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Obama’s 2008 Campaign Speeches – Rhetorical and Prosodic Perspectives
Mémoire présenté pour l'obtention du Master 2 Recherche en linguistique anglaise Sous la direction de M. le professeur Nicolas Ballier Année universitaire 2010-11 Soutenu le 28 juin 2011 Jury : Agnès CELLE, professeure à l‟université Paris Diderot - Paris 7 (examinateur) Nicolas BALLIER, professeur à l‟université Paris Diderot - Paris 7 (directeur)
“If only I could just find the right words. […] With the right words, everything could change.” Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father (New York City: Three Rivers Press, 2004, 2nd edn), p.106.
My most important intellectual debt goes to Professor Nicolas Ballier who has assisted me with precious advice and many encouragements all along. He provided me with excellent guidance. His useful comments opened new and essential directions and oriented me toward key-references. May he also be thanked for carefully reading the final draft and suggesting ways of improving it. I would also like to thank all those who indirectly influenced this work, whose analyses provided thought-provoking insights into Obama‟s rhetorical and oratorical characteristics. Their names can be found in the References section and throughout this dissertation. I believe it is fitting to add a few words on the person whose voice inspired this work: President Barack Obama. It has been both intellectually stimulating and personally fascinating to work on his 2008 campaign speeches. I would finally thank my parents, my brother Giovanni and my friends for their support all along.
............... John McCain......TABLE OF CONTENTS … TABLE OF CONTENTS ... 2............ 28 1.............................................................................................. The height of the primary campaign ...................1......................4................3........4.....................1.........2..............................................2....................................................................................................2.............................1. 11 1.................................... Structure of Obama‟s speeches ................................................................... 30 1..........2.................1.............. 14 1........................................ 10 1............................................................... Obama the political rhetorician ................. Obama on Obama ............................................3...........2....................................................................................3.........1....................1.....1...............3......................................................................................................................2.........1........1...................................................................................................................................... 3........................... 1 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS .2...... Analysis of the stump speech and of its evolution .........................3..... 22 1.......................... 15 1............ 17 1....... Hillary Clinton ........... The rhetorical proofs at play in Obama‟s speeches ................................ 32 1........... The flourishing rhetorical imagery and characteristic stylistic devices... The minor use of arguments...................... Epideictic oratory in Obama‟s speeches.1.... The appeal to emotions .....................2........................... 5 1.. The opponents .......... 20 1....... 17 1.................... 4 INTRODUCTION ...... 17 1.....................................................1................ 27 1.............. From the Whistle-Stop Tour to the Inauguration ............................................... 35 1 .................1....................................... 13 1..... Praise of America and Americans ............................ 11 1.... Specific speeches ....................................2........... Targeting anonymous groups .................. 17 1..................................................................................3.............
.......................................2.. The tone of a preacher .1.........................3........3..1..................1.4....................2..2......... “A more perfect union” ...................2...2...................................2..........................2..............................................2......... 51 2..........................2........................................................................................... Shifting back and forth between “we” and “I” ..................................................5...... 71 2.................... 90 3.......... A post-racial discourse? ..........................2............3..........2...................... Using the motifs and stylistic devices used in sermons ......... The influence of black church rhetoric ...... 55 2.....................1............................... 47 2...................................2.. 63 2.........1....................................3... Obama the modern politician .... 80 3...........2............ 96 3..... Non-verbal references .... 44 2. 58 2..... Determining who “we” refers to.3.................................................. 51 2............2........................................... Adopting the techniques of the Black Church ...... 40 2.................. Acting as a preacher .........2..2...................1........................................ 92 3...... Verbal references .............. Forging unity through words .. Obama‟s rhetorical frame: where the religious meets the political ..................................... 83 3.................................... The building-up of a crescendo in the overall structure..................................................... 96 3........................ Obama‟s personal narratives ............. 68 2..............................................2........................... 77 3.. Obama the Preacher ..................... The use of repetition ......... The structure and main components of the sermon ............................................2............................................................................. References to race prior to “A more perfect union” ............................................. 76 3...... 59 2................................................... 104 2 ........................... The nature of religious discourse in black churches...1.........1.............................. Opposing “we” to “they” ........2....................................... 60 2......................................................... 77 3..2..1..........................4...1..........1.......... Redefining America‟s national identity ..1.. Use of the personal pronoun “we” (and possessive determiner “our”)................... 77 3....... 53 2.1..............2......................2...............1........................................................................1........... 56 2....2............1......2..............5.................. 88 3............. Looking at the world through the prism of Black Church values ..4...... A clearly defined yet not-so-rigid pattern........................................... 92 3.. 85 3........1...................................... 73 3............ 39 2..........4...............2.....2...........2............. 41 2...... What the tone reveals beyond the message .................................1...........................2......... 85 3....................1.....................2...1........... Call-and-response ............................................................................... Prefabs based on the personal narratives of anonymous Americans ................... The Ashley Baia story ...2......5............... The use of hypotyposis ..............2..... 53 2.....................2.2............2...........................2.............................1...........................1............................. 72 2.......................2..........................1.................. The manifold parallels with Lincoln ..1...1..............1.....................................2............................ The functions of the toponyms . Obama the storyteller ......................3..................
.................................................... 130 3 ............................... 120 BIBLIOGRAPHY .............................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 106 3.......................... 112 APPENDIX ..........................................3.................................................................................................... Using MLK‟s words .......................................................... Echoing MLK ...... 123 INDEX .. 117 TIMELINE OF KEY-SPEECHES ..3....................................................... 108 CONCLUSION .........................1............................................3.................2.................................................................. 106 3...................................................................3................................................. Sounding like MLK?..............................
8 Prosograms of how Blacks and Whites pronounce “yes we can”. 2008) – PRAAT. 2008) – PRAAT.110.87. Fig.12 They said 2 Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. Fig.93. Fig.5 Ebenezer 2 – PRAAT. p.93. p.99.7 Ebenezer 4 – PRAAT. p. p. p. Fig. January 8. Fig.LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS … Fig. Fig.6 Ebenezer 3 – PRAAT.95. January 3.2 Presentation of Ashley Baia in “A more perfect union” (March 18.13 Prosograms: Barack Obama and Martin Luther King‟s utterances of “We cannot walk alone”.3 Equilibrium and tricolon (Announcement Speech. p.69. 4 .94. February 10.1 Presentation of Ashley Baia at Dr King‟s Church (January 20. Fig.101. p. p. Springfield.102. Fig. p. p. Fig. 2008) – PRAAT. January 3. 2008) – PRAAT. p.11 They said 2 Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. 2007) – PRAAT.68.10 They said 1 Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. Fig. p.9 Prosograms of four of Obama‟s utterances of “yes we can” during the New Hampshire Primary Night Speech (Nashua. January 3.98. p.101. Fig. 2008) – PRAAT.4 Ebenezer 1 – PRAAT. Fig. 2008).
2008). Barack Obama came as a watershed after the spate of lexical gaffes of his predecessor in the White House.org/speak/seatosea/standardamerican/presidential/voices/ 3. 2009. 2008 at Dr King‟s Church and at the NAACP Convention on July 17. The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Bush (Boston: Houghton Mifflin. July 2004).INTRODUCTION … “On the shoulders of giants”1 George Washington‟s lofty rhetoric helped lend dignity to the American presidency. who was a bad public speaker. like Ronald Reagan who was known as the Great Communicator. Professor of English at MacMurray College and author of Presidential Voices: Speaking Styles from George Washington to George W. Presidents that have left greater imprints in collective memory have often been both great leaders of action in times of crisis and skilful masters of oratory. It was used by Barack Obama in the speeches he delivered on January 20. 2. The phrase was originally used by Bernard de Chartres and taken up by Isaac Newton. Bush. pp.3 Good orators have not vanished but skillful rhetoricians have given way to skilful performers. The U.pbs. It was not the case however for Thomas Jefferson. using the readability tests for example to show that presidential rhetoric had become simpler over the years. 5 . Interview of Allan Metcalf.19-39. a then fledgling institution.2 Elvin T. Bush (New York. Elvin T.S. Obama gained public recognition and came to symbolize a 1. With his widely acclaimed 2004 Keynote Address at the Democratic National Convention to support John Kerry‟s run for President. analyzed the steady decline of presidential rhetoric up to George W. Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University. Lim. LIM. http://www.
6 . Alec MacGILLIS. poorer sections of the American society. “John McCain and Senator Clinton echo each other in dismissing this call for change. March 4.” David REMNICK. In an article published in The Sunday Times about how Obama was regarded by poor whites.6 Despite those repeated accusations. but one thing is uncontroversial: that Obama‟s skill as an orator has been one of the most important factors – perhaps the most important factor – in his victory. 2008. the Democratic candidate‟s “liberal bullshit” (as one of the interviewees put it) was considered more damaging to him than his 4. See also Henry ALLEN. Hillary Clinton heavily insisted on Obama‟s use of Governor Deval Patrick‟s phrases to denounce his lack of originality. “The Joshua Generation”. It also tells a lot about the extent to which candidates have to adapt to woo certain sections of voters. they should know that it's a call that did not begin with my words. November 26. […] Lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in. The Washington Post.” 8. on the expression of a country‟s potential and the self-expression of a complicated man who could reflect and lead that country. As Gerald Shuster from the University of Pittsburgh explained. His Democratic and Republican opponents were right: he ran largely on language.” Charlotte HIGGINS. “There have been many controversial aspects to this presidential election. op. op. Obama won the presidency with words. Obama counterattacked at the height of the Primary season. 5. Since 2004.” Texas and Ohio Primary Night (San Antonio. cit.7 It was precisely because Obama had little national experience that he had to rely on his rhetorical and oratorical skills. February 26.clear break from the noted decline in political rhetoric. “If your candidacy is going to be about words. The ideas were taken up by CBS: “Obama‟s most powerful weapon: words”. CBS. 2008. Barack Obama has stood out on the national stage as a man of words. many commentators insisted that it was precisely Obama‟s way with words that proved decisive in both the primary campaign and the national presidential election. They say it is eloquent but empty. “The new Cicero”. Hillary Clinton and later John McCain criticized the “empty words”4 which acted as a smokescreen for his lack of experience5 or accused him of plagiarizing. February 26. January 20. The Washington Post. then they should be your own words. “His Way With Words: Cadence and Credibility”. This somehow represented a major obstacle for Obama as his well-spoken style made him appear too remote and aloof from the less educated. November 17. “Finding Political Strength in the Power of Words”. See also David REMNICK in The New Yorker: “Barack Obama could not run his campaign for the Presidency based on political accomplishment or on the heroic service of his youth. His record was too slight. And yet. 2008. 2008. 2009: “As much as anything else. 6. cit. it's change you can Xerox. The New Yorker. The Guardian.” Alec MacGILLIS. “The only way he can convince people that he can become president is his rhetoric. The sharp contrast between Bushisms and Obama‟s soaring rhetoric is even more striking as it opposes two very different types of discourse: spontaneous speech and carefully written campaign speeches. speeches and not solutions. Quoted in Alec MacGILLIS. What other opportunity does he have?”8 The process of spoken identification is often seen as a crucial parameter in voters‟ decision to support a given candidate. 7. 2008). Scores of articles dealing with Senator Barack Obama‟s rhetorical skills were published during the 2008 presidential campaign. His eloquence has been both an object of praise and an easy target for his opponents during the campaign.
March 25. his closest speechwriter for the 2007-2008 campaign was Jon Favreau. Tony ALLEN-MILLS and Nina BERMAN. The Chicago Tribune.”13 Writing in The Washington Post. ESPRIT.S. “He talks and I type everything he says. “How Barack Obama can win over poor whites” The Sunday Times. Eli SASLOW. which is to determine to what extent the voices of “ghostwriters” overlap that of the politician. When you see a president who looks aw-shucksy about everything.”14 This dissertation will not focus on the question of authorship. “Helping to Write History”. you kinda like that around here. 12. you write something.11 Clinton wished to sound more like the voters she was targeting and that explained the support she garnered from working-class women. He writes. Jim TANKERSLEY. Obama. 9. Clinton talks the talk”. June 26. This raises the question of authorship. 2008. August 3.”12 Political speeches are often collectively drafted. The Washington Post. he reshapes it. sounded like them. Quoted in Richard WOLFFE. In the case of Barack Obama. 2008. December 18. 2008 and Sylvie LAURENT. 10.race. See also Tony ALLEN-MILLS and Nina BERMAN. it gets to the candidate and then it gets sent back to you. http://www. often.” Favreau explains. October 2008. That's how we get a finished product. Favreau mentions in the article that the Announcement Speech was e-mailed to him by Obama at 4 a. “Rhetoric and Speaking-Style Affect the Clinton-Obama Race”. “Obama and Working-Class Women”. did not make the same choice. 14. “she looked like them and. Newsweek. Kent GARBER. the politician would be essentially a performer. 14 July 2008. As Connie Schultz pointed out. 7 . “In His Candidate‟s Voice”. It's a great way to write speeches. According to studies.m. 2008. Connie SCHULTZ. 2008. “How Barack Obama can win over poor whites” The Sunday Times. it gets hacked by advisers. 2008 and also in “Will Obama pass the Waitress Test?” The Nation. which would appear more relevant if Obama was not working so closely with his speechwriters. News. Major politicians work with a team of speechwriters. As Favreau confided. 11. The Nation.”10 This sense of “artificial” belonging explains why Hillary Clinton decided to lower the level of her English. Another explained that Bush had been popular among them because “he looks as dumb as we feel. I reshape it. those folksy vowels. A lot of times. “Barack Obama peut-il séduire la classe laborieuse blanche ?”. It is obvious that campaign speeches are not the products of a single man. writing for Obama was more a matter of writing with Obama or even letting Obama write the major speeches himself: “What I do is to sit with him for half an hour. 2008.”9 For reporter Kent Garber. I write. Clinton and Obama scored very differently on the readability tests. however. Eli Saslow commented on their special bond. U. you hand it in. 13. that identification with Bush “[had] less to do with the content of [his] words and more to do with his style – that Texas twang. the day it was delivered. In such a case. This is a much more intimate way to work. “To working-class.newsweek. March 31.com/id/84756/page/1. “the two men have formed a concert so harmonized that Favreau's own voice disappears. January 6. August 3.
This second approach emphasized the pastoral tradition which resonates in Obama‟s speeches and the influence of historic figures like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King whose words and ideas are often echoed in Obama‟s speeches. 2009. In addition to the key-speeches such as the New Hampshire speech (“Yes We Can”) or “A more perfect union”. 8 . 2007 on the steps of the Old Capitol in Springfield to his Inaugural Speech on January 20. it is worth analyzing which traditions he seeks to break with or pursue and what makes him such an acclaimed orator. although few understand exactly why he has this effect on them.17 A second series of articles clearly departed from this approach and put forward more typically American roots. 17.co. BBC News. though some have sometimes played down one aspect. regardless of race. The corpus under scrutiny is made up of a wide selection of Obama‟s speeches delivered during the campaign. the question of influences proves crucial. The text alone cannot tell us why they are so powerful.”15 There is now a widely-held view that his oratorical talent and rhetorical skills (even if combined to those of others) largely contributed to his electoral victory. Jack SHAFER. 16.16 Well-written speeches need to be well-delivered in order to be most effective and convincing. I chose to include speeches delivered in front of highly partisan audiences (the Jefferson Jackson dinners organized by the Democratic Party) as well as those delivered in symbolic circumstances (in Martin Luther King‟s church to celebrate the anniversary of King‟s birth or during the Whistle-Stop Tour staged to prepare his arrival in Washington a few days before the Inauguration)." Quoted in Stephanie HOLMES.stm. 2008. It is indeed impossible to dissociate the rhetorical skills from the oratorical talent displayed by Obama. from his Announcement Speech on February 10. For a man whose key-word in the campaign was “change” and who symbolizes change by the very color of his skin. “Obama: Oratory and originality”. http://news. The object of this dissertation is to analyze both aspects of Obama‟s speeches by combining a rhetorical analysis with a study of Obama‟s spoken style. op. posted on 14 February 2008. A first series of articles like Charlotte Higgins‟s widely publicized analysis depicting Obama as a “new Cicero” focused on Greek and Roman influences to account for Obama‟s rhetorical skills. cit. For both. gender. Says Ms Ekaterina Haskins. The reader will find an annotated timeline at the end of the 15.uk/2/hi/americas/7735014. or political affiliation. “How Obama Does That Thing He Does”. posted on November 19. New York: "I've been going through his speeches textually.Obama‟s speeches are powerful because of the impressions that they arouse: “Barack Obama bringeth rapture to his audience.bbc. professor of rhetoric at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy. Slate. it is about delivery. They swoon and wobble. Charlotte HIGGINS.
its difficulty. The first part will focus on Obama as a political orator to determine the extent of classical influences. all aimed at characterizing Obama‟s speeches in terms of rhetoric and oratory. op. 2004). See pp. about themselves” to persuade “those who have the power to elect them. It has mostly been used to illustrate Conservative values.” Evan CORNOG. The third and final part will seek to determine the influence of the African American Church and what his rhetoric and oratory owe to the black pulpit tradition. 9 . storytelling consists in the use of narratives as a political tool.dissertation18 indicating all the major speeches of the campaign. p. and as he develops a rhetoric of unity inspired by Lincoln and crossing party and racial boundaries. 2010). […] They connect a politician with both the issues of his time and with the hearts and minds of the voters. as much in terms of structure. in the back cover. During a campaign. politicians use stories “about the nation. that is to say the standard form that Obama delivered across the country hundreds of times and which he knew by heart while the others were generally read from a prompter. This analysis of Obama‟s campaign speeches also focuses on the stump speech. See Yves CITTON. cit.68. Developed by Ronald Reagan. […] The word „story‟ can refer to the course of a person‟s entire life or a single moment in that life. components and style. and can even suggest a lie. p. The Power and the Story: How the Crafted Presidential Narrative Has Determined Political Success from George Washington to George W.19 A DVD with all the speeches selected (transcripts. 19.20 a now characteristic feature of American political discourse. and. Bush (New York: Penguin.120-2.2. This dissertation will be divided into three parts. 20. most of all. gauging the extent of the various traditions that influence and inspire Obama. Alec MacGILLIS. audio and video files) is provided at the end of the dissertation. Mythocratie: Storytelling et imaginaire de gauche (Paris: Editions Amsterdam. The second part will concentrate on Obama as a modern American politician as he often resorts to storytelling. 18. to factual narratives and fictitious ones.
it will concentrate on the use of epideictic oratory and the rhetorical proofs (logos. others have had to adapt to contemporary circumstances: the political elites that Greek Citizens and Roman Senators represented have little to do with today‟s mass democracies. 21. This accounts for the number of major works devoted to the question by Greek philosophers and Roman lawyers to theorize the art of persuasion and determine what elements were more effective and which ones should be. for instance what part should emotional appeal play. the plethora of stylistic devices listed. 10 . 4th edn). see Olivier REBOUL. judicial. Some of those elements have hardly changed (stylistic devices). For a clear yet detailed introduction to Ancient Rhetoric. The structure of speeches was codified. Speeches were categorized according to the functions they performed: ceremonial. Then. Obama the political rhetorician21 Rhetoric and oratory were developed in Ancient Times in large part because language was a major political tool in Athens‟s democracy and Rome‟s Republic. this section will be devoted to the stylistic devices that characterize Obama‟s rhetorical style. It was a technique before becoming an art.1. 2001. Finally. Introduction à la rhétorique (Paris: PUF. ethos and pathos) privileged by Obama. This part will focus on analyzing the structures of Obama‟s speeches. political.
since I stood on the steps of the old state Capitol in Springfield. a list of the things he would do as president “if you are ready for change. I will also insist on the major variation and adaptations adopted at different moments of the campaign. 11 . 22 The argument used against Hillary Clinton is not really a distinct part in fact.The case for change: List of problems (replaced as of December 27. Illinois. February 26. “Finding Political Strength in the Power of Words”. February 2.1. a subtle argument for why voters should not “settle” for Clinton. Boise.Introducing the beginning of his journey and establishing his credibility:23 “It has now been almost a year. Structure of Obama’s speeches I will mostly focus on the structure of the speeches. Analysis of the stump speech and of its evolution The stump speech is the standard speech delivered by a candidate during a campaign. The structure of the stump speech has been delineated in The Washington Post by Alec MacGillis.” and finally an invocation. 2008. 2007 by a list of narratives representing the major problems America is facing): 22. The Washington Post.1.1. just a week short of a year. 1. The basic structure of Obama's speech has remained more or less the same: a statement of why he is running now. The major variation in his speeches consists in the change of discursive strategy he adopted in December 2007 to evoke the problems America was facing. Patterson CLARK and Larry NIST. the place where Abraham Lincoln served for many years before he went to Washington. an account of the movement the campaign is building. Alec MacGILLIS. and rejection. The adaptations consist mainly in the parts developed after the major turning-points of the campaign as was the case in February 2008 when John McCain became the presumptive Republican candidate. “Anatomy of a Stump Speech”. The Washington Post. and announced that I was embarking on this unlikely journey. February 26. not on the designational paradigms that characterize each basic part. 23. 2008) . .1.” (Barack Obama. the city where I served for many years before I went to the United States Senate. Here are the five basic parts that structure most of Obama‟s stump speeches. of the arguments against his candidacy. 2008.
