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Election 2008

Transcript of barack obama's victory speech, obama's victory speech.

In these prepared remarks provided by his campaign, President-Elect Barack Obama calls himself the unlikeliest presidential candidate. He thanks many members of his campaign, along with his enormous army of volunteers, and he warns supporters about what he calls the enormity of the tasks at hand that now face the U.S. He concludes by telling an anecdote about a 106-year-old African-American voter from Atlanta.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled — Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of red states and blue states; we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Sen. McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Gov. Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the vice-president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation's next first lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager, David Plouffe; my chief strategist, David Axelrod; and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics — you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to — it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington — it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election, and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime — two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year, or even one term, but America — I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you: We as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for 221 years — block by block, brick by brick, callused hand by callused hand.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek — it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers. In this country, we rise or fall as one nation — as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House — a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends... Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection." And, to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president, too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world — our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight, we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America — that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election, except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons — because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America — the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes, we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes, we can.

When there was despair in the Dust Bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes, we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes, we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes, we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes, we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves: If our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time — to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

Related NPR Stories

Transcript of john mccain's concession speech.

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Why it worked: A rhetorical analysis of Obama’s speech on race

rhetorical devices obama's victory speech

The National Conference of Teachers of English (NCTE) has declared today a National Day on Writing.  I celebrate such a day.  The introduction of my book "Writing Tools" imagines what America might look like and sound like if we declared ourselves a “nation of writers.” After all, what good is freedom of expression if we lack the means to express ourselves?

To mark this day – and to honor language arts teachers everywhere – Poynter is republishing an essay I wrote almost a decade ago.  Remember? It was the spring of 2008 and Barack Obama was running for president. Many of us wondered if America was ready to elect an African-American president (a man with the middle name Hussein).

To dispel the fears of some white Americans and to advance his chances for election, Obama delivered a major address on race in America, a speech that was praised even by some of his adversaries. Obama had/has a gift for language. He is a skilled orator. To neutralize that advantage, his opponents – including Hillary Clinton at one point – would characterize Obama’s words as empty “rhetoric” – an elaborate trick of language.

The Spring of 2008 seems like such a long time ago.  A time just before the Great Recession.  A time just before the ascendancy of social networks and the trolls who try to poison them.  A time before black lives were said to matter in a more assertive way. A time before fake news was anything more dangerous that a piece of satire in the Onion. A time before Colin Kaepernick took a knee — except when he was tired.  A time before torch-bearing white supremacists marched through the night in Charlottesville, Virginia.   

It feels like the perfect time for a restart on a conversation about race. To prepare us, let’s take another look at the words of Barack Obama before he was president. Let’s review what he said, and, more important, how and why he said it. My X-ray analysis of that speech is meant not as a final word on that historical moment, but as an invitation, a doorway to a room where we can all reflect on American history and the American language.

Have a great National Day on Writing.  

More than a century ago, scholar and journalist W.E.B. DuBois wrote a single paragraph about how race is experienced in America. I have learned more from those 112 words than from most book-length studies of the subject:

After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world, a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, — an American, a Negro;  two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder."

Much has been said about the power and brilliance of Barack Obama's March 18 speech on race, even by some of his detractors. The focus has been on the orator's willingness to say things in public about race that are rarely spoken at all, even in private, and his expressed desire to move the country to a new and better place. There has also been attention to the immediate purpose of the speech, which was to reassure white voters that they had nothing to fear from the congregant of a fiery African-American pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. 

Amid all the commentary, I have yet to see an X-Ray reading of the text that would make visible the rhetorical strategies that the orator and authors used so effectively. When received in the ear, these effects breeze through us like a harmonious song. When inspected with the eye, these moves become more apparent, like reading a piece of sheet music for a difficult song and finally recognizing the chord changes.

