Rick Hellman
KU News Service

Presidential rhetoric expert can comment on Biden inaugural speech

Tue, 01/12/2021

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas expert in presidential rhetoric from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump is available to journalists to react to President-elect Joe Biden’s inaugural address on Wednesday, Jan. 20.

“As a former vice president and longtime senator, Joe Biden is well aware of the rhetorical norms for an effective inaugural address,” said Robert Rowland, professor of communication studies. “I expect him to lay out a clear moderate/pragmatic liberal agenda, with a special focus on how it will help the working class. I also expect him to hit themes of national unity and emphasize the commonalities shared by Americans, rather than their differences, in that way continuing President Obama's efforts to unify the people.

“The theme of national reconciliation is particularly important for a nation exhausted by the pandemic, the economic crisis, and four years of President Donald Trump's attacks and fear-mongering. Biden will argue that his agenda can return the nation to normalcy, achieve progress on issues like global warming and infrastructure, and strengthen the economy for all Americans, as opposed to merely the rich.”

In addition to his teaching and research, Rowland is a former college debate champion and debate judge. His new book, “The Rhetoric of Donald Trump,” about the 45th president’s populist, nationalist politics, comes out in April from University of Kansas Press.

His most recent scholarly writing about a presidential inaugural address was “Redefining the Proper Role of Government: Ultimate Definition in Reagan’s First Inaugural,” co-written with John Jones in 2015 in the journal Rhetoric & Public Affairs.

To interview Rowland, contact Rick Hellman, KU News Service public affairs officer, at 913-620-8786 or

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