Richard Nixon Checkers Speech Essay Example
Nixon’s “Checkers” speech, given initially to address national concerns about $18,000 in donated campaign funding that Nixon received, is primarily aimed at crafting a particular persona. To find his way back into the public favor, Nixon designed a persona characterized by integrity, morality, and comparative responsibility. He demonstrates his commitment to honesty, steadfastly adhering to his moral values, and drawing a contrast between his authentic self and his inauthentic political counterparts.
In these ways, Nixon attempts to take control of his audience’s perception of his character by fostering a persona of authenticity. Nixon begins crafting this authentic persona by demonstrating his steadfast commitment to honesty. In the very first sentence of his speech, Nixon makes it clear that he is addressing the questioning of his “honesty” and “integrity” by the American people and sets out to clear his name of any suspicions to the contrary (151).
When addressing the $18,000 fund that necessitated this public address in the first place, Nixon reads an “independent audit” of this fund to his audience, noting that he is “not afraid of having independent people go in and check the facts” (153). Nixon further subjects his audience to a detailed list of his “complete financial history,” including his salary, mortgages, life insurance policies, and more personal information (153).
With all of this detailed information, some of which is given by neutral investigators, Nixon’s honesty is undoubtedly brutal to challenge. This is an important way in which Nixon lays the foundation for his persona. A clear commitment to honesty is critical in molding an authentic persona, Jones argues, as authenticity demands that one “consistently upholds and puts into practice one’s values and commitments” (492).
Therefore, by adequately showing his audience that he is truly dedicated to upholding his commitment to honesty, Nixon can thus support an authentic persona. Presenting his audience with abundant evidence of his upholding this value is an effective way to do this. Nixon fosters an authentic persona by demonstrating his firm adherence to moral values.
When discussing the nature of the fund in question, Nixon denies that any of the money was used immorally and declares that he is “proud” that none of the contributors to his fund have ever asked him to spend his vote in any way other than that which his “own conscience would dictate” (153). This is important because, as Jones argues, an authentic person “is not ashamed of [their] values and feels no need to misrepresent them” (490).
By expressing his pride in his ability to act according to his moral compass, Nixon demonstrates this vital quality of authenticity. Furthermore, Nixon’s explanation of the fund’s purpose is based on his own moral values, as he notes that the only reason he sought and accepted this gift money is that he “felt” that taxpayers should not be financing “items which are…primarily political business” (152). According to this reasoning, Nixon’s actions are directed by his moral compass.
As Nixon asserts, he did not accept this gift money for personal reasons but because he did not feel that taxpayers should be required to finance his Vice Presidential campaign. Therefore, the fund in question only exists to ease the burden on the good taxpayers of America and is indeed morally justified. In this way, Nixon again demonstrates his unfaltering commitment to his moral values, further supporting his authentic persona.
In order to solidify this persona in the eyes of his audience, Nixon creates a contrast between himself, who can be understood as authentic, and his opponents, who should be understood as inauthentic. When discussing his opponents, Mr. Sparkman (152) and Mr. Stevenson (155), Nixon highlights their dishonesty by exposing their wrongdoings.
Nixon exposes Mr. Sparkman for having his wife on the Senate payroll, asserting that “it just didn’t feel right” for him to put his own wife, Pat, on the Senate payroll (152). Interestingly, Nixon never explicitly denounces Mr. Sparkman for doing this. He only asserts that his own actions were morally right. If Nixon did the right thing and Mr. Sparkman did the opposite, it must follow that Mr. Sparkman did the wrong thing.
Similarly, when discussing the suspicious funds that Mr. Stevenson accepted, which Nixon argues went “right into [his] pockets,” he states that he does not “condemn” Mr. Stevenson for his actions (155). Instead of offering judgment, Nixon again returns attention to himself and suggests that both men “come before the American people as I have,” as anything less would be “an admission that they have something to hide” (155).
By exposing his opponents’ wrongdoings while avoiding passing explicit judgment, Nixon creates a stark contrast between virtuous and corrupt, authentic and inauthentic. It is precisely this contrast that gives Nixon his platform to speak; Nixon’s comparative honesty and responsibility give him a “mark of distinction” from his corrupt counterparts that “warrants notice” and enables him to advocate for his fellow Americans (Brooks 525).
Because Nixon was not corrupt like his opponents, he must be the only politician that could genuinely and faithfully represent them. This contributes to Nixon’s authentic persona, as a person of authenticity can be trusted to uphold their values “even when under pressure to abandon them” (Jones 491). Therefore, this contrast between the authentic self and the inauthentic others allows Nixon to demonstrate his worth as a government official.
Thus, Nixon becomes a comparatively trustworthy politician. Nixon’s “Checkers” speech was successful because he effectively constructed an authentic persona. Unlike his political counterparts, Nixon can lay the foundation for this persona by consistently being honest and upholding his personal moral values.
Nixon’s acquisition of an independent audit of the fund in question, as well as his detailed account of his personal financial history, are critical in corroborating his honesty. Similarly, by grounding his justification for this fund in his self-imposed duty to uphold his moral values, Nixon further strengthens this persona.
Finally, Nixon’s contrast between himself and other corrupt politicians gives his audience an example of actual corruption and thus solidifies his authentic persona. In these ways, Nixon can craft a persona worthy of redemption in the eyes of the public.