Such analysis, while interesting in itself, might be little more than a scholarly curiosity if we were not so concerned with the language issues of political discourse. The popular opinion is that our current president, though plain spoken, is clumsy with language. Fair or not, this perception has produced a hope that our next president will be a more powerful communicator, a Kennedy or Reagan, perhaps, who can use language less as a way to signal ideology and more as a means to bring the disparate parts of the nation together. Journalists need to pay closer attention to political language than ever before.

Like most memorable pieces of oratory, Obama's speech sounds better than it reads. We have no way of knowing if that was true of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, but it is certainly true of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. If you doubt this assertion, test it out. Read the speech and then experience it in its original setting recited by his soulful voice.

The effectiveness of Obama's speech rests upon four related rhetorical strategies:

1.  The power of allusion and its patriotic associations. 2.  The oratorical resonance of parallel constructions. 3.  The "two-ness" of the texture, to use DuBois's useful term. 4.  His ability to include himself as a character in a narrative about race.

Allusion Part of what made Dr. King's speech resonate, not just for black people, but for some whites, was its framing of racial equality in familiar patriotic terms: "This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning, 'My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty of thee I sing.  Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.'"  What follows, of course, is King's great litany of iconic topography that carries listeners across the American landscape: "Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!…"

In this tradition, Obama begins with "We the people, in order to form a more perfect union," a quote from the Constitution that becomes a recurring refrain linking the parts of the speech. What comes next is "Two hundred and twenty one years ago," an opening that places him in the tradition of Lincoln at Gettysburg and Dr. King at the Lincoln Memorial: "Five score years ago."

On the first page, Obama mentions the words democracy, Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia convention, 1787, the colonies, the founders, the Constitution, liberty, justice, citizenship under the law, parchment, equal, free, prosperous, and the presidency. It is not as well known as it should be that many black leaders, including Dr. King, use two different modes of discourse when addressing white vs. black audiences, an ignorance that has led to some of the hysteria over some of Rev. Wright's comments.

Obama's patriotic lexicon is meant to comfort white ears and soothe white fears. What keeps the speech from falling into a pandering sea of slogans is language that reveals, not the ideals, but the failures of the American experiment: "It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations." And "what would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part … to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time."

Lest a dark vision of America disillusion potential voters, Obama returns to familiar evocations of national history, ideals, and language:

— "Out of many, we are truly one." — "survived a Depression." — "a man who served his country" — "on a path of a more perfect union" — "a full measure of justice" — "the immigrant trying to feed his family" — "where our union grows stronger" — "a band of patriots signed that document."

Parallelism At the risk of calling to mind the worst memories of grammar class, I invoke the wisdom that parallel constructions help authors and orators make meaning memorable. To remember how parallelism works, think of equal terms to express equal ideas. So Dr. King dreamed that one day his four children "will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." ( By the content of their character is parallel to by the color of their skin .)

Back to Obama: "This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign — to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America." If you are counting, that's five parallel phrases among 43 words. 

And there are many more:

Two-ness I could argue that Obama's speech is a meditation upon DuBois' theory of a dual experience of race in America. There is no mention of DuBois or two-ness, but it is all there in the texture. In fact, once you begin the search, it is remarkable how many examples of two-ness shine through:

— "through protests and struggles" — "on the streets and in the courts" — "through civil war and civil disobedience" — "I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas." — "white and black" — "black and brown" — "best schools … poorest nations" — "too black or not black enough" — "the doctor and the welfare mom" — "the model student and the former gang-banger …" — "raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor" — "political correctness or reverse racism" — "your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams"

Such language manages to create both tension and balance and, without being excessively messianic, permits Obama to present himself as the bridge builder, the reconciler of America's racial divide.

Autobiography There is an obnoxious tendency among political candidates to frame their life story as a struggle against poverty or hard circumstances. As satirist Stephen Colbert once noted of presidential candidates, it is not enough to be an average millionaire. To appeal to populist instincts it becomes de rigueur to be descended from "goat turd farmers" in France.

