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How American presidents use the 'bully pulpit'

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Nixon at the Berlin Wall, 1969
President Nixon views the Berlin Wall, February 27, 1969. In 1987, President Reagan stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate and called east to the Soviet leader: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
Courtesy of the National Archives

Linguist James McWhorter and two former presidential speechwriters for Presidents Reagan and Clinton talk about a president's use of the "bully pulpit" to persuade, console, encourage and inspire.

For his "Truth, Politics and Power" series, former NPR host Neal Conan explores the purpose and meaning of Presidential rhetoric.

Guests are:

Paul Glastris was the chief speechwriter for President Bill Clinton. He's currently the editor in chief of Washington Monthly magazine. Prior to joining the Clinton Administration Glastris spent 10 years with US News and World Report.

Peter Robinson was a speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan. He authored Reagan's famous 1987 Berlin Wall speech in which the president called on Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall." Robinson is currently Murdoch Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University where he hosts "Uncommon Knowledge," a web-based video program. He's also the author of How Reagan Changed My Life.

John McWhorter has a PhD in linguistics and is currently an Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and host of Slate's language podcast, Lexicon Valley. He's the author of a number of books including "Words on the Move: Why English Won't — and Can't — Sit Still (Like, Literally)" and "Talking Back, Talking Black: Truths About America's Lingua Franca."

To listen to the program, click the audio player above.