Beasley, Vanessa B. 1966–

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Beasley, Vanessa B. 1966–


Born September 1, 1966. Education: Vanderbilt University, B.A., 1988; University of Texas, M.A., 1991, Ph.D., 1996.


Office—Department of Communication Studies, Vanderbilt University, VU Station B #351505, 2301 Vanderbilt Pl., Nashville, TN 37235-1505. E-mail—[email protected].


Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, Division of Corporate Communication and Public Affairs, former associate professor; Texas A&M University, College Station, former associate professor; University of Georgia, Athens, former instructor; Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, associate professor.


You, the People: American National Identity in Presidential Rhetoric, Texas A&M University Press (College Station, TX), 2004.

(Editor and author of introduction) Who Belongs in America? Presidents, Rhetoric, and Immigration, Texas A&M University Press (College Station, TX), 2006.


Born September 1, 1966, Vanessa B. Beasley is an associate professor of political rhetoric, media, and politics who has taught at several colleges and universities. She is especially interested in the political rhetoric used by American presidents when addressing the issues of immigration, the media, and politics itself, as well as that used generally by politicians in reference to gender, race, and ethnic diversity. One of her subjects is the effect of technology and new forms of media, such as Web sites and blogs, on the political atmosphere and the tactics of politicians.

Beasley's first book, You, the People: American National Identity in Presidential Rhetoric, examines presidential speeches and looks at how they have defined what it means to be an American. Citizenship is often defined in legal and geographical terms, but it has also been interpreted as a commitment to shared ideals. In America these ideals have historically included individualism, self-determination, equality, independence, and liberty, as well as the guarantees of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In her book, Beasley considers how these ideals came to be defined and shared by the community, and how presidential rhetoric has influenced the idea of a national identity. Among the issues Beasley addresses are immigration (both legal and illegal) and race and gender bias. She discusses how Americans have dismissed diversity in the name of commonality and treated minorities differently during stressful times.

In his review of the book for the Presidential Studies Quarterly, Richard J. Powell commented: "You, the People will be of greatest interest for scholars and students of rhetoric and American cultural history. … Readers will find some fascinating examples of how American presidents have rhetorically expounded upon some of the most critical cultural issues in U.S. history."

In her second book, Who Belongs in America? Presidents, Rhetoric, and Immigration, Beasley introduces and edits ten essays on the subject of immigration. Examining the rhetoric used by various presidents to address the subject of immigrants, the essays show how rhetoric frames contemporary discussion. Subjects include the bracero program, a government-sponsored program that ran from 1942 to 1964 and sought to support American agriculture by encouraging Mexican farmers to come to the United States to work in the fields; the "wetback problem" defined in 1954 in recognition of the many, mostly Mexican, illegal immigrants who crossed the Rio Grande River to work in the United States; and the direct-return policies that sought, and still seek, to repatriate illegal aliens to their home countries. By examining the history of American policies and attitudes, these essays "provide context [to] inform the public debate," according to the publisher's Web site.



Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, September, 2004, T.S. Langston, review of You, the People: American National Identity in Presidential Rhetoric, p. 188.

Presidential Studies Quarterly, March, 2006, Richard J. Powell, review of You, the People, p. 127.


Texas A&M University Press Web site, (April 9, 2008), synopsis of Who Belongs in America? Presidents, Rhetoric, and Immigration.

Vanderbilt University Web site, (April 9, 2008), brief faculty profile.