Without dwelling on it, Obama reminds us that his father was black and his mother white, that he came from Kenya, but she came from Kansas: "I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slave and slave owners — an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles, and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible."

The word "story" is revealing one, for it is always the candidate's job (as both responsibility and ploy) to describe himself or herself as a character in a story of his or her own making. In speeches, as in homilies, stories almost always carry the weight of parable, with moral lessons to be drawn.

Most memorable, of course, is the story at the end of the speech — which is why it appears at the end. It is the story of Ashley Baia, a young, white, Obama volunteer from South Carolina, whose family was so poor she convinced her mother that her favorite meal was a mustard and relish sandwich. 

"Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue.  And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. … He simply says to everyone in the room, 'I am here because of Ashley.'"

During most of the 20th century, demagogues, especially in the South, gained political traction by pitting working class whites and blacks against each other. How fitting, then, that Obama's story points in the opposite direction through an old black man who feels a young white woman's pain.  

CORRECTION : An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed the phrase, "We the people, in order to form a more perfect union" to the Declaration of Independence.

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rhetorical devices obama's victory speech

Analysis of the Rhetorical Devices in Obama’s Public Speeches

Foreign Languages Department, School of Humanities, Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, Tianjin, China

The Department of Linguistics and Translation, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

Zhang Yingying

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rhetorical devices obama's victory speech

A successful speech can not only spur loud applause of the audience but also enlighten them. Public speech is made to exert much influence on the public in a short time, thus achieving the speech-maker’s aim. Being one of the most powerful Presidents in the history of the United States, Obama has been asserting himself among the American people via his enthusiastic and infectious speech. There are many factors attributing to Obama’s success in speech, one of which is that he skillfully applies a variety of rhetorical devices in his various speeches. Therefore, it’s needed to analyze rhetorical devices and their effects in some of his speeches to provide reference for the people who want to make a brilliant speech. With language rhetoric of Neo-Aristotle rhetoric as the theoretical framework, this paper will study four of Obama’s speeches from the perspective of lexical devices, phonological devices and syntactical devices in order to explore the functions of applying these three categories of rhetorical devices. Seven rhetorical devices are to be discussed with regard to their applications and effects in Obama’s speeches. They are alliteration, simile, metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, antithesis and parallelism. Finally, some suggestions on speech and rhetoric devices will be offered.

Public Speeches, Language Rhetoric, Semantic Device, Phonological Device, Syntactical Device

Li Fengjie, Ren Jia, Zhang Yingying. (2016). Analysis of the Rhetorical Devices in Obama’s Public Speeches. International Journal of Language and Linguistics , 4 (4), 141-146. https://doi.org/10.11648/j.ijll.20160404.11

rhetorical devices obama's victory speech

Li Fengjie; Ren Jia; Zhang Yingying. Analysis of the Rhetorical Devices in Obama’s Public Speeches. Int. J. Lang. Linguist. 2016 , 4 (4), 141-146. doi: 10.11648/j.ijll.20160404.11

Li Fengjie, Ren Jia, Zhang Yingying. Analysis of the Rhetorical Devices in Obama’s Public Speeches. Int J Lang Linguist . 2016;4(4):141-146. doi: 10.11648/j.ijll.20160404.11

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Barack Obama's victory speech – full text

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. (Sustained cheers, applause.)

Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward . (Cheers, applause.)

It moves forward because of you. It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family, and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people. (Cheers, applause.)

Tonight, in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.

(Cheers, applause.) I want to thank every American who participated in this election. (Cheers, applause.) Whether you voted for the very first time (cheers) or waited in line for a very long time (cheers) – by the way, we have to fix that – (cheers, applause) – whether you pounded the pavement or picked up the phone (cheers, applause), whether you held an Obama sign or a Romney sign, you made your voice heard and you made a difference. (Cheers, applause.)

