Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Mary Stuckey

Second Advisor

Nathan Atkinson

Third Advisor

Carol Winkler

Fourth Advisor

Darrel Wanzer-Serrano


This dissertation analyzes moments in which presidents interact with transnational audiences, identifying and explaining their rhetorical strategies for developing a global imaginary. Specifically, I first consider how George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev negotiate geo-political and spatial metaphors leading up to their joint press conference, symbolically ending the Cold War. Second, I discuss how Bill Clinton and George W. Bush universalize the trope of “democracy” in their speeches before the United Nations General Assembly. Third, I explain how Barack Obama figures transnational citizens and himself as a global leader in his transnational town hall meetings. Together, these case studies show the ways contemporary presidents call forth particular understandings of “the global” through speech. Politically, this study is significant because it broadens our understanding of the institution of the presidency from the framework of a national institution to that of a global one. Rhetorically, this study illuminates the relationship between presidential speech, transnational audiences, and the rhetorical imaginary of the global sphere.