Inventing authority: Bill Clinton, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the orchestration of rhetorical traditions

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


On November 13, 1993, President Clinton addressedfive thousand African American ministers at the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ’s last speech in Memphis, Tennessee and, to open a dialogue on race relations, spoke in King’s voice. This essay develops a critical orientation revolving around the concepts of tradition, invention, and authority as a means ofexploring Clinton’s remarkable performance. The President invented the authority to address race by interanimating the black church and liberal traditions in American politics. Critique of Clinton’s address suggests that rhetorical traditions can play an important role in contemporary criticism by situating a specific text within the rhetorical traditions constituting the American public sphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-89
Number of pages19
JournalQuarterly Journal of Speech
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997
Externally publishedYes



  • Authority
  • Bill clinton
  • Community
  • Martin luther king Jr
  • Rhetorical tradition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education

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