I just spoke with Governor Romney and I congratulated him and Paul Ryan on a hard-fought campaign. (Cheers, applause.) We may have battled fiercely, but it's only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future. From George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service. And that is a legacy that we honour and applaud tonight. (Cheers, applause.) In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.

(Cheers, applause.)

I want to thank my friend and partner of the last four years, America's happy warrior, the best vice-president anybody could ever hope for, Joe Biden. (Cheers, applause.)

And I wouldn't be the man I am today without the woman who agreed to marry me 20 years ago. (Cheers, applause.) Let me say this publicly. Michelle, I have never loved you more. (Cheers, applause.) I have never been prouder to watch the rest of America fall in love with you too as our nation's first lady. (Cheers, applause.)

Sasha and Malia – (cheers, applause) – before our very eyes, you're growing up to become two strong, smart, beautiful young women, just like your mom. (Cheers, applause.) And I am so proud of you guys. But I will say that, for now, one dog's probably enough. (Laughter.)

To the best campaign team and volunteers in the history of politics – (cheers, applause) – the best – the best ever – (cheers, applause) – some of you were new this time around, and some of you have been at my side since the very beginning.

(Cheers, applause.) But all of you are family. No matter what you do or where you go from here, you will carry the memory of the history we made together. (Cheers, applause.) And you will have the lifelong appreciation of a grateful president. Thank you for believing all the way – (cheers, applause) – to every hill, to every valley. (Cheers, applause.) You lifted me up the whole day, and I will always be grateful for everything that you've done and all the incredible work that you've put in. (Cheers, applause.)

I know that political campaigns can sometimes seem small, even silly. And that provides plenty of fodder for the cynics who tell us that politics is nothing more than a contest of egos or the domain of special interests. But if you ever get the chance to talk to folks who turned out at our rallies and crowded along a rope line in a high school gym or – or saw folks working late at a campaign office in some tiny county far away from home, you'll discover something else.

You'll hear the determination in the voice of a young field organiser who's working his way through college and wants to make sure every child has that same opportunity. (Cheers, applause.) You'll hear the pride in the voice of a volunteer who's going door to door because her brother was finally hired when the local auto plant added another shift. (Cheers, applause.)

You'll hear the deep patriotism in the voice of a military spouse who's working the phones late at night to make sure that no one who fights for this country ever has to fight for a job or a roof over their head when they come home. (Cheers, applause.)

That's why we do this. That's what politics can be. That's why elections matter. It's not small, it's big. It's important. Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy. That won't change after tonight. And it shouldn't. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty, and we can never forget that as we speak, people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter – (cheers, applause) – the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.

But despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America's future.

We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the best teachers – (cheers, applause) – a country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation – (scattered cheers, applause) – with all of the good jobs and new businesses that follow.

We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened up by inequality, that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet. (Cheers, applause.)

We want to pass on a country that's safe and respected and admired around the world, a nation that is defended by the strongest military on Earth and the best troops this – this world has ever known – (cheers, applause) – but also a country that moves with confidence beyond this time of war to shape a peace that is built on the promise of freedom and dignity for every human being.

We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America open to the dreams of an immigrant's daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag – (cheers, applause) – to the young boy on the south side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner – (cheers, applause) – to the furniture worker's child in North Carolina who wants to become a doctor or a scientist, an engineer or an entrepreneur, a diplomat or even a president.

That's the – (cheers, applause) – that's the future we hope for.

(Cheers, applause.) That's the vision we share. That's where we need to go – forward. (Cheers, applause.) That's where we need to go. (Cheers, applause.)

Now, we will disagree, sometimes fiercely, about how to get there. As it has for more than two centuries, progress will come in fits and starts. It's not always a straight line. It's not always a smooth path. By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won't end all the gridlock, resolve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward.

But that common bond is where we must begin. Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. (Cheers, applause.) A long campaign is now over. (Cheers, applause.) And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you. I have learned from you. And you've made me a better president. And with your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead. (Cheers, applause.)

Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual. (Cheers, applause.) You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours.

And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together – reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We've got more work to do. (Cheers, applause.)

But that doesn't mean your work is done. The role of citizens in our democracy does not end with your vote. America's never been about what can be done for us; it's about what can be done by us together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. (Cheers, applause.) That's the principle we were founded on.

This country has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military in history, but that's not what makes us strong. Our university, our culture are all the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores. What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth, the belief that our destiny is shared – (cheers, applause) – that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations, so that the freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for come with responsibilities as well as rights, and among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism. That's what makes America great. (Cheers, applause.)

I am hopeful tonight because I have seen this spirit at work in America. I've seen it in the family business whose owners would rather cut their own pay than lay off their neighbours and in the workers who would rather cut back their hours than see a friend lose a job. I've seen it in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb and in those Seals who charged up the stairs into darkness and danger because they knew there was a buddy behind them watching their back. (Cheers, applause.) I've seen it on the shores of New Jersey and New York, where leaders from every party and level of government have swept aside their differences to help a community rebuild from the wreckage of a terrible storm. (Cheers, applause.)

And I saw it just the other day in Mentor, Ohio, where a father told the story of his eight-year-old daughter whose long battle with leukaemia nearly cost their family everything had it not been for healthcare reform passing just a few months before the insurance company was about to stop paying for her care. (Cheers, applause.) I had an opportunity to not just talk to the father but meet this incredible daughter of his. And when he spoke to the crowd, listening to that father's story, every parent in that room had tears in their eyes because we knew that little girl could be our own.

And I know that every American wants her future to be just as bright. That's who we are. That's the country I'm so proud to lead as your president. (Cheers, applause.)

And tonight, despite all the hardship we've been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I've never been more hopeful about our future. (Cheers, applause.) I have never been more hopeful about America. And I ask you to sustain that hope.

[Audience member: "We got your back, Mr President!"]

I'm not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the road blocks that stand in our path. I'm not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight. I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting. (Cheers, applause.)

America, I believe we can build on the progress we've made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunities and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founding, the idea that if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn't matter whether you're black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. (Cheers, applause.) You can make it here in America if you're willing to try.

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We're not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)

And together, with your help and God's grace, we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on earth. (Cheers, applause.) Thank you, America. (Cheers, applause.) God bless you. God bless these United States. (Cheers, applause.)

  • Barack Obama
  • US elections 2012
  • US politics

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Uncategorized | Rhetorical Devices in Barack Obama’s 2013…

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Uncategorized | rhetorical devices in barack obama’s 2013 inauguration speech.


Having completed the inaugural day festivities and surprising guests on White House tours, President Barack Obama will be heading back to the work of governing the country.

While he does so, we decided to take a look at many of the rhetorical strategies he employed in his inaugural address. Points of the speech are identified by times they occur in the video below.

for the transcript of the speech.

I. Start slowly and with an increasingly broad audience. (0:56 to 1:08)

Obama has been compared to a preacher. He began his address as many preachers do by speaking slowly and gradually acknowledging the audiences to whom he was speaking. He started with his Vice President, moved to Chief Justice John Roberts and the members of Congress before turning to his fellow citizens. By doing this he respected the power of the political offices and made it clear that he is part of the citizenry.

II. Ground the address in the founding documents and religions and the promises they contain. (1:12 to 2:22)

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States are arguably the most important documents in American political history. Obama explicitly drew on them when he read the opening sentence of the Declaration of Independence, spoke about the affirmation of the Constitution by holding the inauguration and repeatedly said, “We, the people,” which are the first words of the Constitution’s preamble. Obama also asserted the Americans’ allegiance to the idea of democracy makes us exceptional.

III. Insert religion into the speech. (2:47 to 2:53)

Although there is constitutionally-mandated separation of Church and State in the United States, political leaders of both stripes often ground their speeches in mentions of God at the beginning and ending of their addresses. Obama was no different, saying that freedom is a gift from God and closing by asking God to bless the people who attend and the country as a whole.

