BGSU grad honored for Truman book


BOWLING GREEN - A Wood County native and graduate of Bowling Green State University and Otsego High School has won a prestigious award for a book she wrote about a famous speech delivered by President Harry Truman.

Denise Bostdorff, professor of communication studies at the College of Wooster, is the recipient of the Bruce E. Gronbeck Political Communication Research Award for Proclaiming the Truman Doctrine: The Cold War Call to Arms, published by Texas A&M University Press.

The book - a study of the Truman Doctrine speech, which the then-president delivered to a joint session of Congress in March of 1947 - was described by Truman biographer Robert H. Ferrell as "the first full-length rhetorical analysis of the most important document produced by the Truman Administration. … And she has done it in the proper way. … This is the book on the subject."

Another reviewer, Mary E. Stuckey, wrote: "Bostdorff provides a well-written, thorough, and thoughtful analysis of the Truman Doctrine speech. She locates the speech in both its historical and institutional contexts, arguing forcefully for the pivotal role rhetoric plays in our public affairs. … "

In the speech, Mr. Truman made the case for giving financial support to Greece and Turkey, whose governments were at risk of falling to subversion instigated by the Soviet Union.

Congress appropriated $400 million to fund a successful effort to keep the two countries from going Communist.

"I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures," President Truman said, outlining a policy that would become known as the Truman Doctrine.

Ms. Bostdorff said the speech set the framework for the Cold War that was to follow. "This was the first indication publicly of where we were headed," she explained.

The Cold War and Soviet Union are only vague subjects to most of her young students, she said, but the study of political rhetoric must necessarily involve absorbing a lot of historical context.

For part of her research, Ms. Bostdorff spent almost two weeks in the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Mo., over the course of four summers. She saw early drafts of the speech and took note of the changes that were made. She also interviewed former Truman aide George Elsey.

Ms. Bostdorff said she returns to the Bowling Green area regularly. Her parents live on a farm between Haskins and Bowling Green.

After graduating from BGSU in 1982, she received a master's degree from the University of Illinois and a PhD from Purdue University.