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Ryan Andes
Rhetoric and Civic Life
David Maxson
16 October 2015
Rhetorical Analysis Daisy Girl vs. Prouder, Stronger, Better
Visions of a bright future have become as commonplace in presidential campaigns as the
American flag. Candidates use rhetoric like Obamas 2008 slogan Change we can believe in,
or Kennedys 1960 A time for greatness, to portray their vision for a better America under their
leadership. The Johnson campaign in 1964 and the Reagan campaign in 1984 used advertising to
paint a picture of Americas future for the electorate. Johnsons attack ad Daisy Girl negatively
associates his opponent with extremism by featuring the obliteration of a little girl by a nuclear
explosion. In an opposing style, Reagans Prouder, Stronger, Better part of a larger ad
campaign known as Morning in America, positively showcases the economic revitalization of
the U.S. under Presidents Reagans guidance. While candidates stances help to shape the way
our future is portrayed in ad campaigns, public opinion plays the defining role. Campaigns
produce advertisements that ultimately will resonate with the public and that means catering to
the issues that capture national concern. Prouder, Stronger, Better and Daisy Girl utilize
kairos to strengthen pathos- based appeals that while portraying vastly different futures, associate
each candidate as a source of hope for the American people.
While Daisy Girl and Prouder, Stronger, Better revolve around the idea of depicting
Americas future; the worlds the advertisements portray could not be more different. Daisy
Girl is set in a dystopian world in which everything we as Americans hold dear has been leveled
by the bomb. The ad begins with a little girl in a field happily counting the petals on a flower.

Suddenly, her countdown is mired by the sounds of a booming voice counting down from ten. As
the countdown approaches zero, the camera zooms in on the girls eyes until we hear the sounds
of an explosion and the image of a nuclear mushroom cloud. Then President Johnson speaks
about the stakes of nuclear war and the advertisement ends with a plea to support Johnson on
Election Day. On the other hand, Prouder, Stronger, Better portrays a utopian America,
thriving off a strong economy and the spirit of hard work. The ad begins at dawn with a boat
setting out from port. As the day progresses, we see images of Americans heading off to work
while a narrator describes the state of the nation. American prosperity is emphasized by images
of new home owners, smiling newlyweds, and the repeated raising of the American flag by
citizens young and old. Then the narrator expresses just how far weve come in four short years
under Reagan. Both advertisements focus on a theme of hope; Daisy Girl portrays a postapocalyptic world in which hope has been displaced by despair and fear, whereas Morning in
Americas image of rejuvenated America produces a feeling of hope and optimism for the
future. To shape the world relayed in their advertisements, both campaigns rely heavily on
current events.
Both Johnsons and Reagans ads are a product of their respective time periods. Daisy
Girl was born from the fear of nuclear war resulting from the U.S.-USSR Cold War and the
spread of nuclear weapons. During the 1960s, children were taught to duck and cover under
desks as part of nuclear attack drills and by 1965 an estimated 200,000 backyard nuclear bunkers
had been built in suburban American (Cook). Just two years before the 1964 election, the Cuban
Missile Crisis led to the possibility of a nuclear attack on U.S. soil. Panic ensued in the U.S. as
families hoarded supplies and gathered together to wait for a war they hoped would never come
(Frankel). Nuclear proliferation increased as Communist China become the 5th country to gain

the power of the atomic bomb and by August of 1964, Gulf of Tonkin Incident led to U.S. to war
in Vietnam. War hawks, like Goldwater, who had once famously suggested in jest lobbing a
missile into the mens room of the Kremlin, called for the use of nuclear weapons to stops the
spread of communism. In October 1963 the Washington Post reported that Goldwater advocated
that NATO give its Western Europe commanders the discretion to use nuclear weapons, which he
characterized as merely another weapon (Daisy). In May of 1964, Goldwater shared his
view on Howard K. Smiths radio show suggesting the use of low-yield atomic weapons to
defoliate Vietnams jungle. Goldwaters comments alarmed an American public paranoid over
nuclear weapons and led many to believe Goldwater was dangerous. Daisy Girl effectively
uses a scene of atomic destruction playing off commonly held fears about the use of nuclear
weapons. Voters in the 1984 election were concerned mainly with the state of the economy.
During the late 1970s, rising oil prices lead to a general rise in prices and coupled with
unemployment led to stagflation. By Reagans election in 1980 the U.S. had entered into a
recession that lasted nearly 22 months, one of the longest in U.S. history (U.S. State
Department). Rising interest rates led farmers and homeowners to foreclose and confidence in
the U.S. economy was undermined as foreign competitors seemed posed to remove America
from its spot atop the global marketplace (Economic Recovery in the 1980s). President
Reagan moved to cut taxes and implement supply-side economics. Inflation decreased from
13.3% in 1979 to 3.9% in 1984 and unemployment rebounded to around 7% in 1984 from 11%
in 1980 (Unemployment Rate). The economy rebounded from the economic stagnation that
characterized much of the 1970s and early 1980s and Prouder, Better, Stronger plays off
voters newfound faith in the American economy. When viewed through the lens of the current