IV. Refer to political hero Abraham Lincoln. (3:10 to 3:16, 3:30 to 3:41)

Obama’s positive regard for the 16th President, another lawyer from Illinois, is no secret. In his address, he twice referred to him. First time alluded to closing of the Gettysburg Address, the second time he quoted directly from Lincoln’s 1858 House Divided speech, which he delivered at the Illinois State Capitol.

V. Place the current moment in an historic context and introduce a central metaphor. (3:24 to 4:26)

Obama placed the current moment in an historic context of Americans’ acting to make the promises of the nation real and meeting the challenges set before them. He talked about coming through the Civil War as a free nation, building a modern economy and deciding to care for the poor and vulnerable in the society. These are the earlier stages of the never-ending journey he describes. The image of the journey provided coherence for the earlier actions and set Obama up for his later assertion that the journey is an incomplete one.

VI. Emphasize the task’s collective nature. (4:47 to 5:41)

Obama did this in several different ways. He specifically said that preserving individual freedom takes collective action and said that the nation’s challenges can only be met if we act as one nation and one people.

VII. Use repetition.

This is another preacherly device that Obama used throughout his speech. He used “You and I” two times, “Together, we” three times, said “We, the people” four times and declared that our “Our journey is not yet complete” five times. These phrases reinforced the underlying message and built emotional momentum.

VIII. Dispute assumed contradictions. (8:24 to 8:53, 11:27 to 11:38)

Obama has done this throughout his career, perhaps most famously where he said in the 2004 Democratic National Convention that there are no blue or red states, but only the United States of America. Here he said that the nation does not have to choose between caring for the previous generation and investing in young people and that lasting security does not require perpetual war.

IX. Articulate a combination of beliefs and specific issues. (10:02 to 11:24)

This is a reciprocal process of pointing to specific issues like climate change with a statement of belief, in this case that we are have a responsibility to posterity. By talking about both Obama sought to avoid being overly technocratic and policy oriented on the one hand, and excessively ungrounded on the other.

X. Mention key social movements as an illustration of We the People. (13:46 to 14:23)

Obama made it clear that he considers people whose rights were not initially granted during the constitution an integral part of the people who have ennobled the nation through their struggles to have it be true to the common creed. This list includes the women’s rights supporters who gathered at Seneca Falls, the civil rights marchers who protested and were beaten in Selma, Alabama, and the gay and lesbian people who protested their abuse during the Stonewall riots in 1970. Obama also paid tribute to the ordinary people who participated in the March on Washington in 1963, specifically mentioning Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He used the same line about coming to hearing “a King” in his presidential announcement in February 2007.

XI. Build to an emotional crescendo and define the task of the moment. (14:30 to 16:16)

Obama started speaking with more energy and volume and emotional force as he progressed. By saying our journey is not complete, Obama asserted that there is still more work to be done that is our generation’s task. He said that it is our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began before identifying the specific tasks that need to be accomplished and then making the broader point that the ultimate goal is to make the rights and values that Jefferson articulated in the Declaration of Independence real for every American.

XII. Acknowledge humility. (17:13 to 17:38)

Obama says openly that the work will not be completed, but rather will be imperfect and taken up by subsequent generations. But it must be undertaken now.

XII. State the connection between his efforts and that of ordinary Americans. (17:44 to 18:28)

In addition to making it clear that he is also a citizen in his the opening of his address, Obama described the oath of office he had just taken as very similar to that of an immigrant taking an oath of citizenship-here he appeared to be signaling his commitment to immigration reform-a soldier enlisting in the army, or other Americans pledging allegiance to the flag.

XIV. Close with religion and country. (19:21 to 19:25)

It is a standard element of American political speeches to end by asking God to bless the people in attendance and the country as a whole.

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