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Arguments play a very important role in communication. This is so because through argumentation, parties are able to explain their stance as well as justify them. Due to the role that arguments play in communication, various authorities have developed models of analyzing arguments and other different types of communication. Some of the most popular models are the classical, the Rogerian and the Toulmin approaches. This paper seeks to investigate how Rogerian and Toulmin models have been applied in President Clinton’s inaugural speech of January 1993. Moreover, the paper itself is mainly structured in the Toulmin model but also incorporates a few elements of Rogerian approach especially the introduction and the proposal parts that are explicit and all other parts that are implicitly cited.

On January 20, 1993, President William Jefferson Clinton was inaugurated as the 42nd United States of America president. He was the first president to be elected after the Cold War. In addition, he was the first Democrat to be elected in a period of 12 years. Therefore, his inaugural speech was very significant in the eyes of Americans as well as analysts. A core message of the President’s address was that of the need to change. This is illustrated by the opening statement: “My fellow citizens, today we celebrate the mystery of American renewal”. Having been in war for many decades, there was a great need for America to forget the memories of war and move on. He pledged his commitment to a new style of leadership.

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This view considers President Clinton’s speech to have been more confrontational. It was confrontational in that the President seemed to blame past regimes for bad policies that led America into war for many years. He also blamed the international community for having contributed to the rapid change of the American life including the occupation of Washington by foreigners who took up opportunities that the locals could have enjoyed. As a result, his speech is based more on the Toulmin’s models as opposed to Rogerian model. This is because the latter is usually less confrontational and takes a middle ground (Philips and Bostian 182). In this case, Clinton was not taking a middle ground. He was not happy about the way Republicans had contributed to the spread of Cold War. Moreover, Rogerian approach can also apply mildly.


Bill Clinton’s speech could be analyzed in the context of Toulmin’s model. In this view, there are several claims that the president made. One of the most vivid claims was the fact that as he put it, “a generation raised in the shadows of the Cold War assumes new responsibilities” (Murphy 72). This is a way of setting context of his upcoming leadership; that although he was the image of change, there were many ideologies and challenges that could hold them back. However, he insisted that America would never relent in pursuing the dreams of her founding fathers.

The president also observed that Americans needed economic empowerment. In Washington D.C. itself, he was convinced that there were people who did not have work. This was as a result of unfair distribution of resources, opportunities and power. He was committed to empowering all Americans through sound economic policies. Furthermore, he observed that lack of a clear distinction between that which was domestic as well as that which was foreign was required. He was concerned that global happenings were immensely affecting America. Issues such as AIDS, climate change, environmental degradation, arms race and others needed to be dealt with.

In the Rogerian model, after the introduction, a neutral statement of the opponent’s position is put forward. This is followed by a neutral explanatory statement followed by an analysis. In the analysis, a common ground is established and finally a proposal made. In President Clinton’s speech, there were no explicitly neutral statements but candid pronouncements of the past and expected future under the new leadership. Moreover, the president congratulated George Bush, the outgoing president, for his half-century service to America. He says that “On behalf of our nation, I salute my predecessor, President Bush, for his half-century of service to America” (Clinton). Immediately after this, what followed was an indirect accusation thus: “And I thank the millions of men and women whose steadfastness and sacrifice triumphed over Depression, fascism and Communism” Since Bush was the immediate leader who made Americans suffer because of his bad approach to fight against spread of communism, it could be said that the incumbent made claims against the outgoing regime.

Data or Grounds

In Toulmin’s model, it could be demonstrated that the president provided grounds for his claims above. Related to the claims of post-Cold War challenges, the president states that “we inherit an economy that is still the world's strongest, but is weakened by business failures, stagnant wages, increasing inequality, and deep divisions among our people”. This was enough evidence of the effects that the Cold War had brought to America, of course under the leadership of Republicans.

In a further attempt to demonstrate how Toulmin’s model can be applied in the president’s speech, more ‘data’ is available. The president cited pre-Cold War American struggles such as the Great Depression, the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movements. He cites these to show how America had build up filth as well as evolved in social inclusion and democratic involvement for all persons. The president also cites grounds to show the need for economic and political reform. He says that “This beautiful capital…powerful people maneuver for position”. Such people were entangled with who was more powerful over the other or who was ahead of others “forgetting those people whose toil and sweat sends us here and pays our way”. According to him, this was a burning desire that had to be quenched through political and economic reform.

In providing evidence, data or grounds for argumentation, the Rogerian model uses neutral statements to outline the position of the opponent. But since the opponent, the outgoing president, or his allies, Republicans, were around; the incoming president did not use direct verbal confrontation. The neutral statement that could be equated to a claim was: “Today, as an old order passes, the new world is freer but less stable”. Hidden in this statement, the speaker was lamenting that because of the past failures, the present was too difficult to handle.  The other equivalent of a claim was his assertion that the enmities that were formed during communism are likely to spill over and become the challenges of the new leadership.