win together: the journey ahead. November 27. as we take this campaign South and West. 2008) The stump speech is basically constructed in a cyclical way with references to a journey to open and close the speech. We. The speech itself represents a journey through time. from sea to shining sea . January 8. . January 3. But my own American story tells me that this country moves forward when we cast off our doubts and seek new beginnings. February 10. and families struggling paycheck to paycheck despite working as hard as they can. 2007).” (New Hampshire Primary Night Speech.Rallying cry to fight together. “Franklin Delano Obama?”. Chicago. Bettendorf. or that I supported Bush-Cheney policies of not talking to leaders that we don‟t like. 2007). that we are not as divided as our politics suggests. The New York Times.What he advocates: New politics24 necessary (people as the catalyst for change): “We're not going to reclaim that dream unless we put an end to the politics of polarization and division that is holding this country back. we will begin the next great chapter in America's story with three words that will ring from coast to coast. […] I believe that Americans want to come together again behind a common purpose. […] When I am this party‟s nominee. 2007). Nashua. November 10. 12 . Des Moines. . unless we stand up to the corporate lobbyists that have stood in the way of progress. that the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA.Yes. The speeches sometimes end with a very long sentence that also encompasses the main ideas developed during the speech. including historical references while the closing sentences evoke the path ahead (use of the modal “will” or “would” in hypothetical contexts). For parallels between the economic and political situations between the early 2000s and the 1930s.” (Announcement Speech. as we learn that the struggles of the textile worker in Spartanburg are not so different than the plight of the dishwasher in Las Vegas.” (A New Beginning. Can. 2008. my opponent will not be able to say that I voted for the war in Iraq.The belief in America and in the American Dream Personal story to exemplify the American Dream and praise of America and the American spirit: “I am not a perfect man and I won't be a perfect President. schools where too many children aren't learning. and together.” (Iowa Caucus Night Speech. Political agenda and ideas and argument against Hillary Clinton: “I believe that Americans want to come together again behind a common purpose. a dependence on oil that threatens our future.“All of us know what those challenges are today . Springfield. October 2. This introduction states the purpose of the speech and sets the 24. or that I gave George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran. that we are one people. unless we have leadership that doesn't just tell people what they want to hear but tells everyone what they need to know. “And so tomorrow. 2008) . we are one nation. Obama‟s case for a new politics recalls the New Coalition formed by Roosevelt in 1932. op-ed. The introduction is about the past journey accomplished so far.a war with no end. see Paul KRUGMAN.” (Reclaiming the American Dream. we will remember that there is something happening in America.
which is not surprising as the judicial speech aimed at convincing an audience (judges) which is presented with two contradictory sets of arguments : the exordium which exposes what the speech is about (Obama running for President). In judicial speeches. the narratio in which Obama presents an assessment of the situation.edu/~honeyl/quintilian/contents.public. As the Primaries unfolded. Institutes of Oratory. 27.pdf 13 . Hence. It also contained arguments to counter those of the other side. QUINTILIAN.iastate. which corresponds to the look backward that characterized his earlier speeches of the campaign. The height of the primary campaign On the whole. it is fundamental that it ends with electrifying emotion and a powerful dynamic rather than arguments on which people have to ponder. however. by specifying for how long he has been campaigning. Obama often started by expressing his gratitude to his activists and voters and then made an account of their journey together so far and of the movement built. however. the structure of Obama‟s speeches remained fairly the same. the propositio in which Obama develops the change he seeks for the country and refutes his opponents‟ arguments25 and the peroratio which ends as a call to mobilize and go ahead. It usually constituted a fairly large section. we may give full scope to the pathetic. the argument against Clinton related to her initial support of the war in Iraq was removed from the speeches and from early February. the outline of Obama‟s campaign speeches is very close to the classical structure of the judicial speech. Aristotle defined the excitement of emotion as one of the key-part of the epilogue. 1. also insisted on the necessary use of pathos in the concluding lines of a speech. Book IV. Chapter 1. Obama also replaced the factual list of problems by a list of individual narratives to illustrate the problems America was facing.26 Quintilian. 26. that part was devoted to the arguments developed to prove the guilt or innocence of the accused. an 25. the Roman rhetorician. The epilogue urges the audience to mobilize and fight for him. “In the peroratio. Hillary Clinton generally concluded her speeches by thanking people.campaign into perspective.”27 As the epilogue provides the lasting impression made on the audience. http://www. It therefore clearly performs the function of an introduction as Obama starts by establishing the situation (a campaign speech by the candidate) and prepares his audience to hear the arguments to support his candidacy and oppose those of his rivals. When the primaries really started in January 2008.1. insisting on the nature of the challenges and problems to face. A few variations can be noted.2.
Obama still ended his speeches with a rallying cry and the urge to move forward but from January 8. 2007.30 the economy. his criticism of the current legislation or situation and of his Republican opponent‟s position and past record on the issue. Those speeches are often more technical. energy. Obama added a definition of hope and the “Yes We Can” gimmick. Obama described various situations to show the many facets of the issue. but most of them were given after the Primaries were over. unionists). A first speech on energy was delivered very early in the campaign on May 7. Based on individual and/or personal examples and hence once more resorting to storytelling. African Americans. 29 health care. He then moved on to promise what he would do instead. 30. The speech was delivered in De Paul University in Illinois on the fifth anniversary of a speech he had delivered at that same university to vigorously oppose the war. Hillary Clinton declared on January 6. Obama‟s past record on the issue is generally the occasion for him to praise compromise by stating what has been achieved through bipartisan consensus in the State of Illinois and in the Senate.31 foreign policy. Senate. when Obama was directly and solely confronted to his Republican opponent. Specific speeches Some of these speeches were delivered in the first months of the campaign. just before the New Hampshire Primary that “You campaign in poetry. A first speech on healthcare was delivered on May 29. Latinos.1. That delay can explain Clinton‟s criticisms of his relying on nice words for most of the primary campaign. which gave voters a precise and detailed idea of what he intended to do. 28. including many figures to sound more convincing. veterans.important section was added as to why McCain should be opposed.” 29. The War in Iraq was already specifically dealt with on October 2. 14 . 2008 and his defeat in the New Hampshire primary.28 Those speeches were generally repeated several times and delineated in detail what Obama proposed to do on a given issue (the war in Iraq. a former Governor of New York. personal experience).S. then followed by a detailed account of Obama‟s personal record on the issue (laws he supported both in the State of Illinois and then in the U. 2008. Quoting Mario Cuomo. 31. education) or as regards a specific audience (working women. They discuss current legislation and suggest reformed or new legislation. 2007. Those speeches. 2007. The pattern thus remains globally unchanged even if the main rival changes. 1. came very late in the campaign.3. you govern in prose.
Capitalizing on his worldwide popularity. The Speech on Education was given the day after school resumed after the summer holidays. Obama focuses on the main themes of his campaign like healthcare and the economy but insists on how his audience is specifically affected by the issues. not just Americans. proving that barriers can tumble down. Italian Americans. Obama undertook a journey by rail to Washington in a vintage railcar. The expression dates back to the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. “The Cost of War” was delivered on March 18.1. 2009. 15 . during the third mass immigration wave to America. hence addressing the citizens of the world. imitating Lincoln‟s “Whistle-Stop Tour”. The Speeches on Energy were delivered in Michigan and a large section was devoted to the car industry based in Detroit. The choice of Berlin is doubly symbolical: it is where John Kennedy had made a vibrant speech to oppose the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and the city is now the symbol of a reunified Germany. that is to say on the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the war. Speech at the LULAC Convention (Washington D. 2008).C. 33. he can appear as a potential statesman whose popularity benefits America and therefore helps restore Americans‟ esteem in the world. The speeches addressing one particular issue were carefully staged as regards place and/or time. The three speeches delivered along the journey were more or less the same. From the Whistle-Stop Tour to the Inauguration Shortly before the Inauguration. It was disparaging at the time and used by Americans to define the “new Americans” coming from Europe: Irish Americans. This is the case of African Americans. See for example the drop-out rates for Latinos. he does so in events staged by legitimate organizations representing the specific audience (NAACP for African Americans. AFL-CIO for workers). this kind of expression is sometimes used by a community to stress the richness of its cultural roots. Focusing on his mixed origins. July 8. Then Obama told the stories of 32.When Obama addresses specific audiences. not “hyphenated Americans”33.4.” The Philadelphia and Baltimore speeches were devoted to the beginning of the American journey and experiment and focused on American core values. the Philadelphia and Baltimore speeches were almost identical word by word. The symbolical journey was made on January 17. Obama presents himself as a “global man”. German Americans..32 When addressing ethnic communities. The theme of the journey was in keeping with the staging: “A new declaration of independence. In these speeches. To set out his views on foreign policy. Today. Obama insisted on their being Americans. 1. stressing his leitmotif of national unity. 2008. Obama delivered a speech from Berlin. LULAC for Latinos.
we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations. and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us. except for the sections devoted to his rivals. insisting on “the same message we had when we were up and when we were down. 16 . 2008). This epilogue echoes that of the Final Primary Speech. 2008). The speeches ended with a call to perfect the union and keep the American spirit of the early patriots alive. let us brave once more the icy currents. Obama repeatedly insisted on the stability of his message. Even the Inaugural Address starts with a glance backward: “Forty-four Americans have now taken the oath. which can be found p. let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end. February 9. in this winter of our hardship. let us remember these timeless words. 2008). January 3.34 This stability of the structure also reflects the stability in the ideas put forward. It evokes the future as a projected past. There is a relative stability of structure in Obama‟s speeches throughout the campaign. Virginia Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Richmond.” The end is a projected glimpse forward: America.”35 34. The present is seen as a moment that will go down in history. with hope and virtue. in the face of our common dangers.three ordinary Americans to illustrate the everyday problems Americans were facing.107. South Carolina Primary Night Speech (Columbia. and endure what storms may come. who boarded the train with his family there. The speech delivered in Wilmington was more particularly focused on Joe Biden. where he lived. January 26. On the whole. Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. 2008). being remembered by the posterity. that we did not turn back nor did we falter. the structure remained the same as during the speeches. The stories were different in each speech and the Americans mentioned were each time named. 35. Potomac Primary Night (February 12.
37. These collective targets are characterized by their generic representation and the quite systematic use of THE + plural NP. the references to Clinton were rarely direct. 1. 2007). Obama sometimes used the generic pronoun “you” as in “But you can't at once argue that you're the master of a broken system in Washington and then offer yourself as the person to change it. Targeting anonymous groups In Obama‟s speeches. “the lobbyists” and “the special interests” in Washington. The cynics and the “skeptics” are by far his most frequent collective targets.37 he had to respond to the attacks leveled at him by Hillary Clinton as regards his lack of experience. The reference to the scoring-point game is made repeatedly in the course of the campaign.2. “You know that we can't afford four more years of the same divisive food fight in Washington that's about scoring political points instead of solving problems.2. is to be expected in the campaigns speeches of political candidates to emphasize one‟s own assets and the opponents‟ shortcomings and flaws.1. “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines.2.2.” 38 Yet. 17 . that's about tearing your opponents down instead of lifting this country up. “the cynics” are characterized by a name which is already a criticism and therefore to respond to it would be to endorse the criticism. “The cynics” and/or cynicism are mentioned in most of Obama‟s campaign speeches. Epideictic oratory in Obama’s speeches Epideixis. Obama opted for two different discursive strategies. overt and harsh criticism is mainly limited to anonymous groups of people whose precise identity is never defined: “the cynics”.1. 38. yet. “the skeptics”.1. The opponents 1. 2.1. Despite his early statements that he rejected the divisive Washington way of making politics. also called praise-and-blame rhetoric. 2007). 1. December 27. Hillary Clinton As for his direct opponents. He used counterarguments without ever mentioning his target by name. “the pundits”.” “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines.36 Apart from “the lobbyists” and “special interests” which can be more or less identified. what people 36. December 27.1.
as the race of the Primaries still remained very close and embittered. 2008.com/id/22771568/ns/politics-the_debates/ (04/11). Obama substituted a collective entity of Democrats who had acted like Bush‟s Republicans for his main rival. In other cases.that voted to give the President the open-ended authority to wage war that he uses to this day. The argument of not having voted for the war in Iraq is partly fallacious as Obama was not yet Senator when the vote took place in 2002. it was often limited to an illustration through an individual narrative and was then replaced by the economic issue which had become the voters‟ main concern. Clinton‟s error of judgment as regards the issue was the chief argument used by Obama against her. Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines. 42. The campaign was getting tougher in mid-January after mutual accusations concerning the Nevada Caucus where the votes were not all taken into account and after Bill Clinton misrepresented Obama‟s remarks on Reagan to imply that he supported the former Republican President‟s ideas. October 2. Obama Clash at S. 2008). Obama explains that Americans were failed not only by the president but also by “the majority of a Congress . “A New Beginning” (Chicago. 18 . see Andrea MITCHELL. http://www. Debate”.a coequal branch of government . March 20.msnbc. Clinton was never mentioned namely until Obama‟s first defeat in the New Hampshire primary when “Senator Clinton” was congratulated on her “hard-fought victory”. For more on the feud opposing Clinton and Obama. Obama‟s discursive strategy is clear: he had to attack his rival in the Democratic Primaries but neither too harshly nor too directly as he had to prepare the necessary unity of the party for when the primary season was over. She was only directly attacked with some sarcasm when she was likened to John McCain in March. He transformed a direct attack into a general rule of adequate political behavior. January 22. “Clinton. But her point would have been more compelling had she not joined Senator McCain in making the tragically ill-considered decision to vote for the Iraq war in the first place. Senator Clinton attacked John McCain for supporting the policies that have led to our enormous war costs.should really have heard was the pronoun “she”. In fact.msn. The speech dealt exclusively with the war in Iraq and its various consequences. at that debate in Texas several weeks ago.” 40 Most of these indirect attacks took place before the primary season actually started and all dealt with the same issue: the war in Iraq. 41. November 7.” 40. 42 39. there would be no war. “we need to ask those who voted for the war: how can you give the President a blank check and then act surprised when he cashes it?”39 and “I am running for President because I am sick and tired of democrats thinking that the only way to look tough on national security is by talking. hence attacking not the person but the behavior. and voting like George Bush Republicans. So let's be clear: without that vote. 2007). and acting.C. “The Cost of War” (Charleston. Obama delivers in that speech a fierce diatribe against the decision made by Congress to support the executive. The issue was in fact less and less developed as the campaign unfolded.41 Now. 2007). The tension reached a climax at a televised debate opposing the three major Democratic candidates which was organized days before the South Carolina Primary and two weeks before the often-decisive Super Tuesday.
200845. Her personality. Attacks on McCain started as of early February 2008. and then briefly in the Acceptance Speech. and for that we are grateful to her. praise of Hillary Clinton was limited to. But as someone who's shared a stage with her many times. during the transition period as the primary campaign ended and the campaign against the Republicans was really going to start.” 46. when the other Republican candidates had been left lagging much behind.44 as was briefly the case in the Kentucky-Oregon Primary Night Speech on May 20. In that speech. 2008. 47. commitment and career were described as sources of inspiration.The use of the past conditional is used to undermine her own authority to attack McCain on the issue. 19 . what sent her to work at the Children's Defense Fund and made her fight for health care as First Lady. “barrier-breaking). In addition.47 When Obama summarized her political career. Senator Clinton has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and your daughters will come of age.46 This was combined with a fairly long account of her professional career and various commitments.43 Praise of Hillary Clinton evolved in nature and length by becoming longer and by shifting focus.” 45. in Unity on June 27. Obama generally praises bipartisan consensus but in the case of Clinton and McCain siding together. 2008. and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight. I can tell you that what gets Hillary Clinton up in the morning – even in the face of tough odds – is exactly what sent her and Bill Clinton to sign up for their first campaign in Texas all those years ago.” It was exclusively the case in New York City during a joint meeting organized on July 10. “And no matter how this primary ends. 2008 and in the Acceptance Speech on August 28. “more compelling”. She was in fact often reduced to that simplistic approach. 2008. See 1. including for his daughters. 2008 when she was presented as “an inspiration for my daughters and yours. in a joint meeting held in New York City on July 10. presented as a symbol for women. he made a very long sentence containing a series of nominal relative clauses to define what led her on (a pseudo-cleft sentence). 2008. in the Final Primary Night Speech delivered in St Paul on June 3. her courage. a few weeks later. The speech is one of Obama‟s specific speeches.1. Obama implied that the argument was fallacious by focusing on “her point”. what led her to the United States 43. 2008. Yet. all the more so as Obama‟s main focus that day was working women. not on her directly and he used a comparative form. Specific speeches p.3. June 3. Obama himself explained that she could not be reduced to what she symbolized for women: “Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign not just because she's a woman who has done what no woman has done before. Clinton was praised for being a relentless fighter (the noun “fight” is often repeated) and a pioneer for other women in politics (“made history”. Hillary Clinton was praised at length for who she was and what she represented. 2008. which is only rhetorical precaution. in the Final Primary Night Speech on June 3. but because she's a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength. Final Primary Night (St Paul. Ironically enough. it was Clinton who acted like the Republicans as the use of the verb “join” suggests. in Unity to symbolize the unity of the party on June 27. 44. after Super Tuesday. 2008). Hillary Clinton was praised in five main speeches: the Kentucky and Oregon Night Speech on May 20. Obama performed a pool trick shot as it enabled him to target both Clinton and McCain.14.
Using nominal relative clauses to define another such clause. What makes this long sentence laudatory is the very nature of her driving-force. John McCain. June 3.49 This is not mentioned. 49. The main point of Obama‟s campaign was to hammer in the idea that McCain was no different from Bush and that electing McCain would lead to “George 48. 20 . he referred to him by his name and surname. 48 The use of anaphora enables Obama to rhythmically reproduce the unflinching commitment. only referred to Obama as Senator Obama. Praise of McCain was brief and was immediately. without mentioning his political title. Obama‟s discursive treatment of John McCain consisted in praising the “American hero” he “[respects]” and his years of service to the nation but criticizing fiercely the “failed policies of the past” he had supported and still supported. Final Primary Night (St Paul. McCain‟s campaign was articulated on the idea that he was an independent thinker and had on occasions voted against his own party. 2008). John McCain. who was attacked directly and at length after Super Tuesday when he was so much ahead of his Republican opponents that it was clear and obvious he would be the Republican nominee. June 27.3. Michael MOORE. During a fierce debate in January. 2007). thus building some suspense until the answer is given after a short pause. When Obama directly mentioned his Republican opponent.1. 2008 but was slightly modified and defines “her motivation” and “her passion” as what led her on. The three stages of her career that Obama mentioned are the ones she evoked in her own speeches and decided to put forward. John McCain It is a very different strategy used with his Republican opponent. Sicko (Dog Eat Dog Films.Senate and fueled her barrier-breaking campaign for the presidency – an unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans. which is only disclosed at the very end of the sentence. no matter how difficult the fight may be.2. on the contrary. “what gets Hilary Clinton up in the morning”. Obama blamed her for sitting on the boards of major companies. Interestingly enough. The answer could have been “her ambition” without changing a single word before the pause. the section was reproduced in the speech delivered at their joint meeting in Unity. consists in turning around endlessly as the structures do not contain antecedents. counterbalanced by a criticism introduced by the conjunction “but”. 1. graphically represented by a dash. Michael Moore‟s Sicko accused her of having HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations) fund her campaigns. sometimes in the very same sentence.
