Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The purpose of this study was to analyze the rhetoric of Lee A. Iacocca as expressed in the thoughts and actions of the man; to explore rhetorical aspects of his popular myth-hero qualities; and to examine the rhetorical strategies Iacocca used in presenting his message. Criteria for the study were based on the rhetorical theories of Ernest Bormann, Lloyd Bitzer, and Kenneth Burke, with an emphasis on two of Aristotle's canons. In addition, the pattern for the myth-hero as presented by Joseph Campbell was a guide. These concepts blended into an interrelationship which helped illuminate the dimensions of Iacocca's rhetorical effectiveness. The methodology of Ernest Bormann's fantasy themes as they applied to a larger rhetorical vision was used as a framework for Iacocca's odyssey. Application of Joseph Campbell's pattern for the classical myth-hero figure was exemplified in Iacocca's success over formidable odds to become an industrial folk-hero. Lloyd Bitzer's theory of the rhetorical situation was applied to Lee Iacocca's experiences in overcoming obstacles and crises through appropriate and persuasive responses. For Iacocca, exigences abounded: prevailing over prejudices suffered as the child of immigrants, enduring the public humiliation of being fired as president of Ford Motor Company, and wresting a victory from the dramatic Chrysler turn-around as president of the near-bankrupt corporation. The audience addressed was not only Congress, from which Iacocca persuaded a $1.5 billion loan guarantee, but the American public who became emotionally engrossed in the struggle between the underdog individual and the impersonal government. Constraints broken and social realities altered were the revised interpretation of government financial intervention in a failing private enterprise, and a new approach to labor management problems. To these rhetorical visions and situations, Iacocca brought dynamic examples of Kenneth Burke's identification and consubstantiality, in addition to Aristotelian ethos and pathos. Lee Iacocca's rhetorical vision, a legacy from the Italian immigrant group, was strong enough to overcome the multiple crises of the rhetorical situation. As a child of immigrants, Lee Iacocca achieved the American Dream of success, and emerged as a significant spokesman for the reaffirmation of effective American values. The rhetoric of Lee Iacocca, reflected in the man, the myth, and his message lend contemporary credence to a revitalized realization of many traditional American beliefs.