Presidential rhetoric: From the war on drugs to the battle over legalization

Manuel Antonio Gutierrez, University of Texas at El Paso


This thesis analyzes the rhetoric executed by different presidents in order to sustain the battle against drugs. The war on drugs is one of the longest battles the United States has fought. From its inception under President Richard Nixon to Barack Obama, the war on drugs has become an institutionalized presidential program responsive to public demands for action against the spread of illegal drugs. Over the airwaves, presidential rhetorical overtures on the matter go hand in hand with the drug war on the streets. However, although presidential rhetoric remained largely consistent on combating and criminalizing drugs over much of the previous four decades, it has evolved more recently during the Obama administration as a growing number of observers have questioned the validity of the war and numerous states have legalized the use of medicinal marijuana. This study examines in historical context the extent to which presidential rhetoric and the institutionalization of the war on drugs have begun to shift toward legalization, as well as the potential policy implications moving forward. Furthermore, this study also incorporates a social experiment that analyzes respondent's behavior to a president's speech. To conduct this research, I utilized data from The American Presidency Project and data collected through a survey.

Subject Area

Political science|Rhetoric

Recommended Citation

Gutierrez, Manuel Antonio, "Presidential rhetoric: From the war on drugs to the battle over legalization" (2014). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1583916.