“four more years” (March 4. the use of this verb in an indirect question is manipulative insofar as it lies in the presupposition that all the Republican candidates model themselves on Bush and therefore share the same political ideas. Going further. Obama also used McCain‟s words to criticize his position regarding America‟s addiction to oil in his Speech on Energy (Lansing. “the same course” (March 4. 2008). It would have made more sense if the second name was the Vice-President‟s but Obama‟s aim is not only to attack the Republicans‟ record but to convince voters that McCain should be directly blamed for it. Using a neologism gives more weight to the criticism as it can take the audience unawares and be taken up as a sound bite by the media. whose characteristic feature is surpassed. 2008). The compound verb “out-Bush” is made up of the adverb “out” referring to the idea of surpassing. 2008) to define the policies led by the Republican Administration. 2008). By using McCain‟s very words. Obama used expressions of similarity and continuity. a new argument was developed by Obama after McCain admitted. The person whose name is used is reduced to their main characteristic feature and stands as a reference. McCain had criticized those tax cuts because “so many of the benefits [went] to the most fortunate. “the issue of economics is not something I‟ve understood as well as I should”. 2008. Obama also coined the compound-adjective “BushMcCain” (March 20. 2008) 51. 2008). August 4. 2008). it can also be considered that the formerly independent McCain was more in tune with Obama. This compound adjective reinforces the use of presuppositions which convey the idea that all the Republican candidates are Bush‟s political heirs. April 14. deriding the Republican Primaries as a contest to determine “which candidate could out-Bush the other” (May 20. Such a close-knit connection which is graphically represented by a hyphen suggests that McCain has been holding a major executive office in the Bush Administration.” (taken up in a speech by Obama on February 12. The verb suggests that the subject-agent has surpassed the reference. 2008 and October 27.Bush‟s third term” (April 14. Obama started to use McCain‟s words as soon as he became the Republican nominee to show that he was now contradicting himself and endorsing policies he had previously opposed. “more of the same” (April 22. 21 . Obama skillfully made an independent McCain criticize a loyal McCain. 2008. going beyond a limit and the proper noun Bush. In addition. 2008). Obama‟s neologism is patterned on Shakespeare‟s expression “to out-Herod Herod”. Obama used McCain‟s own words and criticisms against Bush‟s tax cuts50 to emphasize that McCain was no longer an independent thinker and had fallen back in line. From April 2. To derail McCain‟s self-definition as an independent thinker. 51 As voters had become 50.
“like Franklin Roosevelt. 52. Final Campaign Speech (Manassas. It cost billions of dollars.2. 55. November 3. The positive undertones aimed at restoring Americans‟ pride and confidence in their country in a period of economic turmoil and military doubt in Afghanistan and Iraq. on August 28.more and more preoccupied with the economy and the bail-out. 54.52 Obama used McCain‟s own recognition of partial incompetence to discredit him and undermine his authority on the issue by “parroting them and turning them to his advantage. cit. 2004). The Imperial Presidency (New York. 2008: “I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. op. p. it's because John McCain doesn't get it.” The two quotes frame a series of rhetorical questions on a hypothetical mode (use of the conditional) introduced by “why else would he” or “how else could he”.”53 The point was made again and emphasized during the Acceptance Speech delivered at the Democratic National Convention. Mariner Books. Arthur M. Though elaborating along the lines of Reagan‟s “America is back”. 2008). According to Arthur Schlesinger. Obama delineated his own distinctive praise of America throughout the campaign. 1. the hero of his youth.” and “It's not because John McCain doesn't care. There‟s‟ no destiny we cannot fulfill. The comprehensive program carried out by the Federal State to save banks from going bankrupt. SCHLESINGER. revised edition. Praise of America and Americans “There‟s no obstacle we cannot overcome. McCain is not only someone whose ideas were wrong but someone who was simply not fit for and up to the job. the prevailing feature of Obama‟s speeches throughout the campaign is the optimism and enthusiasm that characterize them.” 54 Obama‟s upbeat discourse echoes Reagan‟s 1980 campaign speeches. I just think he doesn't know.”55 That is the sort of confidence that Obama sought to inspire. implying that McCain‟s unawareness and failure to understand are the only explanations. More than blame or petty politics. 22 . That is what Reagan had managed to do in 1980 by making people believe in America again after the fiasco of the American hostage crisis in Lebanon and the dull years of the Carter presidency. 53. Alec MacGILLIS.441. [Reagan] radiated a reassuring confidence that all contradictions would be dissolved and all difficulties overcome.2.
This question was at the very core of Obama‟s discourse in three of his speeches: “Reclaiming the American Dream” (November 7, 2007), “Our Moment Is Now” (December 27, 2007) and “The America We Love” (Speech on Patriotism, June 30, 2008). Playing the Reagan card on patriotism, Obama stated that “America [was] the greatest country on Earth.”56 The statement is hyperbolic in nature (use of the superlative). Yet, it is clear in the three major speeches mentioned above that for Obama, what is great in America is not only America and loyalty to the flag, it is its people and the spirit that has animated the country‟s story from its very beginning and its revolutionary genesis:
In the end, it may be this quality that best describes patriotism in my mind – not just a love of America in the abstract, but a very particular love for, and faith in, the American people. […] For we know that the greatness of this country – its victories in war, its enormous wealth, its scientific and cultural achievements – all result from the energy and imagination of the American people, their toil, drive, 57 struggle, restlessness, humor and quiet heroism.
Where others had praised the greatness of America through the greatness of its leaders, Obama shifted the greatness onto ordinary citizens, everyday heroes by becoming the storyteller of individual stories. As could be expected from a laudatory discourse, a number of positively-connoted words can be found in those few lines, mostly pertaining to the lexical field of success (“victories”, “achievements”) or that could be related to it (“enormous wealth”). He adds a long, almost never-ending series of nouns to characterize their obstinate hard work. The accumulation effect represented by the enumeration helps symbolize the unyielding and unflinching effort and was delivered with a very solemn tone. Obama also repeatedly used the superlative to describe ordinary Americans: “the most talented, the most productive workers of any country on Earth” (Last Week Speech, Canton, October 27, 2008). Even when mentioning the glorious birth of the United States, Obama did not praise the Founding Fathers but the patriots who had fought against the British Crown by using once more the superlative, “the greatest generations [who freed] a continent”.58 The whole American history was interpreted as a succession of victorious battles:
We're the nation that liberated a continent from a madman, that lifted ourselves from the depths of a Depression, that won Civil Rights, and Women‟s Rights, and Voting Rights for all our people.59 56. “The America We Love.” (Independence, June 30, 2008). 57. “The America We Love” (Independence, June 30, 2008). Echoes can be found in “Our Moment is Now”: “We are a decent, generous people willing to work hard and sacrifice for future generations.” (Des Moines, December 27, 2007). 58. “Our Moment Is Now” (Des Moines, December 27, 2007). The mention of “our greatest leaders” appears only once to praise Washington‟s military achievements. It is immediately followed by a redefinition of greatness as the wisdom Washington showed when he decided not to run for a third term. “The America We Love” (Independence, June 30, 2008). 59. “Turn the Page” Speech (San Diego, April 28, 2007).
That very selective summary of American history, which included large short-cuts, contributed to depict a mythical America that stands for justice and has won over injustice. The other accounts of American history that can be found in Obama‟s speeches were developed along the same lines.60 Obama‟s representation of American history partly focused on the same chapters as previous U.S. Presidents had done before him: the beginnings of the Republic, the Civil War and the New Deal. Obama was less eloquent on the New Deal and focused more often on the Civil Rights victories. This selective history presented episodes which could unite Americans because they are now consensual.61 The idea was to convey a sense of progress and unity of the nation. The references chosen were also selective: MLK stood along former U.S. Presidents while Lyndon B. Johnson who was President in 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was passed was never mentioned.62 Johnson could not be mentioned because he was mostly associated with the escalation and quagmire in Vietnam in American collective memory. In a period of growing popular dissatisfaction with the stalemate in Iraq, Obama had better not be associated with Lyndon Johnson. Obama needed mythical figures that solely embodied progress. Apart from America‟s greatness, Obama developed the idea of its uniqueness and praised it, hence echoing the theories of American exceptionalism.63 America‟s uniqueness was developed with two different points: Obama‟s own story and the American Dream. In his Keynote Address at the Democratic National Convention, Obama had started presenting his story as one which could only have been possible in America: “I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible”.64 Obama preferred to focus on America by placing the location phrase at the beginning of the clause, to put more emphasis on the determiner “no”. Adding “on Earth” implied that the statement was made after scanning every country. Obama pursued on America‟s uniqueness with the definition of
60. See also “A New Beginning” (Chicago, October 2, 2007), Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines, November 10, 2007), “Our Moment Is Now” (Des Moines, December 27, 2007). 61. Senator Robert Byrd, a Dixiecrat and former Klan member, exemplifies such an evolution from total rejection of Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s to a very consensual attitude, fully supporting the NAACP at the end of his political career. He supported Barack Obama during the Primaries. 62. For Evan Thomas, the comparison between Obama and Lyndon Johnson is relevant: “Though Obama likes to model himself on Lincoln, or perhaps FDR, another close comparison can be made to Lyndon Johnson.” Evan THOMAS, “Obama‟s Lincoln‟, Newsweek, November 15, 2008. For more parallels between Johnson and Obama, see 184.108.40.206. The tone of a preacher, p.96. 63. Obama refers directly to that theory in his speech on patriotism: “As we begin our fourth century as a nation, it is easy to take the extraordinary nature of America for granted.” (Independence, June 30, 2008). 64. “The Audacity of Hope” (Boston, July 27, 2004). The point is made again in “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf, November 7, 2007) and the Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines, November 10, 2007)
the American Dream, his own definition in fact: “What is unique about America is that we want [the American dream] for more than ourselves – we want [it] for other people. […] We fight for each other‟s dreams.”65 By contrasting “each other” which expresses a mutual, reciprocal relationship with the reflexive pronoun “ourselves”, Obama defined American uniqueness in terms of widespread solidarity, opposing the prevailing notion of American individualism and praising a sense of national belonging. The representation that Obama offered of America each time he was defining and characterizing it was hardly realistic, overlooking long-lasting and often violent oppositions.66 Michael Kammen defined the tendency of permanent construction and reconstruction of the past as “disremembering the past”.67 Using advertising tips, Obama sought to present an idealistic vision of America based on hyperboles and mythical representations. The aim was to make Americans proud of their country and believe again in its intrinsic capacity to overcome the biggest challenges. And that was the sense of the yes-we-can motto which was developed after Obama‟s first defeat on January 8, 2008. The enthusiasm he sought to convey had also much to do with the future he proposed. What Obama promised throughout the campaign was to write with people “the great, next chapter in the great American story.”68 Praise of American people and of a better tomorrow was recurrent all along the campaign, especially in the lyrical outbursts that could be found in the epilogues. These lyrical outbursts, in which Obama sketched the next stage in America‟s destiny, often included quotes or echoes from Jefferson, Lincoln or Martin Luther King.
Obama: “Out of this long political darkness a brighter day will come.” (“The Audacity of Hope”, July 24, 2004) MLK: “It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.” (“I Have A Dream”, August 28, 1963) Obama: “usher in a new birth of freedom on this Earth.” (Announcement Speech, February 10, 2007) Lincoln: “we shall have a new birth of freedom” (Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863) Obama: “the last, best hope on Earth”69 (Turn the Page Speech, April 28, 2007) 65. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf, November 7, 2007). The idea is developed as well in his Acceptance Speech at the Democratic National Convention: “It is that promise that's always set this country apart, that through hard work and sacrifice each of us can pursue our individual dreams, but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams, as well.” (August 28, 2008) 66. It corresponds to Renan‟s definition of what the essence of a nation is, “Or l‟essence d‟une nation est que tous les individus aient beaucoup de choses en commun, et aussi que tous aient oublié bien des choses.” Benedict Andersen speaks of nations as “imagined communities” based on the falsification of the shared memory of a people. See Luc BENOÎT À LA GUILLAUME, Le discours d'investiture des présidents américains ou les paradoxes de l'éloge (Paris : Harmattan, 2003), p.198. 67. Michael KAMMEN, Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Culture (New York : Knopf, 1991), quoted in Luc BENOÎT À LA GUILLAUME, op. cit., p.199. 68. “Turn the Page” Speech (San Diego, April 28, 2007). 69. Interestingly enough, Ronald Reagan also took up the reference in a TV speech to support Barry Goldwater on October 22, 1967. There was just a slight variation: “the last best hope of man on Earth.”
75 even though it is hardly ever a real break with the past. Des Moines. p. and talk to your neighbors. December 27. Stephanie HOLMES. and convince your friends. 72. “His speeches are shaded with subtle echoes of great speeches past. consciously creating a sense of history. purpose and continuity. 2007. 75. Obama seemed to offer and promise a new national epic. 76. Like Martin Luther King.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7735014. and make some calls for me. quoted in Luc BENOÎT À LA GUILLAUME. To reach that goal however. New Hampshire Primary Night Speech. November 19. op. Nashua. 2008 . 2008). then I promise you this – we will not just win Ohio. Houston. cit. op. 2008). 1978). Ibid. The word can be found in the Announcement speech (Springfield. p. The sense of destiny was constructed through a widening of the geographical perspective and with hyperboles (use of superlatives). 71. we will not just win this election. America‟s self-improvement appeared as a prerequisite. brighter tomorrow72. and in particular a world destiny. as was clearly stated one week before the election: And if in this last week. and fight with me.. January 3. […] The purpose of their jeremiads was to direct an imperiled people of God toward the fulfillment of their destiny. Sacvan Bercovitch defined the jeremiad as the political sermon developed by American colonists: “In explicit opposition to the traditional mode.76 This was emphasized by Obama with the use of the recurrent 70. The American Jeremiad (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press. p.74 According to Luc Benoît à la Guillaume. http://news. 2008. December 1. As Professor of Linguistics Ekaterina Haskins argues. and give me your vote.199.” Sacvan BERCOVITCH. 2008). 2007) and the Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. sharing his faith in America.stm.74. It can also be found often in the expression: “no destiny we could not fulfill” (“Our Moment is Now”. the promise of a new era is a recurrent topic in Presidential discourse especially in times of crisis.. Obama sought to point the direction ahead. and despite the world. “on (this) Earth” and “repair the world”.” (1835-36).Jefferson: “the world‟s best hope”70 (1st Inaugural Address. BBC News. 2008). February 10. February 19. January 3. He used lyrical outbursts to transform the future into a “destiny” 73 (Iowa Caucus Night. More than a presidential election. you will knock on some doors for me. the inviolability of the colonial cause. America‟s position in the world and as the leading force of the world was frequently asserted. Luc BENOÎT À LA GUILLAUME.co. but together. we will change this country and we will change the world. 1862) Using intertextuality through “authoritative quotes” was a repetitive pattern in Obama‟s speeches which enabled him to associate himself with America‟s leading figures of the past. January 8. 74.”71 All these epilogues pointed to a better. it inverts the doctrine of vengeance into a promise of ultimate success.bbc. Wisconsin Primary Night Speech. as he defined America as “the last hope of true liberty on the face on the earth. to guide them individually toward salvation. A more complex variation can be found in James Madison‟s Notes on Nullification. “Obama: Oratory and Originality”. Luc Benoît à la Guillaume speaks of “a rhetoric of the fake break” (“rhétorique de la fausse coupure”). and collectively toward the American city of God. 26 .206. This is the very end of the speech delivered in Canton (October 27. affirming to the world. the echoes of the great leaders of the past served to establish a connection with Obama. who wished to appear as their heir. 1801) Lincoln: “the last best hope of Earth” (Annual Message to Congress. 73. March 4. cit.. if you will stand with me.
Reagan used the expression twice. Kentucky and Oregon Night Speech (Des Moines. perhaps decades. 85. John F.”85 He deplores that today‟s presidential rhetoric is “short on logos. “a moment that will define a generation”79 or the projected retrospective glance “This was the moment when it all began”. The expression is used throughout the campaign: “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. April 28. November 4. “We expect political leaders to prioritize logos. May 20. Bush (New York. He could reach out to Democrats and Republicans alike because a section devoted to America‟s greatness is essentially and intrinsically consensual. These lyrical outbursts were often hyperbolic in essence (“it all began”. June 3. 27 . The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. October 27. Speech on Education (September 9. 82. 2008). Announcement Speech (Springfield. 2008). “a contest that will determine the course of this nation for years. February 10. Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. 2007). p. The rhetorical proofs at play in Obama’s speeches Aristotle defined the three proofs that were necessary in a political speech: ethos (character). 2008). January 3.80 References to time are essential to build up on the notion of the sacred moment. Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines. The American Promise (August 28. disingenuous on ethos and long 77. June 30. each time in a major speech: his Acceptance Speech at the Republican National Convention in 1980 and in his Farewell Speech in 1989. 2008). 81. Frederick Jackson Douglas theorized in the late 19th century the concept of the frontier. August 23. November 10. “We are at a defining moment in our history”78.84 By praising America. the turning-point. Final Election Speech (Manassas. 2008). to come”81). Interestingly enough. 2008). 2008). 84. Ronald Reagan used John Withrop‟s image of “the Citty upon a hill (sic)”83 to define his vision of America‟s destiny. 2007). 83. January 3. 2007) and “Turn the Page” Speech (San Diego. Kennedy also used it in 1961. Speech on Patriotism (Independence.55. 2008). Elvin T. Election Night Victory Speech (Chicago. 2008). LIM. logos (argument) and pathos (emotion). to express the belief that Puritans were sent to the New World by God to establish a city which the world would look at. Speech on the Middle-Class (St Louis. 80. 78. 1. Turning American history into an epic has been recurrent in presidential discourse and often associated with the mythical notion of the frontier 82 as developed by John Fitzgerald Kennedy for example in the 1960s with his New Frontier program.expressions such as “Its time to turn the page”77. Lim holds a Platonician view of what a political speech should include. 2007). Last Week Speech (Canton. 2008). November 3. Elvin T. Final Primary Night Speech (St Paul. 2008). a Puritan. Final Primary Night Speech (June 3. July 7. 2008). December 27. 79. He defined the essence of American identity as being rooted in the West. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2008). These two notions are both congruent with John O‟Sullivan‟s concept of Manifest Destiny developed in 1845 to justify American westward expansion. The biblical phrase was used in 1630 by John Winthrop. VP Announcement (Springfield. Obama made his speeches more difficult to criticize. 3. Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. 2008).
1. 89. The very place where the speech is delivered is quite significant as Springfield is the State Capital. Obama had therefore been a member of Congress for two years when he officially announced he had decided to run for the U.88 often associated with the present perfect or HAVE+V-en and BE + Ving to establish the experience he had gained. “It was here that […].89 This indirect attack against Hillary Clinton reflects a strategy Obama would use 86. ethos encompasses different notions: phronesis (practical skills and wisdom) and arété (virtue.3. p.” 88.54. when he resigned after being elected to the U. From the very beginning of his campaign. Obama has often been criticized for his lack of detailed propositions in his speeches. Obama insisted on his experience before the primaries started. 1. Obama needed to establish his credibility and therefore a crucial section of his speeches in 2007 consisted in putting forward what experience he had. Obama‟s account of his experience as a community organizer echoed the rhetoric of Lyndon Johnson‟s War on Poverty. Presidential election. goodness).”86 Manipulating the audience with emotion and a distorted self-portrait seems to have become the characteristic feature of political speech. The city is highlighted several times with the repetitions of the expression. Departing from the warmongers in Washington. Obama used Bill Clinton‟s very words to counter attacks on his lack of experience.87 From November 2007. but at different levels. especially at the national level. Indeed. They are often all present in a political speech. Obama on Obama For Aristotle. Obama developed and used the fighting metaphor not about Iraq but about the war on poverty and discrimination.” 28 . 2007. Interestingly enough.on pathos. It was especially the case in his Announcement speech. Mine is rooted in the real lives of the people and it will bring real results if we have the courage to change. Occurrences of the noun “fight” can also be found. Senate.S. “The truth is you can have the right experience and the wrong kind of experience. 87. Obama had been a state Senator in Illinois from 1997 to 2004. a significant section of which was devoted to developing his professional experience as a community organizer in Chicago‟s South Side and as a lawyer specialized in civil rights but also his political experience as a state Senator in Illinois. Obama developed a rhetoric of battle and started using the verb “fight”.S. Let us determine to what extent Obama actually corresponds to that now prevailing pattern. Ibid. On December 27. The major criticism leveled at Obama was his lack of political experience.