events of the time, both ads create a convincing picture of the near future that helps to amplify
the emotions and associations produced by the advertisement.
Not only does Daisy Girl seize the kairotic moment of Cold War hysteria, but it instills
fear by bringing the possibility of nuclear war closer to home. The little girl serves as a symbol
of innocence. Americans easily identified with the emotion to protect this small child and what
unfolds on the screen is a horrifying portrayal of every parents worst nightmare. The pathos of
fear is continuingly reinforced by the increasing pace of the countdown and the abrupt transition
to the explosion, which shocks the viewer. The most powerful moment comes as the camera
zooms in on the girls eyes and they appear to widen in fear as a call for help. Viewers are left
with a feeling of utter helplessness, as nothing can save the child from the most destructive force
known to man. The mushroom cloud symbolizes unparalleled destruction and suffering. While it
works on the literal level as a sign of nuclear explosion, it also serves figuratively as a sign of a
future without hope. The ad suggests that your childrens future will be worse under Goldwater
who is associated with extremism and disaster. In contrast, Johnson voiceover we must either
love each other or we must die, comes off as a calming savior. It reinforces Johnson as a
capable leader, who understands the intricacies of foreign policy, sending the message that he is
the candidate we would trust with his finger on the nuclear button. Prouder, Stronger, Better
seeks to renew confidence in the state of the U.S. economy. It instills feelings of hope, optimism,
and patriotism to reassure voters of the nations strong leadership contrary to fear-based appeal
of Daisy Girl. Images of men and women commuting send the message that unemployment is
subsiding and Americans and getting back to work. Hope is reinforced by steadily building
music, the transition of dawn today, and the repeated use of the phrase its Morning in America
contribute to a feeling of rebirth. While homeowners and farmers were hit hard by the

depression, scenes of a farmer on a tractor and families moving in to new homes creates a sense
of economic security and normalcy. The calm voice of the narrator constantly reassures the
American audience about the strength of the economy with the use of extrinsic proofs. Facts like,
More men and women will go to work than ever before. Interest rates half the records highs of
1980. reinforces the images seen on the screen and provide proof of the ads claims of a better
economy (Prouder, Stronger, Better). The advertisement relies heavily on children, who serve
as a symbol for the future. Joyful children are seen delivering papers, moving into new homes,
and watching the hoisting of an American flag, representing the passing of American values of
hard work and patriotism to a new generation with a bright future. The future is further
emphasized by the prolonged wedding scene and the image of smiling newlyweds and
celebratory wedding guests indicate that this a time of prosperity and strong possibilities.
Multiple times the American flag is raised by Americans of all backgrounds indicating
contagious patriotism and feeling of national pride. All of Americas progress is tied back to
Reagan by the narrators definitive statement, Under the leadership of President Reagan, our
country is prouder, stronger, and better (Prouder, Stronger, Better). All of the media in the
advetisment builds towards this conclusion, but these words firmly implant the idea that Reagan
is the guiding forces behind this resurgence into the minds of voters. The brief image of the
white house conveys Reagans strong leadership at the helm of the nation.
As political advertisements for the election of Americas highest office, Daisy Girl
along with Prouder, Stronger, Better, are inherently civic. Both inspire voters not only to care
about their candidate, but to see the importance of the upcoming elections. Daisy Girls plea
for civic engagement, Vote for President Johnson... The stakes are too high for you to stay
home." relies on the destruction of hope to lull viewers out of complacency to protect what

matters most to them. Prouder, Stronger, Better, aims for votes with question, Why would we
even want to return to where we were just for short years ago, which makes voters consider the
need to continue the progress made by a growing American economy. Both ads force viewers to
consider their patriotic duty and civic responsibility to vote to make a better future for their
children, whether this aim be achieved by superior national security or national economy.

Prouder, Stronger, Better and Daisy Girl utilize kairos to strengthen pathos- based
appeals that while portraying vastly different futures, associate each candidate as a source of
hope for the American people.
Works Cited:
Amadeo, Kimberly. History of U.S. Recessions. About News. About.com, 2015. Web. 11
October 2015.
Amadeo, Kimberly.Unemployment Rate by Year. About News. About.com, 2015. Web.
11 October 2015.
Cook, Kim. Cold War bomb shelters: A garish trip back in time.
Washington Post. The Washington Times, 27 June 2011. Web. October
10 2015.
Daisy: The Complete History of an Infamous and Iconic Ad." Conelrad. Conelrad, 2007.
Web. 10 October 2015.

Frankel, Max. Learning from the Missile Crisis: What Really Happened on Those
Thirteen Fateful Days in October. Smithsonian. Smithsonian Institute, October 2002.
Web. 11 October 2015.
Johnson Campaign. Advertisement. NBC. 7 September. 164. Television
Reagan Campaign. Advertisement. 17 September. 1984. Television.
The Living Room Candidate. Museum of the Moving Image, 2012. Web. 10 October
U.S. Department of State. Economic Recovery in the 1980s. About
Education. About.com. Web. 11 October 2015.