A Rhetorical Analysis of “The perfect union” Barrack Obama
The first black president of America was known for his rhetorical strategies in his speech during his political life. Obama’s speeches used points and views that were always logically delivered using pathos, logos, and ethos (Dunn, 7). The perfect union was a speech he delivered back in 2008, that elicited argumentized reactions and debates among the audience. In his speeches, Obama addressed the audience with rhetorical statements on sensitive topics. Obama addresses issues of racial discrimination with intelligence without showing favoritism to any race. Being a black American president, he was cautious of the way he handled the issue of racism without showing any signs of discrimination, to ensure that he does not cause more drift between the two races.
However, the president was not shy to speak up his mind and stand on his ground as he spoke to the public. In his speech, he noted that there is a common feeling of rage and anger that exists between the two races, as the whites also assume that black people had better services (Burke, 15). He dispensed his wealth of knowledge by carefully selecting his words while discussing the issues that affected the American people. There is a clear indication that the president knew his audience well and that explains the reason why sensitive topics soothed the audience rather than creating conflict and aggressive reactions.
As he opened up his speech, “A more perfect union,” Obama quotes a phrase from the constitution of the United States, stating that,” We the people, to create a perfect union” (Dunn, 7). In his speech, he employs three strategies that represent emotional, logical and ethical fallacies. The quote from the constitution is a major statement that worked to bring the audience together by denoting the importance of the message. He continues to shower praise to the constitution, and assured the Americans to seek solutions to their problems from the constitution. He openly criticizes slavery that stained the American’s old way of life that was founded on the underlying rule of inequity.
Throughout his speech, Obama utilizes body language, gestures, and tonal variations to move the audience and draw them closer as he speaks facts about American cultural, intellectual and biological life. The language was politically evidenced by the use of political terminologies mainly to convince his supporters. Obama also employed repetition in his speech to persuade the Americans on not succumbing to racial discrimination as it is the enemy to the society’s union. During his speech, the word race is continuously repeated to plead with the audience to give attention to the issue. He states,” race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now” (Obama para. 26). He further adds in paragraph 45 and says “We can tackle race only as spectacle” (Burke, 15). These statements express the president’s disapproval of racism in the American community.
Along with his speech, he expresses disapproval towards slavery and the unfinished document. He uses a sad and sympathetic tone as he discusses the negative outcomes of slavery towards the nations’ economy and well-being. He uses irony to further drive this message home by stating that the burden of many years of slavery was left for the generations to come (Burke, 15). This statement deeply penetrates the mind of the listeners as they try to visualize how they are secretly paying for the sins committed by the generation of their forefathers. It, therefore, pushes the American to finally decide to disagree with all types of slavery for the sake of their children and grandchildren generations to come.
The use of direct speech is also evident in his statements where he says, “I believe deeply we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together” (Fengjie, Li, Ren Jia, and Zhang Yingying, 146). Through this and other direct speeches, the president shows his dedication towards unity and his willingness to protect American society from societal conflicts. He constantly mentions the importance of togetherness and supports his arguments with convincing backup stories from his cultural and spiritual life impressing the crowd even more. This tactic of sharing personal life experiences and using directness in his speech creates an emotional bond between him and the audience who positively responds to the message.
Barrack Obama ended the speech by giving the Americans hope and assurance using encouraging statements such as, “We can do it” (Burke, 15). This slogan gave his audience the power and courage to come together as one and tackle the issues that were dragging the nation down. The use of rhetorical statements in his speech is meant to cautiously handle sensitive issues that needed to be addressed without causing mass negative reactions. The president was both an intellect writer and speaker by his ability to fine-tune complex words and apply different styles and devices to reach his audience. This speech is among the many others that the president gave, which depicted his level of intelligence and gave the reasons behind his successful campaigns.
Burke, Kenneth. Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method. Berkeley: University of California Press. Print.5.5 (1966): 12-56
Dunn, R. Chase. “The Future is in Good Hands”: A Pentadic Analysis of President Barack Obama’s Farewell Address.” Kaleidoscope: A Graduate Journal of Qualitative Communication Research 17.1 (2018): 7.
Fengjie, Li, Ren Jia, and Zhang Yingying. “Analysis of the Rhetorical Devices in Obama’s Public Speeches.” International Journal of Language and Linguistics 4.4 (2016): 141- 146.
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