“Someone” does not represent here an indefinite individual. I walked away from a job on Wall Street to bring job training to the jobless and after school programs to kids on the streets of Chicago. the war in Iraq is the key-argument developed against Clinton whereas Obama‟s lack of experience was his opponents‟ central argument against him. In the speech delivered at the AFL-CIO. at the height of the primary season. which is a feature that characterizes his whole career. November 10. I'm the only candidate in this race who hasn't just talked about taking power away from lobbyists. 29 . but is reduced with the non-defining restrictive relative clause to a very precise individual and should be understood as “some one”. Obama‟s self-portrait as a fighter somehow counterbalanced his commitment to seeking consensus.2. So if you want to know what kind of 90. By elaborating on the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience. 2007). October 2. I've actually done it. Hillary Clinton‟s error of judgment as regards the war in Iraq was clearly the kind of experience she should not boast about. when the primary season was over.even more effectively against John McCain: using an opponent‟s declaration on which he agrees but which the opponent is now attacking. Obama also insisted on his virtue by emphasizing his lack of self-interest. Obama used the word fight fifteen times.000 people and pass the first major campaign finance reform in twenty-five years. “The first thing we have to do is end this war. I turned down the big money law firms to win justice for the powerless as a civil rights lawyer. In addition to his experience and stamina. Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines. Obama could connect the two issues and emphasized his clear-sightedness.” 90 Obama insisted on his good judgment. In February 2008. And the right person to end it is someone who had the judgment to oppose it from the beginning. Hillary Clinton. unlike others: “When I am this party‟s nominee. Obama briefly mentioned his political and/or professional experience again. The image as someone determined to defend his ideas whatever the obstacles was essential to establish his credibility as a future President. and I did the same thing in Washington when we passed the toughest lobbying reform since Watergate. Obama boasted himself of being right from the beginning as regards the war in Iraq. 2007). As was developed in 1. 91. The argument is also connected to that of experience. “A New Beginning” (Chicago. He did it again in his specific speeches. I took on the lobbyists in Illinois and brought Democrats and Republicans together to expand health care to 150.1.2.”91 Barack Obama is in fact the “someone” he is talking about. on the right decisions he made and he was therefore the most adequate candidate to end the war. my opponent will not be able to say that I voted for the war in Iraq. opposing the right experience and the wrong experience.
cit. Super Tuesday Night Speech (St Paul. Our national political dialogue is fundamentally metaphorical. 2008). are frequent in Obama‟s speeches. 93. Professor of Linguistics at Berkeley. Lim defined that tendency as a characteristic of anti-intellectual presidential discourse.” 1.. 2008) and very briefly in his Acceptance Speech (Denver. George Lakoff. Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison. explained how essential family values are in American discourse. Indeed. Obama had initially presented himself as the one who had made that bipartisan conciliation possible. “turned down”) and the successes he managed to bring about. November 10. The Bush Administration was fiercely criticized by its opponents for the Bushes‟ and Cheney‟s connections to the oil industry and their direct personal economic interests in the War in Iraq. “special interests) and the “powerless” / “jobless” (using the –less suffix to emphasize the poor‟s deprivations) whom he stands for. “I […] brought Democrats and Republicans together. February 12. February 10. which he defined as the references involving children and families. 2007). Elvin T.2.choices we'll make as President. references to families. February 8.93 This self-portrait actually consisted in a series of actions (use of action verbs). 94. Obama represented himself as a person free of all bonds. Le Monde selon Bush (2004). focusing both on the choices he did not make (“walked away”. whether anonymous average American families or his own. The appeal to emotions Analyzing the evolution of presidential discourse. Wisconsin Primary Night Speech (Houston. reenacting a modern version of David vs. August 28. Obama‟s decision to work in Chicago‟s South Side at the expense of the generous offers from Wall Street appeared in several speeches. December 27. 2008).3. 2007). though not overabundant.72. with family values at the center of our discourse. “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. April 28. Elvin T. Obama‟s whole career was reduced to a conflict between the powerful (“lobbies”. Goliath. 30 . 2007). the nurturant 92. p. 92 Through this self-portrait. William KAREL. in the Announcement Speech (Springfield. 2007). “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. Lim observed that pathos had become predominant and there was even a tendency to resort to an extreme form of emotional appeal: bathos. although he used the pronoun “we” to refer to the Democrats and Republicans who allied to pass anti-lobbying legislation.94 Indeed. February 19. unconnected to any special interests. motivated by superior principles and not by selfinterest. of whom Barack Obama had been a student. “Turn the Page” (San Diego. Lim. op. 2008). you should take a look at the choices we made when we had the chance to bring about change that wasn't easy or convenient. He also described himself as the artisan of the legislative successes mentioned. There is a reason why Obama and Biden spoke so much about the family.
it was surely also the result of his being 95. 2004) exclusively focus on women: a “young [female] student”. led by a Commander-in-Chief who has the judgment to know when to send them into battle and which battlefield to fight on. We believe that when she goes to school for the first time. George LAKOFF. education. often depicting families as matriarchies in his individual examples. it should be in a place where the rats don't outnumber the computers. 96. 2008 on http://www. p.2. with an average of half a dozen approximately throughout the campaign.huffingtonpost. 97. See 2. In addition to making his examples more emotional. 2007). and someone should ask her where she is from. March 4. 2008). she should feel safe knowing that they are protected from the threats we face by the bravest. And if that child should ever get the chance to travel the world. best-equipped. Texas and Ohio Primary Night Speech (San Antonio. Obama could address the issues common to both men and women (racial discrimination. Obama shifted focus to domestic policies. it is later substituted by the pronoun “she”97 to make the story more emotional as girls are seen as being more vulnerable: We believe that a child born tonight should have the same chances whether she arrives in the barrios of San Antonio or the suburbs of St. responsibility and aspiration. military in the world. We believe that these jobs should provide wages that can raise her family. we believe that she should always be able to hold her head high with pride in her voice when she answers “I am an American”.1. a “mother in San Antonio” and an “elderly woman”. employment. on the streets of Chicago or the hills of Appalachia. health care) but also the issue of sex inequality and by depicting her as a future mother. The singular personal pronoun “she” has been used since the late twentieth century in academic journal articles as a generic pronoun to counter the predominant use of the generic pronoun “he”. health care for when she gets sick and a pension for when she retires. Obama could have used the epicene “they” but he specifically intended to develop the story of a woman here. safety. the three individual narratives developed in the Texas and Ohio Primary Night Speech (San Antonio. 95 Thirty occurrences of the noun family or families can be found in his speech on the economy and the middle-class delivered in July 7.44. Louis. with caring fathers and the family values that Obama put front and center in his Father's day speech: empathy. he could focus on the motherly instinct of protection. 96 The references to child/children were more frequent. and eighteen in “Reclaiming the American Dream” (November 7.98 By telling the story of this imaginary average girl. Obama‟s personal narratives often focused on women and more especially mothers or young women to insist on their vulnerability.family. Unlike Reagan and the Bushes who insisted on a strong America and a manly approach to leadership. 2008). We believe that when she tucks her own children into bed. March 4.com/george-lakoff/the-palin-choice-and-the_b_123012.html. posted on September 1. cost is no barrier to a degree that will allow her to compete with children in China or India for the jobs of the twenty-first century. this one ended with a sentence in direct speech. Like the Ashley Baia story. 2008. There was an average of half a dozen occurrences during the height of the primary season. that when she applies to college. peaking exceptionally at forty occurrences in the speech dedicated to “A 21st Century Education” (September 9. Interestingly enough. “The Palin Choice and the Reality of the Political Mind”. But even when Obama spoke of children in general and used the generic expression “a child”. 31 . The Ashley Baia story. 98.
” 100. p. Substance. 32 . “Turn the Page” Speech (San Diego.2.”104 Obama repeated in other speeches that teachers should be paid as they 99.5. You're working longer hours. The minor use of arguments “The only organ to which no appeal is made these days . “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf.so that you can know your kids are safe and secure. 1. Peggy NOONAN. it's hard to get a hand.raised by a single mother and grandmother and a deliberate attempt to appeal to female voters who could feel closer to Hillary Clinton. What is crucial is Obama‟s determination to act personally (frequent uses of “I‟ll”). p. and to cover elderly care. April 28. 104. 2008 because broken families have been a crucial problem with African Americans for generations: “what makes them men is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one. And that's why I'll expand the Family Medical Leave Act to include more businesses and millions more workers. to let parents participate in school activities with their kids. 103.22. At the beginning and almost until the late December 2007. 2007). he developed a number of fairly precise points though he remained quite general and did not delve into detail: no figures were given. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. p. More families have two parents working. Meanwhile. Peggy Noonan was Ronald Reagan‟s former speechwriter. Simply Speaking: How to Communicate Your Ideas with Style. cit. 2007). And we'll finally put federal support behind state efforts to provide paid Family and Medical Leave.102 Obama explained that “more businesses” and “millions more workers” would be included but no precise idea was given as to how many million workers would be concerned.99 Obama‟s strong and laudatory emphasis on America and American values100 should also be included in this section as they tug at the heartstrings. Other examples confirmed that lack of precision: “pay teachers what they deserve to be paid” 103 or “We won‟t wait ten years to raise the minimum wage – I‟ll guarantee that it goes up every single year. Lim.is the brain.”101 Obama‟s development of arguments varied along the campaign.70 quoted in Elvin T. It was the case in the following examples which is fairly representative: We know that the cost of the American dream must never come at the expense of the American family. That's why I'll double spending on quality after-school programs . op. Fathers were specifically addressed in Obama‟s speech to the NAACP on July 14. and Clarity (New York: Regan..3. See 1.you might call it America‟s understimulated organ . 2007). November 7. November 7. Praise of America and Americans. 102.3. 101. It's even harder to get a break. 1998).2.
The section devoted to Obama‟s proposals was much reduced in the first month of the primaries but was then developed again but often in connection with a detailed account of the present situation. 33 . July 10. For example. but also lets you take leave to care for your elderly parents and participate in school activities like parent-teacher conferences and assemblies. he often sounded less lyrical and more down-to-earth. giving precise accounts of his record. which sounded more inclusive. Columbia. Finally. detailed ideas too soon in the campaign was that it might force him to readjust his ideas according to the economic evolution and that would undermine his capacity to persuade. Senator McCain has no clear plan to expand paid leave and sick leave – and that's a real difference in this election. Here again. In both cases. First opposed to utilizing the Strategic Oil Reserve except in case of emergency. the middle-class and so on in the specific speeches which were mostly given once the primary campaign was over. “parents”). Speech on working women (Fairfax. Obama detailed what he intended to do about Family and Medical Leave. “Instead of talking how great our teachers are. pragmatic approach. Obama no longer referred to them directly but used the generic plural form (“workers”. which he had evoked in general terms at the beginning of the campaign: It means dramatically expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act to reach millions of additional workers – and I'll ensure that it doesn't just cover staying at home with a new baby. we will reward them for their greatness. 2008. a detailed analysis of the situation and his precise proposals. 106. Obama shifted back and forth between the pronoun “I” and the exclusive “we” which referred to his Administration. we've got to do more to help folks at the bottom of the ladder climb into the middle class. Obama developed his plans on energy. As regards the people he was talking about. In the following example. In those speeches.5 billion to help create paid leave systems across America – and I'll require employers to provide all of their workers with at least seven days paid sick leave a year. families. Obama approved it a month later on August 4. Obama had to make a U-turn on the strategic oil reserve within four weeks. he prevented attacks on the idea. Obama directly addresses the working women facing him by using the personal pronoun “you”. 2008). 107.” (South Carolina Primary Night Speech. 2008). January 26.107 Obama avoided as much as possible partisan policies and advocated a consensual.deserved105 but never specified how much that represented and obviously no one could disagree on such an assumption. This was at the core of his Inaugural Speech: “The question we ask today is not whether our 105. One of the reasons Obama avoided developing precise. 106 Obama‟s proposals usually followed McCain‟s senatorial record on the issue. It means standing up for paid leave – so I'll invest $1. It was the same with the annual raise of the minimum wage: by not giving a precise figure as to the percentage nor on its terms. bipartisan.
“[Hillary Clinton] has lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama. 110. but whether it works […] Where the answer is yes. As John McWorther pointed out.55. ethos and pathos are “largely non falsifiable” and could not be deliberated on. the question of efficacy is highly consensual and enables Obama to skillfully evade the question of size.government is too big or too small. More than detailed policies. p. For more on the shift between the November Victory Speech and the Inaugural Address. October 27. October 2008. see Michael NOVAK. the adjective “dumb” was used four times in that speech. was the style he developed. 109.” While the question of size is highly ideological as it involves the extent of the state‟s intervention in the economy and society. 2008) and moving “beyond old arguments of left and right” (Speech on Education. “A Rhetorical Question”. Obama had developed the idea in his Last Week Speech (Canton. the praise of America and Americans or the bipartisan approach was more consensual and therefore more difficult to oppose for his rivals. op. October 2. Using the comparative form and the keyword “government” three times gives the (deceiving) illusion that there is topical unity. cit. programs will end. “Studying Obama‟s Rhetoric”. p. 2008): “We don‟t need bigger or smaller government.110 Unlike arguments. What made him different. with ethos and pathos.” John McWORTHER. Lim delineated in today‟s political discourse: he won the Democratic nomination with “ethos and pathos”. Canton. Obama opposed the war in Iraq because it was a “dumb war” (Chicago. Where the answer is no.”108 Obama‟s political decisions were not motivated by ideology. 2008). Elvin T. We need better government.. First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life. Issue 186. what Obama mainly advocated was “a new politics” in which people and not “special interests” would have a greater say. January 20. apart from the special focus on praising America. 34 . Lim. Obama‟s speeches follow the anti-intellectual trend that Lim defined and characterized.45ff. Obama‟s focus on individual narratives. 108. who first electrified the electorate with touching autobiography and comfort-food proclamations about hope and unity--that is. Dayton. October 27. Obama followed the tendency Elvin T. we intend to move forward. 111. September 9. promoting a politics “that favors common sense109 over ideology” (Last Week Speech. 2009. but by rational thinking.111 As far as substance is concerned. 2002).
too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose.115 The tricolon can also be found at the macrostructural level to structure a paragraph and can be combined with anaphora as in the previous example. and to fight for it. 2008). listed about thirty three-part lists in Obama‟s Inaugural Speech. 2008). and fight with me. 2008). “So I'm asking you to march with me. “if we have the courage to reach for it. tonight is your answer. linguist or political specialist. January 3. 2008).112 one of Cicero‟s best known techniques. April 2. it is often located at the end of the sentence as is often the case with the expression: “if there are people who are willing to work for it. “No dream is beyond our grasp if we reach for it. They are usually located at the end of a sentence. and believe in it” Final Primary Night Speech (St Paul. who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time. 35 . one every thirty seconds. it gives a regular balance to the sentence as the three parts are usually of the same length. insisting on his frequent use of the tricolon.1. Introduction to the Election Night Victory Speech (Chicago. 2008). 113 Kentucky Oregon Night Speech (Des Moines. and work for it. “if you are willing to vote for me. 114. 2008). 116 112. and fight for it. they said this day would never come. “If we're willing to work for it and fight for it. “if we are willing to work for it. December 27. The third element makes the list unequivocal. in hypothetical contexts to build up suspense until Obama delivers the apodosis which is very short in contrast and hence creates a contrast in the rhythm of the sentence as in: If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible. When the tricolon is found at the microstructural level. Charlotte Higgins deemed Obama the “new Cicero”. a specialist in public speaking. May 20. if you're willing to caucus for me” Wisconsin Primary Night Speech (Houston. who still questions the power of our democracy. 115. The use of the tricolon can be either microstructural or macrostructural in Obama‟s discourse. They said this country was too divided.4. and believe in it. They said our sights were set too high. February 12. and to work for it. 2007). Here is the introduction to the Iowa Caucus Night Speech: You know. February 19.114 except in the Final Primary Night Speech.” Speech to the AFL-CIO (Philadelphia. June 3.” Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. Max Atkinson.” in “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines.” Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison. Besides. and work with me.”113 This example can be found with variations in a number of Obama‟s speeches. 2008). November 4. and fight for it. if you are willing to stand with me. The flourishing rhetorical imagery and characteristic stylistic devices Obama‟s special way with words has been the focus of many a journalist. and fight for it. The three-part list can also be found at the beginning of a sentence.
but for every American who's willing to work. The steady rhythm is reinforced by the combination with anaphora.you have done what the cynics said we couldn't do. January 10. Varrod listed over thirty examples of contrasting opposites in the fairly short Inaugural Address. ESPRIT. “Les trois leviers rhétoriques d‟Obama”. May 2009. Newsweek. It puts the audience in a situation in which they follow the speaker‟s thought process. 2008. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence. Pierre VARROD. it generates an expectation for the audience. author of Public Speaking for Dummies. cit. 36 .121 Those two extracts are taken from the same speech and illustrate two different ways of combining the three-part list and contrast: either contrasting the third element of the list or presenting three successive contrasting opposites. Malcolm KUSHNER. 2008). the United States of America”. that goes back to the ancient Greeks. August 28. It should help us. not against us.at this defining moment in history . Pierre Varrod in “Les trois leviers rhétoriques d‟Obama”117 and Malcolm Kushner. The tricolon actually gives way to another tricolon: “But on this January night . Pierre VARROD. but not one penny of tax relief to more than 100 million Americans? Our government should work for us. “The Mother and the Orator”. November 4. 118. once they know what is not. “The American Promise” (Denver. 119.120 These techniques are given even more weight when they are combined. The opposition between Red and Blue States and the United States of America was initially used in Obama‟s 2004 Keynote Address and was a recurrent line in the 2008 campaign.” 117. Election Night Victory Speech (Chicago. Pierre Varrod suggested that contrasts enable the audience to anticipate on what is. quoted in Jennie YABROFF. 2008). Using contrasts allows the speaker to delay the moment before developing the idea.The three-part list conveys a regular rhythm but also anticipates on the last idea as the adverb “too” which expresses excess is often associated with an infinitive clause which specifies why there is an excess.119 Contrasts can be articulated with the conjunction “but” or simply with a comma (orally a pause). and always will be. not hurt us.”118 Contrasts are a predominant characteristic of Obama‟s speeches. op. These examples are in fact not only combinations of contrasts and three-part lists. they are also combined with rhetorical 116. as was the case in the oft-repeated expression: “we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are. as in: Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under $5 million a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies. You have done what America can do in this new year 2008. 121. “In Iowa he uses contrasting opposites. 120. insisted on Obama‟s use of contrasts. You have done what the state of New Hampshire can do in five days.
The name of my cousin Dick Cheney will not be on the ballot. The sentence was first used at the AP Luncheon on April 2. “The American Promise” (Denver. We‟ve been trying to hide that for a long time. When he uses polyptoton in his Acceptance Speech. 125. hence telling the audience 122. posted on July 14. which was usually a way of sharing something with his audience. 2008). most of the time. August 28. They are indeed taken up by the media as sound bites. "using contrasts is a real winner. Obama joked about being the hidden cousin of Dick Cheney: “Now. August 28. 2008 against Bush. 37 . “The American Promise” (Denver. The use of such device is possible because the audience can understand the reference. shared knowledge. Obama sometimes adds a lighter tone to his speeches. here‟s the good news – the name George W.bbc. 123. he can do so because he knows that his audience will understand who he has in mind. humor. But establishing a direct connection with the audience was not the only purpose of the devices Obama mainly used. “I left [Harvard] with a degree and a lifetime of debt. 126. 2007). was used effectively by Obama. 2009. “every”) and of course phonological emphasis with a contrastive stress on the pair of words that are opposed (“for” vs. 128. a common experience of the debts to pay or the frustration caused by the 2000 “phony” election. it is to criticize John McCain‟s program and what he is supposedly really driving at: “The Ownership society but what it really means is that you‟re „on your own‟. lexical contrasts (“those” vs. although it is not a predominant feature. November 10.or at least.”125 Obama‟s snapping remarks often made the audience laugh. Obama unexpectedly referred to the 2000 election after a significant pause: “and that our votes will be counted --. In the Iowa Jefferson Jackson dinner.126 Such remarks can be found mostly in speeches delivered in front of partisan audiences (DNC Conventions or Jefferson Jackson Dinners127) and illustrate the closer proximity Obama can establish with his audience. 2007). Max Atkinson insists on some specific rhetorical devices being used as claptraps. Bush will not be on the ballot. “against” . Obama‟s mastery of language is characterized by the huge number of stylistic devices he uses and combines.” (Bettendorf. It is based on common. When Obama uses antonomasis by referring to Martin Luther King as “a young preacher from Georgia”122.”128 According to Max Atkinson. Research shows 33% of the applause a good speech gets is when a contrast is used. April 28. 2008). “help” vs.” 127. Quoted in Denise WINTERMAN.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8128271.”123 It is the same with paronomasis. each time with an effective purpose. “hurt”).stm. “Want to know how to handle all of these?” BBC NEWS Magazine. contrasts. “I don‟t know about you but I am not ready to take a ten percent chance on change”124 or syllepsis. “Turn the Page” Speech (San Diego. threepart lists as well as a combination of both prove effective claptraps. 124. http://news.co. During his 2004 Keynote Address while he was praising the American democracy. Everybody has a black sheep in the family.questions and hyperbole (contrast between “hundreds of billions” and “not one penny”).
