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Professor of Communication receives prestigious award

The College of Wooster is once again on the national academic scene thanks to Professor of Communication Studies Denise Bostdorff.† Bostdorff is being recognized for her most recent book “Proclaiming the Truman Doctrine: The Cold War Call to Arms,” which was published in 2008. In November, at the National Communication Association annual meeting in San Francisco, Bostdorff received the Bruce E. Gronbeck Political Communication Research Award, which is presented to the author of the best political communication work of the past two years. The award honors Bruce Gronbeck, professor emeritus from the University of Iowa, whose interests regarding political rhetoric mirror those of Bostdorff.

Bostdorff has been a faculty member at the College since 1994. She received her undergraduate degree from Bowling Green State University, her M.A. from the University of Illinois and her Ph.D from Purdue University in 1987. Other texts written by Bostdorff include “The Presidency and the Rhetoric of Foreign Crisis,” published in 1994, and a number of other scholarly articles and book chapters. Other recent research interests of Bostdorff include the 2008 presidential candidates’ Iraq War rhetoric and President George W. Bush’s post-Sept. 11 rhetoric. Bostdorff appeared on National Public Radio in 2007 to discuss Bush’s use of ceremonial discourse to bolster the support for his foreign policy tactics and the Iraq War. Regarding this strategy, Bostdorff told NPR, “It’s a great way to deflect criticism by imbuing the policy talk with ceremony where questions are not asked.”

Returning to her most recent book, when an editor for Texas A&M University Press approached her about writing about the most influential presidential speeches in American history, Bostdorff selected the Truman Doctrine. “This is the topic that grabbed my attention,” said Bostdorff. “In many ways when you look at the Truman Doctrine you see how policy set there and the kinds of arguments and language that are used there continue to be reflected in American presidential foreign policy rhetoric even today.”

“Proclaiming the Truman Doctrine: The Cold War Call to Arms” documents how persuasive the address really was, even on levels the authors did not intend. In her interview she explained, “I look a lot at how so much of the Truman Doctrine speech and the policy really emanated from the State Department and its focus on public affairs work at the time.” Bostdorff cites the State Department as not only shaping what the foreign policies at this time were, but that they developed a way to present the policy to the American public.

The book has received much celebration from academic peers, demonstrated by the fact that Bostdorff was nominated for the Bruce E. Gronbeck Political Communication Research Award by one of the reviewers of her book. In his review, Timothy Barney, of the University of Maryland, describes interdisciplinary nature of her study, saying, “In addition to public address scholars, Bostdorff’s piece should be of substantial note to international relations scholars, public affairs students, and the interdisciplinary community of presidential studies-and the book’s engaging readability may snare more.” He concludes “Proclaiming the Truman Doctrine” is another entry into the healthy and growing Library of Presidential Rhetoric Series, and Bostdorff’s critical contributions to foreign policy and the rhetorical presidency here will surely not be a mere placeholder on such an increasingly formidable shelf.”

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