Gillard’s main intention or goal was to comfort Americans during a very weary time and to strengthen the bonds between the two nations. This speech also put Australians in a positive light in order to prove that Australia can and should be relied upon during hardship. Cowan (2011) reported “that afterwards one senior congressional staffer remarked that the speech had gone down so well that they thought the Australian Prime Minister could probably get ‘whatever she wants’ from this congress now”. That being said, it is my conclusion that, through her speech, she reached her desired effect on her American audience and therefore achieved her purpose.

Reference List

Connolly, K. (2011, March 9). Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s message to US. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from BBC News: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12692689

Coorey, P. (2011, March 10). Gillard pushes the right buttons as she woos the US. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from The Sydney Morning Herald: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/gillard-pushes-the-right-buttons-as-she-woos-the-us-20110310-1bob4.html

Costello, P. (2011, March 16). Colourful slogans are not a guide to international affairs. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from C-SPAN.org: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/colourful-slogans-are-not-a-guide-to-international-affairs-20110315-1bvun.html?comments=162

Cowan, J. (2011a, March 6). Gillard arrives in US for busy tour. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from ABC News: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/03/06/3156255.htm

Cowan, J. (2011b, March 1o). Gillard pledges ‘firm friendship’ with US. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from ABC NEWS: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/03/10/3159835.htm

Cowan, J. (2011c, March 10). PM Gillard wows congress with historic speech. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from ABC News: AM Morning Show: http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2011/s3159919.htm

C-SPAN. (2011, April 16). Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard Remarks to Joint Meeting of Congress. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from C-SPAN.org: http://c-span.org/Events/Australian-Prime-Minister-Julia-Gillard-Remarks-to-Joint-Meeting-of-Congress/10737420120/

Dolan, G., & Naidu, Y. (2011, March 10). Julia Gillard’s US Congress Speech – OTT or WOW? Retrieved April 16, 2011, from One Thousand & One: Organisational Storytelling: http://www.onethousandandone.com.au/latest-posts/julia-gillards-us-congress-speech-ott-or-wow/

Kenny, M. (2011, March 10). Julia Gillard tells US they have a ‘true friend’ Down Under. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from The Advertiser: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/gillard-speech-marks-new-era/story-e6frea6u-1226018785835

Osborne, P. (2011, March 10). Be bold, PM Gillard tells US in speech. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from theage.com.au: http://news.theage.com.au/breaking-news-world/be-bold-pm-gillard-tells-us-in-speech-20110310-1bo74.html

Wikipedia. (2011a, April 7). ANZUS. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ANZUS

Wikipedia. (2011b, April 15). Australia – United States relations. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australia_%E2%80%93_United_States_relations

Wikipedia. (2011c, March 30). Joint session of the United States Congress. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_session_of_the_United_States_Congress

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