Obama‟s use of those effective devices shows that he is an expert in political communication. February 10. “Announcement Speech” (Springfield. which had contributed to lower the function to the level of ordinary citizen. See also Peter BULL. They are not specific to him. posted on January 22. 2009. What makes the specificity of Obama‟s speeches cannot be reduced to his lofty rhetoric and abundant stylistic devices. Christophe DE VOOGD.fr. President of the Société Internationale des Amis de Cicéron. This was Obama‟s key purpose and it never varied throughout the campaign. “Rhetoric and applause in Obama‟s Inaugural Speech as a measure of what the audience liked best”. Obama offered the vision of a new American epic that would make Americans proud of being Americans and self-confident in the country‟s ability to overcome its current ordeals.131 What is sure. rather than the other way round. 131.” Philippe ROUSSELOT.pdf (01/11). Breaking with the usual political practices. nonetheless. 2003).com/2009/01/rhetoric-and-applause-inobamas. 129.nonfiction.eu/document/marcustulliusobama.when to applaud. 2009 on http://maxatkinson. “Marcus Tullius Obama”. he had learnt in the Illinois State Senate to “disagree without being disagreeable”. the third chapter focuses on Atkinson‟s theory of how rhetorical devices are used to call for applause. www. 2007).tulliana. And so it goes with the analogy with Cicero. is that Obama‟s brilliant rhetoric contrasts sharply with Bush‟s style. by many other standards.129 Atkinson has been studying claptraps in British political discourse for over two decades.html. This is also reflected by how Obama treats his direct opponents. posted on January 21. Obama wants to place his rhetoric at a higher level than political agendas. 38 . the two are actually rereading Cicero with Obama in mind. Obama offered change in the way he thought political battles should be led. “Cicéron: „speechwriter‟ d‟Obama?: l‟éloquence revient à la Maison Blanche”.132 This higher level was also strategic obviously as it kept Obama from being constantly dragged into controversies regarding specific political propositions. www. Yet. The outline of Obama‟s speeches is rooted in classical tradition. Charlotte Higgins who considered Obama as “the new Cicero” mentions only one stylistic parallel (the large use of the tricolon) and Christophe De Voogd who wonders in the title of one of his articles if Cicero is Obama‟s speechwriter never mentions the Roman lawyer in his article. Obama proved more in tune with some prevailing features of American modern political discourse. The Microanalysis of Political Communication: Claptrap and Ambiguity (New York: Routledge. Max ATKINSON. Obama‟s superior rhetoric restores some distance and reinvests the function of politician with a rhetorical grandeur that helps sacralize it.130 For Philippe Rousselot. As he said in his Announcement Speech. 130. “Ce n‟est pas tant Obama qui est décrypté que Cicéron qui est reconstruit.blogspot. 132.
the need for unity has been all the more necessary and all the more difficult to reach. a population officially classified according to race. there was a constant movement between the particular and the generic but all tended to reflect and inspire unity. his treatment of race and the symbolical summoning up of Lincoln. Obama sought to rise above the fray as his rhetoric suggested. especially as Republicans have sought to exploit tensions and divisions. After analyzing Obama‟s use of storytelling. Reagan had proved what an effective tool of persuasion it could be and had inspired other American politicians to make use of stories too. Another characteristic in which Obama had specialized is storytelling (which is related to pathos) as we will first see in this section. 39 . Obama the modern politician As was seen in the first part. he could not escape from some of the tendencies that had become most effective to attract voters like the use of pathos and ethos. Kennedy put it. his use of personal pronouns and toponyms. Yet. which had become a characteristic of American political discourse. Because America is “a nation of immigrants” as John F. this section will focus on Obama‟s discursive strategy to forge unity: his redefinition of America‟s national identity.2. In Obama‟s speeches.
” The strategy devised by the Obama team was to use the main tools of modern political campaigns. 2007). Bush (New York: Penguin. “The Caucus” on March 13. 2004). will be defined by the power of stories. It‟s the Pollster vs. 2008. Christian SALMON. la machine à fabriquer des histoires et à formater les esprits (Paris: La Découverte. have analyzed the major importance taken by storytelling in political discourse. While Cornog insists on the feature as being a characteristic of every U. These prefabricated stories punctuate the campaign and the speaker knows them by heart. 136. Storytelling. The 2004 election. My Life (New York: Alfred A. he has a gift for telling personal stories in ways that people can understand. Storytelling had become a predominant feature of American political discourse since Reagan in the early 1980s.136 According to Bai. 40 . the use of personal narratives was directly related to the influence of Obama‟s main consultant. Bill CLINTON. coll. professor of journalism at Columbia University and Christian Salmon who works at the CNRS. p.2.134 Salmon coined the expressions “narrarchy” and “narrative presidency” 135 to account for the prominence it had now reached at the expense of formulating a detailed political agenda. Knopf. 135. David Axelrod. A major component of Obama‟s speeches consisted in the narratives of average Americans representing the whole society and which reappeared from one speech to another. The personal narratives were often synthesized in one or two sentences in Obama‟s speeches and were used as leitmotifs. According to Matt Bai.“Cahiers libres”. Axelrod is an advertising guy. more personal narrative. “In the Clinton-Obama Race. Obama the storyteller “When I grew up and got into politics. The New York Times. “like all the elections that have come before it . the Ad Man”. Axelrod‟s essential insight […] is that the modern campaign really isn‟t about the policy arcana or the candidate‟s record. 133.S. 130. p. The Power and the Story: How the Crafted Presidential Narrative Has Determined Political Success from George Washington to George W. 2004).” Evan CORNOG. March 16.15. presidential elections. p. it‟s about a more visceral.1. A man who perfected the craft of encapsulating an entire life in 30 seconds.124.” 133 Evan Cornog. I always felt the main point of my work was to give people a chance to have better stories. a New York Times columnist. This analysis was previously developed by Matt Bai on the New York Times blog.273. Matt BAI. 2008. “Mr.
washingtonpost. No mention was made of race in these examples. 2008).” South Carolina Primary Speech (Columbia. 2008) and Final Primary Night Speech (St Paul. when the race was still particularly close in February and March 2008. Those individual narratives aimed to illustrate the problems America was facing. January 26. February 19. February 12. The first events organized in Iowa took place on the day he declared his candidacy.141 Interestingly enough. 140. 2008). Wisconsin Primary Night Speech (Houston. 2007). the speech included one example located in Ohio. 2008). August 28. As little information as possible was given on the person portrayed: “a student”. Obama extensively campaigned there: the Washington Post listed 174 events between February 10. 2008). June 5. 2007. just before the epilogue if they were used to define hope and Americans‟ dreams. 2008) were in fact the same ones told in Iowa on December 27. February 19. depending on the precise and specific function they were given in the speech. Yet. 142. Delivered in Texas. 2008). It was in 137. “Our Moment Is Now” (Des Moines. 2007 and January 3. p. “a worker”. details were removed. one in Texas and the last one in Wisconsin as it was the day of the primaries in Wisconsin. As the narratives were repeated. 139. 2008) and Wisconsin Primary Night Speech (Houston. 141. Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison. the series of prefabs could be found toward the beginning of the speech if they were solely used to illustrate America‟s problems. January 3.1. it can be found toward the middle of the speech.com/2008-presidential-candidates/tracker/candidates/barack-obama/ (05/10).2. the day of the Caucus. Prefabs based on the personal narratives of anonymous Americans137 Most of the prefabs originated from the stories heard in Iowa where Obama campaigned for months to win the symbolic first caucus and hence gain credibility. 41 . http://projects. see the Appendix. 138 Obama first introduced personal narratives of average anonymous Americans on December 27. “a woman” “a mother”. February 10. 138. December 27. the special narratives from South Carolina142 (January 26. the section was adapted to the global function it had. Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. Speech to AFL-CIO (Philadelphia. 2008). These personal narratives have been listed in a table. June 3.117. 2008) but as the speech is longer. 2008. March 4. 2008) and Speech on Health Care (Bristol. April 2. The examples given on February 19. Texas Primary Night Speech (San Antonio. 2007. […] The Maytag worker who is now competing with his own teenager for a $7-an-hour job at Wal-Mart because the factory he gave his life to shut its doors. “Theirs are the stories and voices we carry on from South Carolina. it was used to fuel the criticism against John McCain and Hillary Clinton. 2007 and this would subsequently become a characteristic feature of his speeches. 2008 served to prepare the elections scheduled in Texas and Ohio two weeks later. Hence.139 toward the middle when they were included in the section devoted to John McCain (and sometimes Hillary Clinton)140 and at the end.1. The section fulfils an illustrative purpose in the Acceptance Speech (Denver.
143.particular the case with Obama‟s most-frequently repeated example. 2008. Obama shifts from the indefinite article “a” to the definite article “the”.143 Details were given on when Obama met her. August 28.144 then occasionally (Final Primary Night Speech on June 3. “The Cost of War” (Charleston. becoming a prototypical example. 2007). “that young student” (Denver. and wonders why the government isn't doing more to help her afford the education that will allow her to live out her dreams. January 26. 2008). In the Iowa Caucus Victory Speech (Des Moines. The story of the young student who had to work to help her sick sister was almost invariably included in the section on personal narratives. March 20. April 2. January 3. 2008). There was also an evolution as regards the determiners used to refer to that individual.145 and finally the deictic “that” the last time he used the example in his Acceptance Speech (August 28. The noun phrase was always followed by a relative clause to introduce what the problems of those persons were. often as the first or second example given. The story was repeated a number of times afterward. 2008). December 27. 2008) “the young woman” (Bristol. 2008) . 2008). 2008 and Acceptance Speech on August 28. the Speech to the AFL-CIO (Philadelphia. 42 . the South Carolina Victory Speech (Columbia. the Final Primary Night Speech (St Paul. (1) (2) (3) (4) “a young woman in Cedar Rapids” (Des Moines. the Texas Primary Night Speech (San Antonio. It was first mentioned on December 27. 2008). 2008). December 27. March 4. the narrative was deprived of its characteristic details to ease the identification process. The use of the indefinite article “a” allows the extraction from the group and lends a metonymic function of representation to the example. the Speech on Health Care (Bristol. The geographical indication was removed as well as the disease of the sister. August 28. June 3. “A student from Cedar Rapids” was soon shortened to “a student” and the person hence became emblematic: “a young student” was any student. June 5. 2008). 2008) and the Acceptance Speech (Denver. 2008) . “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. “the young woman in Cedar Rapids” (Des Moines. not because he has already introduced the woman in the speech and is now going to say something else about her. Speech on Health Care on June 5. mainly until April 2. 145. but to state exactly the same things but in a later speech. February 12 2008). Gradually though. 2008) Obama gradually shifted from the indefinite article “a” when he first mentioned that example to the definite article “the” to stress the anaphoric reference as the woman had been mentioned in previous speeches. She spoke not with self-pity but with determination. June 5. 2007: Just two weeks ago. 2007). reaching a universal status. I heard a young woman in Cedar Rapids who told me she only gets three hours of sleep because she works the night shift after a full day of college and still can't afford health care for a sister with cerebral palsy. the Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison. 3 January 2008). 144.
In the Protestant work ethic as Max Weber defined it. 147.The narrative was summarized in one sentence: “We're going to finally help folks like the young woman I met who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can't afford medicine for a sister who's ill. The student who works the night shifts illustrates the issue of students‟ living standards and the lack of financial help to support underprivileged students having to work to pay for their studies. Speech to the AFL-CIO (Philadelphia. That additional information was not always included. Obama focused on the “deserving poor” as they were called in Victorian England. “There's the young woman I met who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can't afford medicine for a sister who's ill. Obama either used the preterit to insist on the bad turn of events that befell them or the simple present to describe their current situation. Instead of a multiplication of narratives.” Speech on Health Care (Bristol. or the man I met who almost lost his home because he has three children with cystic fibrosis and couldn't pay their health care bills.147 The conservative notion of self-help was undermined because people alone could not overcome their problems no matter how hard they tried. 2008) 43 . 2008). But the story is also related to Health Care as the student also works to help her sick sister. April 2. Obama focused on a number of defined narratives which enabled people from different walks of life to identify at least partly with one or another of the narratives. Using the examples of people facing several serious problems was a way to insist on people‟s vulnerability to social dysfunctions for which they were not responsible and arouse pity and empathy for them. The small number of prefabs used is directly related to the complex stories told: each narrative encompasses a number of wider issues. June 5. The restrictive clause introduced by “who” in this example as well as in the other narratives contributed to define the individuals through the problems they were confronted to. People are never portrayed as idlers wishing to rely on the State but as individuals suffering from a series of misfortunes with which they could not cope despite their efforts and determination.”146 Obama adds the zero relative clause “I met” to establish a direct connection with the woman before the restrictive relative clause introduced by “who”. their ability to act was reduced to none by the use of the modal auxiliary “can” or “could” in the negative form. But he always portrayed them as victims even though the passive form is not always used. Another frequently repeated story is that of the Maytag workers who lost their jobs because their factory was relocated overseas and were then competing with their sons for under-paid 146. who still doesn't have health insurance for himself or his wife and lives in fear that a single illness could cost them everything. Even when they remained the agent of the action and subject of the sentence. people who did not work were often scorned and labeled as lazy people.
suggesting that each problem is compounding others and that people are all interrelated by the consequences of a de-structured economy. 2008) and the encounter with a woman in South Carolina who chanted “Fired up? Ready to go?” to welcome him (Final Election Speech. 2. 2008). It is the only story to deal with interracial relationship. 44 . Robyn (Last Week Speech.88 for the stylistic analysis. We shall focus here on the structural and symbolical aspects of the story. which according to some had played a key-part in Bush‟s re-election. Obama could insist on the absurdity of the system and its immorality as they stood in sharp contrast with Christian principles. The original version is fairly longer than the second one. 2008). Answering Cain‟s question to God: “Am I my brother‟s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9).1. The Ashley Baia story149 The Ashley Baia story is not the only one fairly long story150 but it is the longest and it was repeated twice.2. Her father. November 3.2. 150.”148 Obama‟s individual narratives do not just show how individual Americans are affected by health care problems or the economy. Ebenezer Church was the church where King was preaching as a minister. took a picture of President Bush hugging his daughter to comfort her 148. The reference to Cooper provided a frame to the story of America over the last hundred years. in which a number of details have been removed. an outspoken Republican. June 3. See 3. His most-often quoted reference to the Bible was “I am my brother‟s keeper. The Ashley Baia story was told by Barack Obama to close the speech he delivered at Ebenezer Church on January 20. they show how families are affected and metaphorically how the whole social fabric is being unraveled. 149. By evoking “workers competing with their sons”. Canton.1. Chicago. Obama refers to a 106-year-old black woman. Ashley Faulkner was a sixteen-year-old young American who lost her mother in the 9/11 attacks. During the previous presidential election. to assess the progress accomplished by the black community in his Election Night Victory Speech. there had been another Ashley story. Each problem like industrial relocation here is hence set in a wider perspective. I am my sister‟s keeper. Obama delivered a speech to honor Martin Luther King the day preceding Martin Luther King‟s Day (the third Monday of January to celebrate King‟s birthday).2. The use of hypotyposis p. Ann Dixon Cooper. October 27. The other fairly long stories refer to a meeting Obama had unsuccessfully organized in Chicago (Super Tuesday Speech.jobs at the local store. Obama very often focused on family relationships to illustrate the effects of the lack of a reliable and comprehensive health care system or the consequences of industrial relocation. 151. 2008.151 The anecdote was taken up and repeated to close “A more perfect union” two months later. the story of a letter sent to him by a little girl.
And Ashley said that when she was nine years old. It lasts approximately four minutes. 60-second commercial that Faulkner's photo spawned. Because that was the cheapest way to eat. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. The Ashley Baia story is by far the longest story told by Obama during the campaign. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally.salon. And in a campaign known for its negative tone […] the commercial. and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there."154 The episode has in fact two different levels: it consists of a story embedded in another story. 154. He simply says to everyone in the room. She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs. And he does not bring up a specific issue.on May 6. And Ashley asks him why he's there. motivating. March 18. op. “The TV ad that put Bush over the top”. Anyway. Exit poll results that indicate "moral values" was a driving force among voters […] help explain the effectiveness of the ad. and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom. Here is a transcript of the second version: There is a young. The unique. while „Ashley's Story‟ appealed to their emotions. and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too. 45 . 2004. "I am here because of Ashley. She did this for a year until her mom got better." blanketed swing states during the final weeks of the election. “A more perfect union” (Philadelphia. with its heartfelt 9/11 connection. South Carolina. http://dir. She had been working to organize a mostly AfricanAmerican community since the beginning of this campaign. 2004. The photo was soon turned into a TV ad campaign in favor of Bush and was broadcast over 30. Salon. Many bring up a specific issue. November 5. feel-good ad. They all have different stories and reasons. He does not say education or the war. 153. Obama tells the story of Ashley Baia. cit. which showed Bush as a protective. But she didn't. a twenty-three-year-old white woman who 152. He does not say health care or the economy. Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. "Ashley's Story. she was let go and lost her health care. Eric BOEHLERT.”153 That is a mistake Obama did not make during his campaign four years later and he chose to conclude two of his main speeches with his own “Ashley story”. turned out to be an exception: a memorable.com/story/news/feature/2004/11/05/bush_ads/print. her mother got cancer. 2008).html . At the same time. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work. twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence. Democrats aired an ad featuring a 9/11 victim‟s next-of-kin “which appealed to voters' logic about the terrorist attacks. Eric BOEHLERT. Now Ashley might have made a different choice. 152 compassionate father figure. And because she had to miss days of work.000 times in swing states. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice. They had to file for bankruptcy.
saying that when she was nine. The use of hypotyposis p. what kind of person she is.1. giving more focus to the two people he considers the most important: Ashley and the elderly black man.organizes Obama‟s campaign in South Carolina. which he had never used before while telling this story.” Ashley‟s story is important because it helps establish who she is. The mention of “everyone at the roundtable” helps shift back to the metadiegetic level. The other people present are grouped into the personal pronoun “they” and are never singled out. He stands as the anonymous representative of his community.155 Obama is rewriting the anecdote. he delays its delivery again by giving details: “he simply says to everyone in the room.2. beginning with “And Ashley said that when she was nine years old […]. „I am here because of Ashley. To help her mother save money. and subsequently lost her job and health care. This will be discussed more at length in 3. 46 . the story suddenly shifts from he/she/then/there to I/here/now.” and closing with. hence fulfilling a symbolical function. Obama uses delaying techniques and builds up suspense. But before stating the elderly black man‟s reason for being there.‟” Obama impersonates the old man by using direct speech and thus shifting voices by using the pronoun “I”. Ashley ate relish sandwiches for a year. Their reasons for supporting the campaign are synthesized in two brief sentences. quickening the pace before arriving at the last person: the elderly black man. health care. that is to say a sort of ordinary heroine. until her mother got better. Interestingly enough. He first gives the reasons the old man does not give and which are related to the four main issues developed by Obama in his campaign: education. the occurrences of speech verbs are fairly numerous and so are complement clauses.88. It gives the impression that Obama is talking to his audience about something he had directly witnessed although it was not the case. At its very end. This anonymity gives him a generic function. The story is then told using a number of speech verbs associated to Ashley and an elderly black attending the discussion. which corresponds to the roundtable discussion. For the 155. Ashley‟s personal story is framed by a speech verb followed by a complement clause. in a mostly black area and who had gathered Obama‟s supporters at a roundtable to know what had led them to get involved in the campaign. And even when he announces the answer. the war and the economy. “And she told everyone at the roundtable […].2. Because of the particular construction of Obama‟s anecdote. The elderly black man never gets named. The intradiegetic level consists of the story Ashley told at the roundtable. He could almost be any elderly black man. Ashley and the elderly black man symbolize the beginning of a new era for Obama and they also symbolize his campaign. her mother fell seriously ill (cancer).
