Barack Obama’s speech at Nelson Mandela’s funeral service was an extremely effective piece of rhetoric. Obama’s speech, when analysed according to Aristotle’s five canons, clearly and effectively translates Obama’s message to the audience. The message that all people should take on the message Mandela left behind was articulated through the adoption of many rhetorical techniques. It ultimately was a developed, logical argument that successfully connected to the audience.
The first option for this assignment is to utilize President Barack Obama’s Inauguration speech given on Monday, January 21, 2013. A video of President Obama’s Inauguration speech is available to you in the Desire2Learn “Week 4” content area. The guidelines for writing a rhetorical analysis of the Inauguration speech are the same as those indicated for the article or essay option.
Despite the common employment of speech writers by most politicians, Senator Obama wrote the speech himself. By addressing the misunderstanding and miscommunication connected to and perpetrated by racism in America, the audience sees precisely how effective Obama’s speech is when examined through such lenses as the classical and 20th century rhetorical theories and concepts from Aristotle, Richard Weaver, Stephen Toulmin, Chaim Perelman, and Michel Foucault. Barack Obama’s speech echoes the rhetorical concepts of ethos, pathos, and logos that are explicitly discussed within Aristotle’s The Rhetoric.
Barack Obama has always been a recognized speaker who is capable of employing various rhetoric strategies to express his opinion concerning topical issues. His speaking competence is undoubtedly well-developed, though not all of his speeches have been successful throughout the years. Besides exploiting typical rhetorical strategies, his personal charisma and easily comprehensive, yet metaphoric language as well as a clear position regarding the raised questions have contributed to his overall persuasiveness. One of the speeches of then-Senator Barack Obama is entitled “The Connection between Faith and Politics”, dated June 28, 2006. Despite some of its shortcomings in terms of rhetorical means, this speech displays sufficient rhetorical skills of the speaker and a successful exploitation of various stylistic and rhetorical devices that argue for its inclusion in the “Well Made Arguments” chapter.
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In the discussed speech, Barack Obama raises the issue of the connection between politics and religion in the USA. He starts with mentioning his personal experience, when he was criticized by his political rival Alan Keyes of being not religious and not worthy of voting for. This instance of involving religious matters into political debates serves as an introduction to the issue that, according to Mr. Obama’s opinion, is quite urgent in the USA and needs comprehensive discussion. The speaker proceeds to describing his own religious views and the path that has led to accepting his faith as an integral part of his life. The speech accentuates afterwards the role of religion in political and social life of the nation. Barack Obama expresses the idea that religion has the capacity to influence people’s lives in terms of bringing social change and uniting all Americans into one strong nation. Religious pluralism is similar to the political one, yet the speaker states that it is even more essential for creating a healthy nation. He does not advocate for bringing religion into all aspects of secular life, but rather mentions in a quite liberal way that faith is a necessary component of a normal human development. His speech involves many instances referring to his personal experience and some samples from his own life aimed at proving his idea. In his speech, Barack Obama offers a rough draft of measures to be taken by progressives and conservatives in order to bring benefits for the whole country. He points out the misconceptions that exist among the Americans and which have to be eliminated for the sake of prosperity of the entire nation, which comprises representatives of miscellaneous religious groups as well as non-religious members. Finally, he expresses his hope that “we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all”. The speech is presented in a framing mode as it starts and ends with recollections from speaker’s life that he decides to share with the audience.
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Besides exploiting the rhetorical means of appealing to well-known people, Barack Obama emphasizes his nearness to ordinary Americans and his readiness to listen to everyone in the process of open discussion of the raised issue. Hence, he mentions his e-mail interaction with a doctor from the University of Chicago Medical School, whose letter made then-Senator reconsider his election campaign and alter some statements on his website. The doctor inspired Mr. Obama to do his best in thinking of everything in terms of “fair-minded words”. Describing this episode in detail is aimed at diminishing the distance between the politician and his electorate while subconsciously convincing the latter that he is one of them and will serve to benefit them. This stylistic device of eliminating the social distance is rather common for political speeches, yet it is still efficient in terms of persuasiveness.
The possibly greatest weakness of the Barack Obama’s speech is the overabundance of instances when referring to his personal experience. On the one hand, recollections of the past serve the purpose of making the speech more persuasive and involving. On the other hand, listeners who were not familiar with the speaker prior to this speech may feel confused by a great number of retrospections coming from different periods of his life that are not structured chronologically.
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Although Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama have their own set of unusual but at the same time befitting and advantageous circumstances, the former is a female candidate and the latter is a Black, Obama’s speech made him all the more outstanding and controversial. I guess it is imperative to include this certain topic …