College - Author 1

College of Liberal Arts

Department - Author 1

Communication Studies Department

Degree Name - Author 1

BA in Communication Studies



Primary Advisor

Leslie Nelson, College of Liberal Arts, Communication Studies Department

Additional Advisors

Vincent Meserko, College of Liberal Arts, Communication Studies Department; Bernard Duffy, College of Liberal Arts, Communication Studies Department


The War on Drugs is a long-term metaphorical war designed to reduce illegal drug distribution, trade, and use by maintaining significant punishment for drug dealers and users. This paper serves to examine how U.S. presidents throughout history have impacted this drug war through their targeted rhetoric and ensuing policies. I examine the research question, “How have presidents used their rhetorical power to perpetuate the War on Drugs while pushing a tough-on-crime narrative that portrays certain drug users and minorities as deviants responsible for crime?” Historical contexts, primary sources, and existing research are used to examine the issue. Using Ideographic Criticism, Criticism of Metaphor, and Kenneth Burke’s narrative perspective, speeches and policies are analyzed to reach key findings. The paper concludes by establishing that presidents will never obtain full obedience through their public rhetoric. However, the messages they convey unquestionably impact populations across the nation, and their political progress in the War on Drugs is tangible and consequential.

Included in

Rhetoric Commons