Obama had pointed at the “moral deficit”. Earlier in the speech. 157. South Carolina. According to Evan Cornog. Race is here used according to its American meaning and is therefore particularly relevant when discussing American race relations and as they are represented by politicians. Her physical description actually precedes her name: “There is a young.63.”160 the campaign was particularly centered on him. Obama’s personal narratives “My story is a quintessentially American story.. 12. twenty-three year old white woman. By bringing together people like Ashley and the elderly black man. black speaker to white audience) raises the question of representation and disconnects it from ethnic and racial considerations. “A more perfect union” p.158 The underlying message conveyed is that Obama‟s campaign can bring together people who could not be more different.” 159 Although Obama often repeated that the election was “not about [him]. then Obama can speak for white voters. age and race.C. 156 which stand in sharp contrast with the physical portrait made of Ashley. his supporters are representatives of Obama‟s America. 2008). Associated Press Annual Luncheon (Washington D. It is a crucial point for Obama who has to convince voters that he can represent them all and that he is not just the candidate of African Americans.”157 Ashley and the old black man are direct opposites as regards sex. 2009. 2008). 2. Obama has already managed to cross bridges.” Speech at Dr King‟s Church (Atlanta. Professor of 156. She's been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign. just as white voters might be symbolically rewarded for their commitment. April 14.sake of the argument.1. age and race but can see themselves in the face of the other. This reversed mirror effect (white speaker to black audience vs.” 158.3.2. See also 2. Ashley is symbolically rewarded for her commitment by the elderly black man‟s gratitude and unexpected recognition. Vol. Rhetoric & Public Affairs. March 18 2008”. David A. implying that visual differences are superficial and not fundamental.2. he cannot be named otherwise he would become a specific old black man. January 20. Frank analyzed the influence of Lévinas‟s philosophy on Obama in “The Prophetic Voice and the Face of the Other in Barack Obama's "A More Perfect Union" Address. twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organizes for our campaign in Florence. 47 . If the elderly black man can speak for a white young girl and not to voice his own interests. 159.4. “a young. The anecdote is also relevant for the message it sends to white voters. The only details given to portray him are his sex. “empathy deficit” that characterized American society and which he defined as the “inability to recognize ourselves in one another.
C. cit. 2008). November 7. 2008). See also. Obama often declared that he “was not born into a lot of money”. June 30. as in the Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. The narrative was often used during the presidential campaign but Obama also included the stories of his relatives. the Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison. The speech. 2008).” Potomac Primary Night (Madison. op. can be seen as the matrix to most of his subsequent campaign speeches. and were able to provide my mother with a decent education. following the generational succession: grandparents. One of the key passages is devoted to Obama‟s personal story: his mixed roots. entitled “The Audacity of Hope”.108-109.. the Wisconsin Primary Night Speech (Houston. 2008). 161. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. September 9.” Barack OBAMA. “The America We Love” (Independence. January 3. 2007). 2008). in the Final Primary Night Speech. To emphasize the contrast. single mothers. “pretty words” don‟t make things change and it had just “made [him] feel important. and the government gave them a chance to buy a home. February 12. 2008). education and professional experience and a self-portrait as the embodiment of the American Dream. They moved West. health care (mother with cancer): After my grandfather served in World War II. pp. 162. May 4. February 12. before at the California Democratic Convention and afterward. then parents and finally his own story. the Indiana Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Indianapolis. After being congratulated by a friend shortly after he delivered his first speech. Dreams from My Father. 2008). Like the narratives of anonymous Americans.161 Obama gained public recognition with the speech he delivered to support John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.163 Obama‟s personal stories were always related to a sense of progress made possible through the years by personal hard work and perseverance but also by political action and/or assistance (food stamps for his mother. worked hard at different jobs. It was about people who needed his help. April 28. February 19. the GI Bill gave him a chance to go to college.journalism at Columbia University. sometimes evoking his own daughters. 2008) and the Speech on Education (Dayton. 2007. p. Obama‟s stories stood as a case for still believing in the American Dream. Associated Press Luncheon (Washington D. Obama‟s own story as well as those of other members of his family enabled him to point out a number of issues: upward social mobility through hard work. August 28. It was mostly the case at the end of the primaries and afterward. "Presidential life stories are the most important tools of persuasion in American political life. Obama told her that he would never again make a speech because it had been pointless. The references to his origins are sometimes reduced to his parents and his mixed origins. 2008). 2004. contrasting sharply with George Bush‟s personal story of the political dynasty. The stories of his relatives can be found in “A more perfect union” (March 18. 2nd edn). 48 . 160. Evan CORNOG. This expression can be found in Obama‟s autobiography. The expression was used in several speeches in April 28. 2008) and the “American Promise” or Acceptance Speech (Denver. to help raise me. (New York City: Three Rivers Press. “I was not born into money or status.5.162 The narratives were often given in the same order. and to save enough to retire.” But his friend urged him to continue because “it [was] just not about him. 163. working women..
for one‟s children (Obama‟s mother who raised her kids alone and Obama‟s sick father-in-law who had to work hard to support his family) or the community (Obama‟s mother though no details are provided and Obama‟s own choice to help organize destitute people in Chicago‟s South Side). The stories were the same but adapted to make a particular point. never what they thought. Obama‟s personal stories revolve around his family. The measure. References to his father were rare and brief. aimed at helping people buy a home. June 30. His family also symbolized today‟s America when he made direct connections between today‟s individual Americans with members of his family: drawing parallels between the young Americans who are in Iraq with his grandfather‟s participation in Patton‟s army.166 Obama‟s own story was indeed used to stress America‟s exceptionalism as he declared emphatically and 164. be it a sacrifice for the country (his grandfather and his participation as a soldier in Europe or for his grandmother as a worker sustaining the war effort). The stories were basically the same but were much more detailed in the speeches devoted to praising America and American values. 165. In “A more perfect union”. 49 . August 28. Independence. was introduced at the time of the New Deal. 166. which is a Democratic event. Like the narratives of anonymous Americans. Obama‟s personal narratives were about the past and always ended as an apology of America and indirectly the American federal government. he mentioned the color of every member of his family. 2008). 2008). he emphasized the part played by the federal government in helping his family make progress (“This is a country that…” repeated several times). According to the speech in which they were included.165 The stories of his relatives were not always told in the same way but they always focused on what they did (predominance of action verbs). At the Indiana Jefferson Jackson Dinner. Obama preferred to focus on his American origins because he was raised by his grandparents but also to show that his story was deeply-rooted in American soil. which was presented as a typical. 2007) and “The America We Love” (or Speech on Patriotism. See “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. a metonymy of the wider American community. All the stories about Obama and about his relatives focused on a sense of sacrifice. November 7. Unlike the narratives of anonymous Americans which were aimed at describing the current social situation.the GI Bill and the FHA loan164 for his grandfather). between a young woman who works hard and his mother‟s experience as a single mom and between women wishing to start business and his grandmother. emblematic American family. Obama was more or less concise and insisted on different details. The Acceptance Speech (Denver.
insisting on her bias against young black men and her stereotypes. jalonné par les références à Abraham Lincoln ou à Martin Luther King qui l‟inscrivent dans l‟histoire américaine.. 169. ” Christian Salmon interviewed by Marjorie PAILLON and Julien LANDFRIED.170 which explains why his personal story as well as that of his family were given such focus in his speeches.hyperbolically.telerama. “Obama tend à une Amérique désorientée un miroir où se recomposent des éléments de sens fragmentés depuis le 11 septembre.169 Thanks to his journey through space and time and his biracial roots.ilovepolitics. His relatives were depicted as everyday heroes. http://television.fr/television/christian-salmon-obama-c-est-l-art-du-storytelling-porte-a-sonincandescence. It is also a journey through time. 2008). Posted on June 6. August 28. c‟est l‟art du storytelling porté à son incandescence”. “A more perfect union” (Philadelphia. C‟est-à-dire un événement non pas „fondateur‟ ou „historique‟ mais „séminal‟. Obama said on January 3. the hard work and the progress made despite the odds and circumstances. places. Il a mis en scène le voyage du héros : Hawaï. The declaration echoes one he had made in “The Audacity of Hope” (July 27. Christian Salmon defined Obama‟s story as a “global hero” whose story was embedded in American history: David Axelrod has built a true legend: that of a global man in a global world. performatif. vecteurs de signes. Obama defines his relatives as being his “heroes” in his Acceptance Speech (Denver. Precisely because Obama is a metaphor of America‟s core values and notion of progress. son conseiller a créé une véritable légende: celle d‟un homme global à l‟ère de la globalisation.info (www. 50 . porteurs de signes. Perhaps to counter attacks on his lack of patriotism and on his being a true American. hence giving more weight to his call for national unity.” […] Obama incarne une nouvelle génération d'hommes politiques qui méritent d'être qualifiés de sémio-politiciens. 2008 on www. with the upward mobility as in Horatio Alger‟s typical rags-to-riches stories. March 18. He staged the journey of the hero: from Hawaii. 167. posted on November 21. Chicago. Télérama. 2008 that his “story could only happen in the United States of America. Djakarta. “David Axelrod.ilovepolitics. he helped rebuild and revive America‟s fundamental beliefs. 2004). punctuated by references to Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King which make him part of American history.php. Obama constitue un événement symbolique au sens strict. Obama rewrote the family‟s story into a typically American myth with the move westward. Yet.. Chicago to Washington. 2008. 2008).168 His grandmother‟s prejudices against blacks were only mentioned in “A more perfect union” when he had to dent the clear-cut image he had previously given of her. Los Angeles. Indeed. Obama can bridge gaps between races. Washington… C‟est aussi un voyage dans le temps.html). Los Angeles.” Interview of Christian Salmon to Sophie BOURDAIS. “Obama.info/avec-obama-c-est-toute-une-amerique-qui-retrouve-ses-reperesperdus-depuis-le-11-septembre_a617. through Djakarta. It was the first time Obama mentioned what his grandmother thought and “uttered” instead of solely focusing on what she did. times and embody unity. 170.”167 Obama sought to present his story as a quintessentially American one.35081. “I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.” 168.
“The Audacity of Hope” (Boston. there's the United States of America. 172. We worship an awesome God in the blue states. generally in the epilogue: South Carolina Primary Night Speech (Columbia.1. Redefining America’s national identity “Out of many we are truly one. 2008) and in “The American Promise”(Denver.”173 To establish this sense of unity. all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes. we've got some gay friends in the red states. We are one people. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America. blue States for Democrats. March 18.2. the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. This is not who we are. 2008). January 26. July 27. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq. Well. and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans. It is in that speech that his definition of American identity can first be found: Now even as we speak. 173. Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison.unity was not only evoked through symbols. The use of the BE copula is paramount in such contexts of (either positive or negative) definition and redefinition. February 12. 2004). 51 . 2007). But I've got news for them. there's the United States of America.2. 2004) and again in the 2008 campaign. “A New Beginning” (Chicago. yes. it was the whole purpose of his campaign and the main object of his discursive strategy. and we don't like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the red states. The sentence was first used in “The Audacity of Hope” (Boston. the adjective “common”. The pundits . Forging unity through words 2. We coach little league in the blue states and. 2.2. The matrix for all his speeches is the keynote address he delivered at the 2004 DNC Convention. all of us defending the United States of America. too. the adverb “together” or the quantifier “all” which abolishes all differences. 2008). there's not a liberal America and a conservative America. the spin masters.”171 As we have seen in 1. there are those who are preparing to divide us. “This is not America. by combining the verb “to share”. Obama devoted large sections of his speeches to praise America and the American spirit but he also redefined American identity. August 28. Obama insisted on a rhetoric of unity.172 Obama rejected the divisions as being un-American. It was the case in particular in the Announcement Speech 171. “A more perfect union” (Philadelphia. July 27. I say to them tonight. 2008).2 Praise of America and Americans. October 2.
The expression is used in “The American Promise” (or Acceptance Speech): “It is that promise that's always set this country apart.through our politics. 2008 on http://www.24 for the analysis of the contrast between “ourselves” and ”each other”.I am my brother's keeper.176 is that we stand up and fight for each other's dreams. It was also the case in the speech in which Obama sought to redefine the American Dream174 and in the speech delivered after the first highly symbolical victory in the Iowa caucus.”175 In the epilogue.1. One of Obama‟s most 174. 179.180 “I” is only used and defined in its interrelation with others.” Obama‟s definition of American identity and as a corollary of American patriotism is based on core values that are moral and consensual. posted on February 27. See p. The Huffington Post. Obama insists on reciprocal responsibility with the use of the compound pronoun “each other” and the genitive used in a sentence with generic meaning. 2008). I am my sister's keeper . Looking at the world through the prism of Black Church values p.not just for ourselves. Obama also insisted on collective responsibility as being the essence of American identity. I am my sister‟s keeper. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. 2007). 180. 175.3. Gary WILLS. May 1. and in our daily lives. which implies that “he is my keeper. Vol. 2007).(February 10. The New York Review of Books. America is the sum of our dreams.html. that we reaffirm that fundamental belief . not partisan. “It's what sent my grandfather's generation to beachheads in Normandy. as well.55. January 8. George LAKOFF in David WINER. May 20. 52 . 2008. “It was the call of workers who organized.huffingtonpost. the American Dream was redefined as being not just an individual pursuit but a collective pursuit: “Because in this country. “Two Speeches On Race”. 178. Obama offered a consensual definition of what bound Americans together.”179 This allowed Obama to include episodes of workers‟ collective action as being fundamentally American. that through hard work and sacrifice each of us can pursue our individual dreams. November 7. and women to Seneca Falls.7.177 Americans are interconnected and depend on one another as in one huge “family”: “fight for each other‟s dreams” and “I am my brother‟s keeper. and workers to picket lines and factory fences.89. what makes us one American family. 2007) in which Barack Obama declared that he would be running for President. 176. this reflects an approach which is typical of the Black Church.” 177. while they were seen by conservatives as socialist anti-American actions.” New Hampshire Speech (Nashua.com/dave-winer/obama-as-told-by-george-l_b_88772. According to Gary Wills. but for each other. see 3. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. November 7. a US journalist and historian. 2008) 181. 181 “I am my brother‟s keeper”. 2007). but still come together as one American family. The pronoun “I” here has a generic meaning and represents anyone. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. For more on this. our policies. that dream is worth fighting for .” Kentucky Oregon Night Speech (Des Moines. November 7. No. to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams. And what binds us together.” Redefining American identity as being an essentially collective enterprise178 enabled Obama to redefine the American Dream along progressive lines and assert that “the values people label with the L-word are actually American values. “Obama as told by George Lakoff”.
“Rhetorical Fiction and the Presidency. op. The expression “one nation” was taken up in many other speeches. c‟est l‟exploitation de la transcendance du groupe par rapport à l‟individu singulier opérée par un individu qui effectivement est d‟une certaine façon le groupe. The idea is further developed in 2.” (Inaugural Address. April 1980. Kennedy‟s address to Americans: “Don‟t ask what your country can do for you. 2007) and Final Campaign Speech (Manassas. U. January 20. Obama delineated a definition of the nation that is closer to the French Republican definition than the traditional American one. 2004).183 2. As Vanessa Beasley points out.2..60.” Quarterly Journal of Speech. he explains that the president‟s efforts to go public are a way to “promote the idea of the American people to the American people. all of us proud..”184 Among the other discursive strategies to create unity through words is the use of the personal pronoun “we”.” Walter FISCHER. Vanessa BEASLEY. Last Week Speech (Canton. This partly echoes in substance John F.S.frequent sentences to define Americans was: “We are one nation.1.2.2.] L‟effet d‟oracle. 186. Vol. the use of the personal pronoun “we” is directly connected with the performative function of creating a sense of national unity: “For there to be an American nation. 2001). p.”182 This is another way to define Americans. 2007). or an American „we‟.8. December 27. p. 53 . Determining who “we” refers to “I believe in the power of the American people to be the real agents of change in this country.2. Langage et pouvoir symbolique (Paris : Seuil Essais.2. November 3. cit.120. or even an American presidency at all.674. 183. quoted in Ryan Lee TETEN. [. ” Pierre BOURDIEU. but what you can do for your country. 182. all of us patriots. You the people: American national identity in presidential rhetoric (College Station: Texas A&M University Press. pp..4. Use of the personal pronoun “we” (and possessive determiner “our”) 2. presidents must find ways of breathing life into the otherwise abstract notion of American political community.1.269-270. References to race prior to “A more perfect union” p. Moving beyond the question of patriotism used by the Republicans to define who is and who is not American. p. As for Walter Fischer.”185 This “oracle effect” as Bourdieu defines it186 is given special prominence in Obama‟s speeches because of the political strategy associated to it. 184. using the copula BE to equate the plural “we” to the singular “one nation”.66. “L‟effet d‟oracle est un de ces phénomènes que nous avons l‟illusion de comprendre trop vite […] et nous ne savons pas le reconnaître dans l‟ensemble des situations dans lesquelles quelqu‟un parle au nom de quelque chose qu‟il fait exister par son discours même. October 27. which symbolizes unity. “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. 2008). 1961) 185.
and we can tell the drug and insurance industry that while they'll get a seat at the table. who was often seen as a reference by Obama. […] And when I am President.2. Lincoln. 192. Obama‟s inclusive “we” here clearly encompasses groups of people opposing each other. 1861). I.192 In fact. Rhetoric and Public Affairs. 2007).” The context was obviously widely different as the secession was well under way. we will care for our veterans […]. 191. This shows that even in front of specific audiences he feels a part of. but friends. chose a different strategy to address his countrymen. “Rhetoric: From Aristotle to Obama (Yes We Can)” http://motherpie.”189 Because Obama sees people as “the real agents of change”.” (March 4.303 ff. my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen. we. In Iowa (Des Moines. “The American experiment has worked in large part because we guided the market‟s invisible hand with a higher principle.”188 While in Hillary Clinton‟s speeches.com/motherpie/2008/rhetoricfrom-a. 54 . p. Vol. she defined herself as the solution to the crisis.George Lakoff noted that Obama‟s speeches were characterized by “we. 2008). Virginia (Richmond. we will finish the job against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Obama exclusively used an all-inclusive “we”. He explicitly used the personal pronoun “you” to refer to the Southerners. and not in mine. reaching to Republicans and Independents alike. Democrats and Republicans together. people were seen as “agents. March 27. we” while Hillary Clinton‟s speeches focused on “I. “In your hands. workers and businesses. Obama shifted between an exclusive “we” referring to African Americans or Democrats and an inclusive “we”. embedded in history‟s journey. it was thanks to that speech that Lincoln had been elected. they don't get to buy every chair. New Hampshire Primary Speech (Nashua. 189. 188. he often associated action verbs with the pronoun “we”. “Political Economy and Rhetorical Matter”. February 9. November 10. even in the specifically homogenous audiences mentioned. as in the Jefferson Jackson Dinners191 or in front of exclusively African American audiences as was the case on January 20. No. In his first Inaugural Address. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors.typad. 2009. we will end this war in Iraq and bring our troops home. whose occurrences were more frequent than the exclusive “we”. MURPHY. is the momentous issue of civil war. “we” represent the solution because it depended upon the choices that the American people made. 2008).12. where Lincoln had delivered his anti-slavery oration in 1860.html. I”. The verb was in fact often combined with the modal auxiliary “will” or “can” to refer to what would be done after the election was over: We can bring doctors and patients. 2008). Obama gave that speech in Cooper Union.190 Except in the speeches delivered in front of Democrats. 2008 when Obama was invited to speak in Martin Luther King‟s Church. with Obama. 190. John M. Jefferson Davis had been inaugurated President of the Confederation two weeks before Lincoln was sworn in as President of the United States. January 8. The use of the pronoun “we” in the speech clearly implied the existence of two opposite sides. For many. We must not be enemies. “We are not enemies. May 4. 187. 187 In Obama‟s speeches. “Renewing the American Economy” (New York. The Government will not assail you. Obama sought to reach out to all Americans. 2008) and Indiana (Indianapolis.
