The Good Neighbor: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Rhetoric of American Power.

Author:Kimble, James J.
Position::Book review
 
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The Good Neighbor: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Rhetoric of American Power. By Mary E. Stuckey. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013. 300 pp.

Metaphoric thought is grounded in perspective, and in The Good Neighbor--a spirited exploration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's (or FDR's) rhetorical corpus--Mary E. Stuckey offers both. The metaphor, as the book's title indicates, is FDR's consistent invocation of the ideal of neighborliness, from his very first presidential utterances all the way up to his death. The perspective is the intriguing viewpoint of Roosevelt's presidency that the presence of this metaphor reveals. Stuckey's book thus represents two valuable accomplishments in that it unveils the pervasiveness of the president's master metaphor even as it manages to craft a fresh understanding of his rhetorical world. On both counts, scholars and students of the presidency will find much to appreciate.

Stuckey's thesis is disarmingly simple. FDR, she argues, brought to the White House a powerful association between governance and neighborliness. Thereafter, his consistent public depictions of the United States "as one large neighborhood" (p. 2) facilitated an attractive vision of national unity throughout some of the country's bleakest years, allowing him to tout particular values and to argue forcefully for bolstering the benign power of the federal government. Meanwhile, as world tensions increased throughout the 1930s, his widening of the metaphor into "an international neighborhood," one tacitly modeled on and led by the United States, "allowed him to contend with military dictatorships as well as democratic imperial powers and to justify the extension of American power across the globe" (p. 3).

It does not take long for the book to make it more than evident that this metaphor was indeed ubiquitous in the president's words. Of course, even casual students of FDR are familiar with his Good Neighbor Policy and his Lend-Lease analogy involving efforts to fight a neighbor's house fire. But by digging deeply into over a dozen years of presidential pronouncements, speeches, and press conferences, Stuckey shows how it emerged and reemerged at nearly every rhetorical turn. Indeed, the sheer frequency of the term neighbor and its various manifestations in the president's words is startling. As Stuckey points out, the metaphor was variably welcoming, hierarchical, inclusive, exclusive, patronizing, constitutive, or...

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