To warrant the president’s strength and ambition, he says that “Communications and commerce are global; investment is mobile; technology is almost magical; and ambition for a better life is now universal”. Viewed in other terms, it appears that Bill Clinton was justifying why America had to take the right path because it was not only important for the country but also for the entire world; countries that relied on America for various economic survival. The other thing that warranted the president to rally the whole nation behind him was the fact that as Thomas Jefferson put it, rapid change was required from time to time in order to preserve the foundation of the nation. This change was demonstrated by his wining of election; an indicator that indeed, the dreams of the founding fathers could not be let to evaporate.

The president offered more reasons as to why change was inevitable. He said that the founding fathers envisaged a prosperous nation. Prosperity and posterity were inevitable for America. According to him, it was a sacred call to live up to this vision. He called all Americans to join hands and co-operate in delivery this grand dream for the world’s greatest nation. Change was necessary because it would provide opportunities for Americans. However, this was not to be given in a silver platter. All Americans, in spite of being offered opportunities, had to be responsible citizens. For this reason, the president was obliged to lead Americans towards the American dream while the Americans had to do their part. He says that “It is time to break the bad habit of expecting something for nothing, from our government or from each other”.

The reasons as to why new strategies of leadership were necessary is because “Americans deserve better, and in this city today, there are people who want to do better”. This could be done through an adoption and practice of what Roosevelt called a government of the future but not of the past olden days. Indeed, there were many reasons to change and make life better for the owners of the Capital and the nation.

There is also a middle conformity with the Rogerian model of argumentation. The proponents of the model suggest that after using a neutral statement to outline the opponent’s position, one uses another neutral position to advance his explanation (Soles 65). In putting forward his explanation and plan for the next new crop of leadership, Clinton tried to be nationalist as possible. Although he was a Democrat, he was a president for all. That is why he objectively tried to explain how America should move forward. He said “While America rebuilds at home, we will not shrink from the challenges, nor fail to seize the opportunities, of this new world” (Murphy 73). This was not the only neutral statement that the president made. Others include the fact that it was the American people that summoned the change that was ensuing, that the Congress had to help him in delivering the expectations of the new dawn and that all Americans had to play their part in the journey of renewal.

Still under the Rogerian approach, there are several analyses that the president puts together. For instance, he quotes the leadership styles and philosophies of former presidents such as Thomas Jefferson and Roosevelt. In addition, indeed most often, he cites the dreams of the founding fathers of the American nation. Putting all these together, he indirectly insinuates that the new government had to be powered by ideas from all people in spite of their political affiliation, racial backgrounds and status in society. He also offered a critical analysis of the economic situation of the country in the context of global position of America as a superpower. He plainly, thus, highlighted that American had to be involved in the global happenings in order to safeguard its interests.


The president’s speech also fits into the Rogerian Model because it has elements of proposals made by the president going forward. He said that “And so today, we pledge an end to the era of deadlock and drift…we must be bold. We must do what no generation has had to do before…” He further made other proposals that Americans had to adopt including investing in Americans, cutting the national debt, competing with the rest of the world economies and the like. In order for these proposals to be achieved, he called upon Americans to work hard and remain hopeful. However, he cautioned that it was not going to be easy; but it was possible.

The president made more proposals in his speech. He said that there was an urgent need for all American leaders to revitalize democracy. In addition, all Americans, leaders and non-leaders, were called upon to take responsibility of their spheres of influence such as families, community and the entire nation. He appears to have been convinced that national outcomes were as a result of small efforts by all people.  Candidly, he proposed that: “And so I say to all of us here, let us resolve to reform our politics, so that power and privilege no longer shout down the voice of the people. Let us put aside personal advantage so that we can feel the pain and see the promise of America”.


This paper was an attempt to demystify how Carl Roger’s and Stephen Toulmin’s models of argumentation are evident in President Bill Clinton’s speech of January 20, 1993 during his inauguration. This was a critical time, a time after the Cold War that left Americans devastated. Therefore, there were high expectations on the president’s part in terms of delivering the new hopes of the American people. Naturally, his speech would be quite argumentative in terms of how the previous regimes had facilitated war. As a result, the speech was more inclined toward Toulmin’s model of argumentation as opposed to Roger’s model. This is because the former takes one side but the latter takes a middle ground. Moreover, the speech could mildly be associated with Rogerian model mainly in terms of the proposals made towards the end of the speech. Due to its nature, the other part of rebuttals and qualifiers in Toulmin’s model was not used.


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