55 . To some extent. Gerald R. “Anatomy of a Stump Speech”. is here pointed at. By using “we” in this exclusive sense. a form of corruption. Opposing “we” to “they” Obama frequently and harshly criticized the “lobbyists” and “special interests” in Washington who control America.2. stating that “he [was] not one of them. 194 For Obama. Obama is explicitly referring to two different and opposed sections of the society. or at least collusion. Although the word is never mentioned. Obama‟s discourse resonates with Jacksonian echoes. favoring their own interests at the expense of the public good. 26 February 2008.In “The Audacity of Hope”. “We” here could actually be replaced by “some of us”. In his analysis of Obama‟s stump speech. and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am President. 2007). Schuster from the University of Pittsburgh explained that it was important for Obama to “emphasize the argument for separation”. Alec MacGILLIS and Gerald R. November 10.2. “The Audacity of Hope” (July 27. The pronoun “we” is used to represent Americans and enabled Obama to identify with both Democrats and Republicans. and “those who are preparing to divide us”195 who were never identified by name and they 193.” The identification is fairly complex. the “skeptics”. Obama also used the personal pronoun “they” to refer to the “cynics”. It is therefore surprising that Obama used the personal pronoun “we” to refer to both groups instead of the partisan opposition between “we” (Democrats) and “they” (Republicans). 2004). Obama uses the pronoun “we” in a special way: “We worship an awesome God in the blue states. and we don‟t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the red states. Obama‟s discourse is anti-elitist in nature. SHUSTER. a separation with the extraction from the group. they will not get a job in my White House. It was taken up with variations during the 2008 campaign. 2. It is more effective however to use the personal pronoun “we” “than the expression “some of us” as it expresses a fragmentation. They are anti-democratic forces and hold real power in Washington.2. Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines.”193 I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists – and won. 194. 195. The Washington Post. “lobbyists” and “special interests” are seen as threats to democratic principles. Obama can discursively (and symbolically) join both groups. defending the common man against special interests. They have not funded my campaign.
not the people responsible for fostering such attitude. ambiguous reference. They said this country was too divided. Anyone knows who he is referring to. the pronoun “they” was not even pronounced but was strongly implied when Obama used the passive form as in. “Turn the page” speech. The shifts correspond to the various parts of Obama‟s speeches which alternate between the personal perspective (personal story and 196. To mention the agent would have put emphasis on it (end-focus). “We‟re divided into Red States and Blue States. it is open to various interpretations without pointing at anyone in particular. Then.215 p. 2007). They said our sights were set too high. or immigrants. 196 The racial reference is stronger for not being explicit. Shifting back and forth between “we” and “I” As most candidates and Presidents in office. 56 . (San Diego. Does “our” refer to Democrats (or people) supporting him? African Americans? The Obama campaign team? Though this possessive determiner is clearly exclusive. see n.3. For more on this deliberate ambiguity. too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. 2. April 27. it is more subtle and it enabled him to focus on the object of his criticism: the attitude of pointing at scapegoats. or gay people. and told always to point the finger at somebody else – the other party.2.2. It was clearly the case in Obama‟s stump speech as he started with the pronoun “I” to introduce himself and the reasons why he was running for president and then shifted to the all-inclusive “we” to reach out to his audience and unite to them. “They” is later specified as representing the “skeptics”. those who believe that race was still a barrier in America although this is never said explicitly. it is immediately followed by an inclusive reference (country “[coming] together”) so that anyone in the audience can feel directly addressed to.”197 Obama can not mention the agent because it is not necessary. they said this day would never come.were never clearly defined. By remaining a vague. Obama often shifted between “we” and “I”. 197.63. He concluded by urging his listeners to join him and win together. The most famous use of the pronoun “they” by Obama was in the opening lines of the Iowa Caucus Night Speech: You know. Sometimes. then back again to the pronoun „I” to respond to criticisms leveled at him and to tell his personal story.
“Ask Not What J. April 28.2. op-ed. Though not yet elected. 57 .political commitment) and a larger perspective (account of the problems faced by Americans. Because there are few obstacles that can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change. Obama used the pronoun “you” to put special emphasis on Americans and dissociate them from him: But this campaign that we‟re running is not about me. but what you can do for your country. Obama somehow echoed Kennedy‟s famous quote in his Inaugural Address on January 20. the shifts between the pronouns “we” and “I” allowed Obama to appear as “one of them” and also as their potential and prospective leader. Can Do for Obama”. op.. 2008. “You” referred to the voters who were not considered as agents of change by Clinton: 198. the pronoun “I” was often used in combination with the modal auxiliary “will” but hardly ever with a performative verb. For more parallels between John Kennedy and Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton often focused on the first personal pronoun. As we pointed out in 1.K. for example “we know”. 2007). The New York Times. and what you will do. 1961: “Don‟t ask what your country can do for you. Ryan Lee TETEN. it's about you. praise of America and Americans). As Ryan Lee Teten pointed out in his analysis of George W. cit. Indeed. 199. not just for the election. With action verbs.” 199 As was pointed out earlier. presidential candidates use the pronoun “I” to set themselves forward. The fact that Obama chose the pronoun “I” instead of an exclusive “we” to refer to his Administration might suggest that he intended to claim full responsibility for the tasks he would be in charge of. When she did use the pronoun “we”. Bush‟s 2000 Inaugural Address. she used more generally an exclusive “we” to refer to her team or later her Administration. It was the case in Hillary Clinton‟s speeches as it had formerly been the case in Reagan‟s speeches when he was campaigning. and your dreams. it was an inclusive “we” which she associated with state verbs. “Turn the Page” Speech (San Diego. February 3. Obama sees people as the real agents of change and that is why he used an action verb combined with the modal auxiliary “will” to insist on the part they would have to play after the election. pp. it's about your hopes. the President shifts from “I” to “we” to identify “himself as one of the people” and also “identify himself as the leader of the country.669.”200 Generally.F. 200.”198 The pronoun “I” enabled Obama to present what his actions as President of the United States of America would be. see Franck RICH.1.2.
especially at the beginning of the campaign and then in speeches delivered at key-moments: in the Final Primary Speech.2. Le discours d’investiture des présidents américains ou les paradoxes de l’éloge (Paris : Harmattan.203 It is indeed more frequent in Obama‟s speeches than “the United States”. not about what will be done after the election. it is clearly with the election in mind. Luc Benoît à la Guillaume explains that the reference “America” has become more frequent in American presidential discourse since the mid-20th century because it echoes the name of the continent and recalls the country‟s universalist. Obama‟s notion of unity was predominant and was delineated into a cohesive discursive strategy.”201 When she associates “you” with an action verb. Luc BENOÎT À LA GUILLAUME. that is to say the full institutional name of the country.“We came back tonight because you spoke loudly and clearly. The words “President” was hence often coalesced with the expression “the United States of America. Hillary Clinton. To repeat the entire name is a way to emphasize the adjective “united” which is not reduced to an initial letter and bore a contrastive stress when it was opposed to Red States and Blue States. 58 . 203. 2008). Obama and Clinton offered different approaches and their discursive strategies reflected how they saw themselves and how they saw Americans in the campaign and after the campaign. 2. 202. 2003). p. You want this campaign to be about you because there is so much at stake for our country. In addition to focusing on the notion of unity. in which Obama officially accepted to be the Democrats‟ candidate in November 2008 as well as in the speeches focusing on one of the major topics (health care and education).”202 It lent more solemnity to the function. New Hampshire Primary Night Speech (January 8. in the Acceptance Speech. it was also a way to sacralize the country by not reducing it to a combination of initial letters.76. if not imperialistic.3. The functions of the toponyms Barack Obama used the expression “the United States of America”. It was used each time Obama explained why he had decided to run for President. Obama generally used “the United States” in association with the title: “president of the United States of America”. The full name was hardly ever used by Senator McCain during his campaign. 201. calling. which marked the beginning of the campaign against McCain. It is interesting to note that Obama never used the acronym.
the stakes of presenting a unitary vision of the country were hence also very personal. Georgeta CISLARU. MOTS. such a use of a country‟s name operates as a “semantic integrator”205 which permits to represent the nation as a unitary entity. he could represent them all. “America” can more easily refer to the nation than the institutional designation of “the United States of America” can.4. Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines. 2007) and in The Acceptance Speech (Denver. from Florida to Oregon. “this country” or “America”. If Obama presented America as a united country. the identification was possible. if you feel the same energy that I do. 206. For Obama. 2007). It therefore helps reinforce the idea of unity. Obama sometimes used that metonymy: “America. at least with words. A post-racial discourse? There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America. our moment is now. Obama‟s speeches sought to overcome. he sought to stand at a superior level. p.When he had to mention the country.”204 For Georgeta Cisleru.206 As America is a country where official censuses classify people according to racial criteria. August 28. 59 .” 205.2. The metonymy was also used to introduce the epilogue of “The Audacity of Hope” in 2004: “America. the people will rise up in November. and John Kerry will be sworn in as president. July 27. the representation of the country as a divided. 2004). although he belonged to a “visible” ethnic minority. it was even more delicate. fragmented nation prevails even at the institutional level and has therefore a paramount influence on how Americans view their country. “Le nom de pays comme outil de représentation sociale”.53. there's the United States of America. The fact that it is possible to use America as a metonymy for Americans reinforces the reference to the American nation. November 10. March 2008. It was also used in the speech against the war in Iraq (October 2. tonight. partisan divisions. “The Audacity of Hope” (Boston. from Washington to Maine. he used either “our country”. 2. Through his discursive strategies. Les langages du politique. That was also the case with racial divisions but in that case. 2008). Apart from these imperialistic undertones. if you feel the same passion that I do […] then I have no doubt that all across the country. 204. it was not just to defend a political vision but to convince voters that.
The only reference to slavery came at the end of the speech: “It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs. Winter 2005." believing that in a tolerant America. “Obama‟s Menexenusian Message” in David A. By reducing slavery to a trauma among others. “f”.1. Compromise. They would give me an African name. the sentence is one item in a list in which Obama evoked other traumatic experiences (immigrants. Obama sought to recognize the past and present hardships of all those he was addressing and 207.2. South Side of Chicago). soldiers). your name is no barrier to success. he is an African American with a direct connection with both Africa and America. the mention of his skin color is strangely missing: My parents shared not only an improbable love. and the (Im)possibility of Racial Reconciliation”. 60 . even though they weren't rich. p. Obama mainly focused on the hope and the common goals. No. References to race prior to “A more perfect union” Obama‟s positioning as regards race relations in America was made more delicate by the fact that his family had not shared the experience of African Americans in the U. a particularly underprivileged African American area as well as his successful professional career. Rhetoric & Public Affairs. or "blessed. because in a generous America . The uses of the noun “faith” and the verbs “believe” and “imagine” are quite telling. Obama here “romanticizes the historical realities of black suffering and borders on the stereotypical image of the „happy darkie‟ of traditional racism.8.2. The autobiographical lines sound more like the praise of a mythical America.S. Vol. The reference is implicit in the places he mentioned (Kenya.. without giving any special focus to the past traumas and present grievances of the African Americans and overlooking white responsibility. Barack. Even when he listed the obstacles that might have hampered his social ascension. depicted as a magic land than as a realistic account of his life. though. In the speech that gained him public recognition at the 2004 Democratic Convention. Marc Lawrence McPHAIL. “Barack Obama's Address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention: Trauma. “r” and “g” in the sentence on slavery). The epilogue was lyrical with a rhythm heightened by the use of anaphora and the use of alliterations (“s”. Obama never mentioned any direct references to color. FRANK and Mark Lawrence McPHAIL. common ideals and common future uniting all Americans. he emphasized his bi-racial roots and his experience as a community organizer in the South Side of Chicago.4. Unlike most blacks in the U. with the trauma of slavery and segregation.”207 In addition.4.583.” For McPhail.S. They imagined me going to the best schools in the land. they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. Consilience.you don't have to be rich to achieve your potential.
positive selfpresentation”. that's an American problem. 211. Frank. 212. 2008. when companies hire undocumented workers instead of legal citizens to avoid paying overtime or to avoid a union..” David A. The Latinos had heavily supported H.208 It is not surprising therefore that the 2004 speech has not been received in the same way by David A. p. and a nursing mother is torn away from her baby by an 208. McPHAIL.. “Obama conflates these traumas with those of other Americans in a manner that undermines their historical specificity in order to construct a „politics of hope‟. 1965. 209.com/2008-07-24/politics/pew. oh. and come with fewer benefits than almost anybody else. When twelve million people live in hiding in this country and hundreds of thousands of people cross our borders illegally each year.583. Being identified as the candidate of the African Americans would prevent the other communities from identifying with him. the 42nd anniversary of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The aim of the attack was to prevent the marchers from reaching Montgomery.poll_1_obama-latino-voters-full-poll?_s=PM:POLITICS. in Selma. 210. When Hispanics lose their jobs faster than almost anybody else.latino. a black scholar who considered it revealed an old vision of racelessness influenced by the whites‟ “dominant rhetorical tropes: innocence. 213.211 people tapped me on the back and said.212 Obama developed the same approach when addressing the Hispanic community later in the campaign:213 It's about making sure that we have a government that knows that a problem facing any American is a problem facing all Americans. Clinton during the primaries but gradually shifted to Obama once the primaries were over. race neutrality. the Alabama state capital. p. Consilience is seen as “an approach in which disparate members of a composite audience are invited to „jump together‟ out of their separate experiences in favor of a common set of values or aspirations.582. a white scholar who considered it as a successful discursive strategy of consilience209 to achieve reconciliation and Lawrence McPhail. p. “Poll: 'Sharp reversal' for Obama with Latino voters” . what a wonderful celebration of African-American history that must have been. it was a necessary corollary for him to redefine the past (and present) as a common and shared experience.” McPHAIL. that wasn‟t African-American history we were celebrating.572. http://articles. cit. Ed HORNICK. On March 7. that isn't just a HispanicAmerican problem. or work jobs that pay less. cit. And I said..210 Obama could have a political credibility on the national level only if he rose above his community and addressed and encompassed everyone. op. peaceful civil rights demonstrators were violently attacked by the police. you don't understand. no. Because Obama insisted so much on the common future. 61 . The section can be found at the end of the speech just before the lyrical outburst of the epilogue.e. April 28. “Turn the Page” speech (San Diego. i. July 24. that's an American problem. op. 2007). that isn't a Hispanic-American problem.CNN.tone down the specificity of any group.. That was American history that we were celebrating. This was the strategy delineated for the campaign in 2007-2008: When I came back from that celebration. cit.cnn. It's about making sure our government knows that when there's a Hispanic girl stuck in a crumbling school who graduates without learning to read or doesn't graduate at all. FRANK and Mark Lawrence McPHAIL. op.
Speech at the LULAC Convention (Washington D. The two notions are here combined and intertwined. and bleed together under the same proud flag. I saw what America is. the idea was given more weight as it came as a leitmotiv at the end of each sentence (epistrophe). “that‟s an American problem”). white. When he spoke about race. I saw South Carolina. The 214. he mainly focused on the issue of responsibility and in particular individual responsibility. Obama never addressed the question of his own biracial roots directly but always indirectly. and I believe in what this country can be. and fight together.. blacks and Latinos can't come together. July 8.immigration raid. If there was not a white America and a black America. 62 . Obama shared a personal experience (use of “I” which can here be rightfully reinterpreted as his “eye”) and offered at the same time his political vision. By using the verb “see”. but the United States of America. Obama played on the perception which could be visual but also intellectual. Obama redefined American history (use of the BE copula) after denying the common assumption and representation (use of the BE copula with the negation). and men and women of every color and creed who serve together. Interestingly enough. then there was not a black candidate and white candidates but just American candidates. hence adopting a conservative approach. whites can't support the African-American candidate.C. The section is used at the beginning of the speech to describe the problems the community is facing. I did not travel around this state over the last year and see a white South Carolina or a black South Carolina. The contrast he used to reject the classifications of Americans and promote the color-blind idea of being just Americans had to be applied to him. Obama was primarily defined in the media as the first major black candidate. I saw crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children. Obama developed the same idea at the South Carolina Primary Night Speech on January 26. It is interesting to note that when Obama is specifically addressing the black community (Speech at Ebenezer Church and at the NAACP Convention). 2008). I saw shuttered mills and homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from all walks of life. and brown – must solve as one nation.214 Obama used in both cases contrasts to oppose the general approach (“that wasn‟t AfricanAmerican history we were celebrating” or “that isn't a Hispanic-American problem”) before saying what it was (“that was American history”. that is a problem that all of us – black. In the speech delivered at the LULAC Convention. he did so by referring to the different ethnic communities precisely to say that such classifications were irrelevant and divisive but he skillfully evaded the issue of his own color. But we are here tonight to say that this is not the America we believe in. 2008 but he also articulated it with a symmetrical approach to blacks and whites as he would do in “A more perfect union”: [We‟re up against] the assumption that African-Americans can't support the white candidate.
only, yet indirect reference to the color of his skin is made in the opening lines of the Iowa Caucus Night Speech which he won: “They said this day would never come.”215 The symbolical victory by a black candidate in a mostly white state made his candidacy credible. The meaning of “this day” is ambiguous216 even though Obama somehow specified its sense as: for Americans “to ever come together”. The racial references were only implied and soon swept over by references to unity. Obama‟s stated ambition was not to become the heir to Martin Luther King as a leader of the black community; he was no activist of the black cause. This explains why Lawrence McPhail had been more enthused by the activist‟s tone of Al Sharpton at the 2004 Democratic Convention than by Obama‟s conciliatory tone.217 By rejecting racial classifications, Obama offered a post-racial view of the country and set common goals by stressing Americans‟ common ideals. Although Obama tried as best he could to evade the issue of race, he declared in “A more perfect union” (March 18, 2008) that race was “an issue we cannot ignore”. It was in fact an issue he could no longer evade because of the rising controversy over his former pastor‟s anti-American and racist comments.
220.127.116.11. “A more perfect union”
The very choice of the Constitutional Center in Philadelphia for the delivery of “A more perfect union” was highly symbolical and suggested that the Constitution would be at the core of the message Obama intended to deliver. Obama would not just be addressing and responding to the controversy aroused by his former pastor‟s “incendiary language”. The staging reinforced the symbol of the venue with US flags on either side of Obama to operate identification with the nation and announce that this was not a partisan or ordinary campaign speech. The patriotic symbols visually framed the scene. The opening line of the speech consists in a quote from the preamble of the constitution: “We the People in order to form a
215. Jon Favreau, Obama‟s chief speechwriter, explained that the opening sentence deliberately sounded open to interpretation: “The first line was simply, 'They said this day would never come',” says Favreau. “Even when we do speeches to African-American crowds, it's hinted at and it's understood. It's not hammered over the head.” Richard WOLFFE, “The Mother and the Orator”, Newsweek, January 6, 2008. 216. See the analysis made in 18.104.22.168 Opposing “we” to “they” p.55. 217. “Sharpton‟s speech embodied the very best of the African American tradition of civil rights discourse, oppositional yet inclusive, affirming of fundamental values yet agitating uncompromisingly for their achievement in practice as well as principle.” Lawrence McPHAIL, op. cit, p.584. V.P. Franklin warned that Obama‟s election was only a smokescreen which tended to conceal the prevailing injustices from which African Americans suffered. See V.P. FRANKLIN, “Commentary: The Election of Barack Obama The Debt Has Not Been Paid”, The Journal of African American History, Vol. 94, 2009.
more perfect union”. The quote is used again to close the speech, hence providing a circular structure that frames the speech lexically. Obama analyzes the Constitution with expertise as he used to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago. The whole speech is actually a reflection on those very first words of the Constitution‟s preamble with twelve occurrences of PERFECT (often re-categorized) and ten of the noun “union”.218 Boyd shows that the speech aims at re-contextualizing the first line from the Constitution. The pronoun “we” used in this preamble was exclusive and did not include slaves, women, average workers.219 Obama never uses the pronoun “we” in the section he devotes to analyzing the Constitution but only when he shifts back to the present, using an all-inclusive “we” then.220 The references to the union also evolve: Obama uses the words “our union” in the epilogue, hence reclaiming it, making it everyone‟s, without any exclusion. The rhetorical evolution reflects the historical evolution narrated by Obama in the course of the speech. He explains that the Constitution was “eventually signed but ultimately unfinished” and “perfected” over the years by generations of citizens. Using the Constitution as a topic is a way to focus on the document, hence reinforcing the staging, but it is also a way to evade mentioning those responsible for its original imperfection221 (frequent use of the passive form in the section devoted to the Constitution). As for Reverend Wright, Obama skillfully balances praise and blame by clearly dissociating the man from his comments. Obama never quotes the controversial statements, one of which defined the USA as the “U.S. of KKK-A”. He harshly criticizes Wright‟s remarks but never blames their author directly and as Boyd explained, “it creates a focus on the object of criticism […] rather than on the agency.”222 Obama uses the expressions “the statements of Reverend Wright”, “the remarks”, “Reverend‟s Wright comments” which were “wrong”, expressing “a profoundly distorted view of this country” and worse of all “divisive”. To justify his association with Wright, Obama recalls his first experience at Trinity Church and the first sermon he heard there, “The Audacity of Hope,” implying that he disagrees with
218. For an in-depth and brilliant analysis of the speech, see Michael S. BOYD, “De-constructing Race and Identity in US Presidential Discourse”, ATLANTIS, Journal of the Spanish Association of Anglo-American Studies, Vol.31, No.2, December 2009, pp.75-94. 219. Sacvan BERCOVITCH insisted on this exclusive use of the personal pronoun “we”: “Through the ritual of the jeremiad, the leading patriots recast the Declaration to read „all propertied Anglo-Saxon Protestant males are created equal.‟” Quoted in Luc BENOÎT À LA GUILLAUME, op. cit., p.75. Hillary Clinton reflected on the exclusive sense of the pronoun “we”, “Neither Senator Obama nor I nor many of you here were fully included in that vision, but it could and should be.” Pennsylvania Primary Night Speech (April 22, 2008). 220. For a more detailed analysis, see Michael S. BOYD, op. cit., p.86. 221. Obama recalled that the original sin of slavery was embedded within it. 222. Michael S. BOYD, op. cit., p.87. As he did with McCain, Obama respects the person but rejects the message.
