Analysis of Barack Obama’s victory speech

Synopsis/Summary:

Politics is grasped through struggle, influence, control and power. In this regard, language plays a significant part in every politician’s life. Language plays a crucial role, as the world is powered, played and manipulated through language, as it is a powerful instrument for talk and communication all around the world (Denton, Robert and Hahn). My dissertation aims to analyse the powerful speech on the inauguration of Barack Obama. The dissertation will focus on the theoretical background as well as looking at the powerful speech and examine the persuasive strategies of Barack Obama and how techniques in language were used to influence the USA and the rest of the world. I will be focusing on metaphors, metonymies, connotations, the rule of three in speeches- the power of three alliteration and repetition, amplifying words by drawing contrasts, the use of personal pronouns such as I, you and we as well as body language and gestures, with their pragmatic functions in a political context. Other features of language I will be focusing on are modal words. Then we have triplets which are used to help build up volume, create rhythm and momentum. I will look at the purpose of this speech, what factors of context are influential on the language use, language specific to this speech, the significance of non-verbal features and the purpose of political propaganda.

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Method

This project will concentrate on President Obama’s victory speech to determine how he applied rhetorical strategies in delivering his message as well as evoke inspiration. This research will focus on the textual analysis as well as conduct a body language analysis of the president’s performance. The research will account the chosen theories of genre and rhetoric. Aristotle’s Classical Rhetoric theories will be used to conduct the analysis of the rhetorical techniques and strategies given below which were used by the president in the Victory Speech. One of the things which will be analysed is the application of a rhetorical situation which accounts for a number of elements including the topic being discussed, his audience and the relationship between the topic being discussed, his audience as well as the rhetoric. The spatial arrangements’ and rhetoric’s reputation through which the rhetor addresses an issue with an audience will also be accounted for in the rhetorical situation (Crowley and Hawhee, p.27).

Another item that will be analysed is proofs or arguments which are both of three types, pathos, ethos and logos, applied by the president to convince his audience or listeners (Rapp, p. site). The rhetoric’s Classical Canons or rhetoric division will also be analysed to make clear of the invention, the arrangement, the style (ornament and composition), the memory as well as delivery of the speech (Crowley and Hawhee, p.36). This work will also examine the genre features of President Obama’s Victory Speech to find out whether or not he applied the traditional elements of the genre. The particular elements that will be analysed here include reconstitution and unification of the audience, venerating the nation’s past and rehearsing national values, putting forward political principles and agenda to be followed by the administration, appreciating and acknowledging the mandate given by the constitution and the people as well as possible limitations (Campbell and Jamieson, p.14).

Analysis of Current Research

The history of the United States’ president’ discourse shows how they influenced public opinion on administration policies or historical movements by employing logical, emotional and ethical rhetorical appeals (Kennedy, p.9). Obama also followed his nation’s forefathers and applied rhetorical strategies and appeals in his victory speech that will be evaluated in this study. Analysis of rhetoric is a comprehensive assessment of various life aspects which affect people’s emotions or behaviour (Williams, p.18). Therefore, analysis of rhetoric has immense importance in a social and academic context. Before analysing Obama’s Victory Speech, it is crucial to understand the historical backgrounds of the genres, theories and rhetoric of such speeches. There are similar trends in the rhetoric of American presidents (Lim, p.328). A look at the American president’s rhetoric from 1789 through 2000 with the help of computer-assisted analysis of content revealed a substantial transformation of the presidential rhetoric (Lim, p.330). Previous research shows that the rhetoric used by Obama was different because of the change in the speaker’s identity, the change in rhetorical audience and situations as well as the change in artefacts (Menz, p.20). Such literature will help shed light in analysing Obama’s Victory’s Speech.

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Works Cited

  • Campbell, Karlyn Kohrs, and Kathleen Hall Jamieson. "Form and genre: Shaping rhetorical action." (1978).
  • Debra, Hawhee. "Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students." (2004).
  • Denton, Robert E., and Dan F. Hahn. Presidential communication: Description and analysis. Praeger Publishers, 1986.
  • Kennedy, George Alexander. The Art of Rhetoric in the Roman World: 300 BC-AD 300. Vol. 2. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2008.
  • Lim, Elvin T. "Five trends in presidential rhetoric: An analysis of rhetoric from George Washington to Bill Clinton." Presidential Studies Quarterly 32.2 (2002): 328-348.
  • Menz, Julian. "Obama. In his own words: The candidate and the president." (2009).
  • Williams, Rania L. The English language, South Africa and Nelson Mandela: A case for rhetorical urgency and a strategy for rhetorical success. Diss. University of Florida, 2008.

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