Wright‟s present anger precisely because he agrees with Wright‟s past call for hope.223 Obama was careful to introduce a contrastive opposite to Reverend Wright by rejecting Geraldine Ferraro‟s statements, hence creating a mirror effect. Ferraro had declared a few days before that Obama was doing so well because he was black. She was a prominent Clinton supporter and had been John Kerry‟s VP appointee in 2004. Obama adopted the same discursive strategy to reject her statements: attack the message, not the messenger. Although Obama absolutely needed to reject Wright‟s remarks, he could not disown the man without alienating black voters. Obama makes an account of his relationship with Wright and praises his qualities. Boyd remarks that Obama used the personal pronoun “he” as a topic to speak favorably of Reverend Wright, relating Wright to him (use of me/my/I)224 with statements such as, “He strengthened my faith.”. Obama depicted his former pastor using non-defining restrictive relative clauses: “a man who…”. He might have used restrictive relative clauses, saying “the man who…”. Yet, by using the indefinite article, Obama can make him a representative of his community, someone who “contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.”225 Wright became a metonymical figure for the entire black community.226 Reenacting the mirror effect, Obama then introduces his grandmother with a transition that anticipates on the balanced portrait he would make of her: “I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother.” He portrays her as a metonymical figure for the white population. Obama used the same discursive strategy as for Wright, with parallel structures: “a woman who…”. Like Wright, his “white” grandmother contains inner contradictions. Obama‟s focus on inner, endogenous contradictions is a counter-argument against the conservatives‟ division between Americans and the out-group of anti-Americans.227 In an article published in The Boston Globe, Sacha Issenberg insisted on Obama‟s speech being “an essentially self-referential speech.”228 The predominance of the pronoun “I” (as well as “me” and the possessive determiner “my”) reinforces the self-referential quality of
223. Obama used the same intertextual strategy with McCain. See 22.214.171.124. John McCain p.19. 224. Michael S. BOYD, op. cit. p.88. 225. Obama describes Trinity as a mirror socially reflecting the Black community: “Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety.” For more on the social composition of Black Church congregations, see Mary PATTILLO-McCOY, op. cit., p.768: “The Black church […] challenges the popular notion that the black middle class is extensively dissociated from the black poor.” 226. This idea is taken up again in the speech with the sentence: “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community.” 227. In his portrait of Wright, Obama recalls the years he served as a Marine in order to stress his patriotism. 228. Sacha ISSENBERG, “Obama Calls for End to U.S. Racial „Stalemate‟”, The Boston Globe, March 19, 2008.
”230 In “A more perfect union”. 2008. Mary E. except to illustrate the ways in which black people are implicated in racism when expressing the belief that “a black youth with a book is acting white‟. 231. the contradictions of America: “These people are part of me. FRANK and Mark Lawrence McPHAIL. but without ever equating the two. the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people.368. p. When he does talk about race.. Because Obama is at the centre of the symmetry. Clark. 2005 to honor Rep.” It was in particular the case in a speech delivered on February 21. “The past isn‟t dead and buried.” Obama can only appear impartial if he directly addresses the two communities in their failings (use of parallel structures: “In the white community” and “For the African-American community”) but also if he recognizes their specific past and present difficulties. “How Obama Does That Thing He Does”. John Lewis.” The use of the deictics “this”/”these” reinforces the self-referential strategy used by Obama.583. reconciliation can only be effective if it involves: “First. second.. this country that I love. In Search Of Human Nature (London: Routledge. cit. that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming the victims of our past. to address the past as seen by each side.” But echoing Wright‟s urge to self-help. 2002).” Lawrence McPHAIL. Obama also calls on the blacks‟ own responsibility: “For the African-Americans community. cit. Obama recognizes the past and present231 hardships of the black community and calls on to the whites to do the same: “In the white community. to identify common goals for the future.583. Jack SHAFER. Slate. Obama quotes Faulkner. And they are part of America. op. he makes sure to juxtapose the traumas experienced by nonblacks with those experienced by AfricanAmericans. Obama disarms race for white people by largely avoiding the topic.232 By using this polyphony.229 According to Mary E. The mirror effect created by juxtaposing and confronting Wright to his own grandmother puts Obama at the centre of the symmetrical approach. is troubling […]: it ignores the structural and historical conditions that gave rise to such attitudes. p. Obama had already used that mirror structure previously: “Bill Clinton disarmed race for blacks by inviting them to talk about it. he can embody the contradictions of the two communities.” 232. The section devoted to Wright and Obama‟s grandmother ends with a declaration of patriotism. 230.Obama‟s speech. quoted in David A. “[Obama‟s] lack of discussion of race. and on a wider scale. Obama again uses the mirror effect to give voice to the two sides‟ grievances. 66 . to develop concrete projects to meet these goals and begin together to implement them. who is “like family” and therefore makes the reflection with his grandmother even more relevant. Obama recognizes their specific difficulties but also expresses the usually secret stereotypes and 229. To insist on how much the past determines the present. Obama in fact insists on his close connection with Wright. p. making him the axis (or rather centre) of the symmetry. February 14. In fact it isn‟t even past. Lawrence McPhail blamed Obama‟s 2004 Keynote Address for failing to address the specific problems the black community was confronted to. third. a former key-leader of the Civil Rights Movement and former chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (NSCC).CLARK. op.
“Hush parlors” are places like the barber shop or the Church where people from a community feel free to say exactly what they think.236 He never mentions the agents of the discriminations blacks have to suffer. Obama uses an anecdote to illustrate his urge for Americans to “find that common stake we all have in one another”. optimistic tone to the speech. “Much More Than Race : What Makes a Great Speech Great”. To close his speech. David A. such features of white racism against blacks are transhistoric. The anecdote is the one he used to close the speech he had delivered two months before at the Ebenezer Church. the adverbs “all” and “together”.com/showDiary.openleft.235 Obama considers that episodes like segregation are over while for Wright. no matter what they said about us. The anecdote which illustrates and calls for “pure empathy” 238 gives a last. Unlike “The Audacity of Hope”. Clark had defined to make reconciliation effective. 237. That story of recognition of an elderly black man in a young white woman is. Obama‟s speech has a clear therapeutic purpose. it is Ashley Baia‟s story.do?diaryld=4751. March 18. “A more perfect union” responds to the three requirements Mary E. see David A. 67 . strongly influenced by both Lévinas and by the prophetic voice of MLK. 234. FRANK. hence requiring unity and political solutions. No. “The Prophetic Voice and the Face of the Other in Barack Obama‟s „a More Perfect union‟ Address. permanent features or racial relations in the US. Frank. according to David A. Obama actually uses the expression in the speech. 2009. David A. That reinforces the “self-referential” essence of the speech and gives credibility to what he suggests. For David A. however different they are.anger that are only heard in “hush parlors”233 and widen mutual misunderstanding. no matter what they do to us. recognition in the face of the Other is mediated through the image of God. FRANK. George LAKOFF. FRANK. 236. One of Lévinas‟s key-ideas: “God is found in the face of the other.” For a more detailed analysis. 233. p. http://www. Obama sees the problems as common political problems. 2008”.12. Vol. He develops once more the rhetoric of unity that he has developed since he announced his candidacy: use of the adjective “common”. “No matter how bad [white Southerners] are. we must still believe that in the most recalcitrant segregationist there is the image of God. 238. trying to overcome and “work through”234 past trauma instead of “acting it out” as is the case in “hush harbors”. 235. ibid. Frank.” This echoes an idea developed by King in a sermon he delivered on December 5.237 although for both Lévinas and King. The story urges people to see themselves in the face of the Other.167ff. ibid. 1957. Rhetoric and Public Affairs. uttering prejudices against the other community they would not generally dare express in public. Even the two people involved in the anecdote are connected to Obama as they are defined as supporters from South Carolina.2.
2.2. 2008)239 . the yellow line the variations of intensity.1 Presentation of Ashley Baia at Dr King‟s Church (January 20. the pauses are less frequent and much shorter than the first time he told the story. the tone with which he told the story is different from the tone he used when he had told the story in Dr King‟s Church two months before. What the tone reveals beyond the message Interestingly enough. fairly monotonous voice when delivering “A more perfect union”. sudden upward intonations along the delivery at Dr King‟s Church. Fig.3. The tone he used this time was in keeping with the general tone of the speech: one of calmness and self-control which contrasts sharply with the turmoil he was facing. The variations of pitch are fairly homogeneous while there are a number of his characteristic. The blue line indicates the variations of pitch. A comparison between the two presentations of Ashley Baia shows that Obama maintains a lower. 68 . It is in fact fairly striking to analyze the differences between the delivery at Dr King‟s Church and at the Constitutional Center.4.PRAAT 239.
showed that pauses were symbolic markers of power. 1999.77 second for “has been working” but only 0.2. hierarchical distance between those in charge and ordinary citizens.240 The slower rhythm is here due to a significant lengthening of the vowels. This will be discussed in 3.2” to say “She‟s been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign.1.7. 241.1” for Obama to say “Ashley has been working to organize mostly black folks. however. the pauses characterize the black pulpit influence. Danielle Duez.13. A closer analysis of shorter units like “has been working” and “to organize” reveals that even those segments are delivered at a significant slower pace at the Ebenezer Church: 0. 242. The tone of a preacher p. the delivery lasts 0. http://aune.” and 5.pdf.2. the verb and the causal infinitive clause and between the infinitive verb and its direct object complement while the first significant pause occurs after “community” in “A more perfect union”.64 second in the speech given at Dr King‟s Church while it only lasts 0.241 In the case of Barack Obama. who studied how French politicians in power and in the opposition speak.” The marked pauses in the speech delivered at Ebenezer Church occurred between each functional unit: between subject and verb. Danielle DUEZ.58 second in “A more perfect union” (no contraction being made to quicken the pace). 69 . Vol.lpl. No. For “to organize”. 2008) .Fig.univ-aix.96.242 Obama‟s 240.PRAAT It takes 5.2 Presentation of Ashley Baia in “A more perfect union” (March 18. They were characteristic of the symbolic. “La fonction symbolique des pauses dans la parole de l‟homme politique”.fr/~fulltext/895. But the pauses are not enough to account for the longer delivery.55 second in “A more perfect union”. Faits de langues.
expressing understanding for the deep-seated.247 By adopting a serene and controlled voice. “The Real Value of Obama‟s Speech”. her ability to change voice enables her to impersonate Americans from various ethnic communities.bbc. Evidence of Rev Wright's inflammatory sermons risked irrevocably damaging Mr. 2008.245 Professor John Dyson insisted on the specific way Obama sometimes addressed the black community. as one of Mr. explained that “the story in the [Ebenezer Church] was more fitting.delivery of the “race speech” was much less stylistically and ethnically marked: no significant variations or specific pauses. American actress Sarah Jones wrote and performed a theatrical show entitled “Bridge and Tunnel” in which she performed several different characters.246 Using the “black-cent” and signifyin‟ when addressing black audiences conveyed a sense of belonging.uk/2/hi/americas/7735014. posted on November 19. The Washington Post. he has been writing and giving exceptionally effective addresses. The “black-cent” is different from Black English (or Ebonics). For George Lakoff. Jennifer Jackson. This. which had to be specifically established given his college education and white upbringing. 247.co.Obama's candidacy but his response managed to tackle the question of race in US society with delicacy. March 25. It was a speech which wrapped the experience of different races together.243 The lexical modification from “black folks” to “the AfricanAmerican community” reveals a rewriting of the anecdote to fit the wider audience he was addressing. The speech mostly received positive comments248 and enabled Obama to boost his campaign. http://news. 245. January 19. “All year long. stylistically. emotionless and in control at a time of fierce and raging controversy. 70 . made in March 2008 in the aftermath of a scandal about his former pastor. because [Obama] was in a church with the intonation and lift. Interview of John McWORTHER. was largely a presidential address . “A president-preacher from anaphora to epistrophe” The Sydney Morning Herald. using signifiyin‟.and on the touchiest issue in American life. March 23. 244. 2008. 248. however. For more on “code-switching”. The show was based on “code-switching”. “A more perfect union” was “a presidential address”. 243. listen to the discussion between Sarah Jones and linguist John McWorther: http://www. 246.S. “Humeur vagabonde”. 2010. Reverend Jeremiah Wright. News. a staff writer of The Washington Post. But almost without exception. which is considered as a “dialect” with its syntactic specificities (double negatives). 2008. a specialist in linguistic anthropology at the University of Toronto. November 17. For Dennis Broder. “Rhetoric and Speaking Style Affect the Clinton-Obama Race”. lingering resentments of each and presenting himself as the embodiment of unity. Obama‟s switching from the “black-cent” (as linguist John McWorther defines the fact of sounding “black”244) to a polished American English (which comes from the background he grew up in) has to do with “code-switching”. France Inter. what characterizes the “black-cent” is the contours of the vowels and aspects of the intonations. “Obama: Oratory and Originality” BBC News. Obama had to use the language of mainstream politics when addressing virtually all Americans.studio360. Michael Eric DYSON. U. For John McWorther. As it was intended as a solemn speech.Obama's finest. not just “black folks” but all Americans.” Kent GARBER. these speeches have been campaign rhetoric. “Many commentators pinpoint the "A More Perfect Union" speech. which consists in the use of words that have a different meaning for African Americans.stm.” Dennis BRODER. Obama effectively attained a superior position and talked like a statesman thanks to his capacity to sound calm.org/2008/oct/24/sounding-black/.” Stephanie HOLMES. 2009.
249.”249 Garry Wills uses the speech to establish a connection with Abraham Lincoln who also decided to make a major address during his first presidential campaign to respond to rising charges of his being connected to violent radicals. 254. it “transcends its immediate occasion and addresses […] the most vital of issues: what America is about. George LAKOFF. Abraham Lincoln. who we are. “If Lincoln is now widely seen as a great orator. 2007). 2007) is frequently stressed in Obama‟s speeches and is directly connected to the idea that it was necessary to act very quickly. a frequent idea in Martin Luther King‟s speeches. http://www. op. France Info. p. Luc BENOÎT À LA GUILLAUME.com/showDiary.2.do?diaryld=4751.255 References to Lincoln were either non-verbal or verbal with expressions echoing Lincoln‟s most famous speeches and were particularly frequent at the very beginning and at the very end of the campaign. 253. like any other great speech. which received mediocre if not downright negative reviews then. Gary WILLS. This awareness of the country being at a “pivotal moment” (Chicago. See 3. Lincoln is a key source of inspiration in times of crisis.. January 13. 1992). EINHORN. Barack Obama about Abraham Lincoln. the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport: Greenwood Press.254 According to Luc Benoît à la Guillaume. cit. For more parallels between Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln: Anne JOCTEUR MONROZIER “La référence Lincoln”.5. both were Senators representing Illinois and both were candidates at a time where the nation was deeply divided.94.106.”252 The major political figure to which Obama kept looking to during the campaign is Abraham Lincoln. February 10. 255. It was the case in particular for Roosevelt. The manifold parallels with Lincoln251 “He tells us that there is power in words.openleft. and what politics should be fundamentally about. 252. 71 . cit. October 2.” Lois J. and are to be.65. p. as Americans. “Much More Than Race : What Makes a Great Speech Great”. op.1 Using MLK‟s words p. it was not the case at the time he delivered the Gettysburg Address. The two men were both lawyers whose oratorical skills are widely praised today253 . 2009.250 2.“A more perfect union” is a great speech because.3. 250. 251. “Announcement Speech” (Springfield.
1. February 10th. Obama‟s journey lasted only one day. According to the U. Non-verbal references They mainly consist in symbolic dates and places chosen for the staging of the keyspeeches which were delivered at the beginning and closure of the campaign.259 Obama set off in Philadelphia and then headed for Washington. Obama chose to deliver his last speech of the campaign. He reluctantly had to do so because of rumors of assassinations. Lincoln crossed Baltimore at night and did not deliver a speech in the city. when Obama symbolically followed in Lincoln‟s footsteps with a sort of re-enactment of the Whistle-Stop Tour organized by Lincoln just before his first Inauguration. hence making it the starting-point of the historic journey which led him to the White House. the population of Manassas City is under 37. in particular the Civil War. Obama attracted and gathered a huge and impressive audience of 100. Baltimore is where many emancipated slaves came to settle. and instead of departing from Springfield. Obama used symbols that do not refer to Lincoln directly but to Lincoln‟s times. 1858. Obama decided to announce his candidacy in front of Springfield‟s old State Capitol. January 17. like Lincoln.census. added a ritual to the official ceremonies and were popular events. was also symbolic as the speech was given on the eve of the 198th anniversary of Lincoln‟s birth.260 The journey. however. Census Bureau. at Manassas (also known as Bull Run) in Virginia where the Civil War is considered to have started and ended.2. The announcement of Joe Biden as VP appointee was made via text messaging. on the eve of the election. Interestingly enough and contrary to the initial plan. 2008. 72 . 260.S.000 inhabitants. which had a symbolic function (from President-elect to President).gov/qfd/states/51/51683. Obama announced his candidacy in Springfield. The entire speech bears no mention of the Civil War nor of the two major battles that occurred there and yet it was undoubtedly for its symbolic value that that fairly small city258 was chosen to stage that speech. Compared to the size of the city‟s population. only stopping at Wilmington where Biden lived and got on the train and then Baltimore. 257. Among the direct non-verbal references to Lincoln is the Bible on which Obama swore on Inauguration Day and which had belonged to Lincoln. 259. encounters between the President-elect and his citizens. The speech was delivered on June 16. http://quickfacts. 256. It was also the place chosen by Obama to “introduce” his VP pick publicly on August 23.5.2. Direct references to Lincoln actually became more frequent after the campaign was over.html.256 precisely where Lincoln gave one of his most famous speeches “A House divided against itself cannot stand”.257 The date chosen by Obama. 258.000 people. Sometimes.
Jefferson Davis had been inaugurated President of the Confederation two weeks before.christopherbduncan. Roy P. For none of the quotes was Lincoln‟s authorship stated: the expression was sufficiently famous for people to trace the source.html# (clip 1): a fake Obama quoting MLK‟s “I Have A Dream”. non-verbal elements played a critical part in Obama‟s campaign. the original expression used was “the guardian angel of the nation” which Lincoln modified into “the better angels of our nature”. Vol. Christopher B. As was mentioned earlier on. They framed the campaign which started on a place which still resonates with Lincoln‟s presence and ended by reenacting Lincoln‟s journey to the White House. 2007 in a speech focused on the war in Iraq. 1863)263 in several speeches: once at the very beginning of the campaign on October 2.11. Another major reference to Lincoln‟s words was the rephrasing of Lincoln‟s “the better angels of our nature”264 from his first Inaugural Address into the much condensed “our better angels”. Duncan261 who impersonated Obama in Jay Leno‟s Tonight Show on NBC often insisted on Obama‟s repeated references to his political elders. See http://www. No. May 1939. Duncan was considered as the best “fauxbama” (fake Obama) according to a CNN report. Obama used the 261.duk.181-182. 2.2.youtube. references to Lincoln became again more frequent toward the end of the campaign. a close connection to Lincoln‟s law partner. 1861) was delivered at a time when the civil war was no longer preventable and actually broke out the day after. The expression came initially from a Unitarian minister and reformer Theodore Parker.com/watch?v=NlhWmCTOWOU. In the draft Secretary of State Seward prepared for Lincoln. 263. American Literature. 264. He quoted the expression “that government of the people. by and for the people” in the speeches delivered during the Whistle-Stop Tour in Philadelphia and Baltimore. The connection established exophorically provided a key to interpret Obama‟s discourse. BASLER.2.2. for the people” from Lincoln‟s Gettysburg Address (November 19.5. 73 .com/christopherb. Lincoln‟ first Inaugural Address (March 4. by the people. 262 These were much exaggerated performances but Obama did not always specify he was quoting. Lincoln avoided contact with him as he was an outspoken abolitionist and secretly funded John Brown (the slave who took up arms against US troops). http://www. The expression was rephrased into a condensed version “a government of. 262.Symbolic. Christopher B. Verbal references During the campaign. once going as far as making the fake Obama utter a series of plagiarisms. and then after the campaign was over on Election Night. pp. hence choosing to stress people‟s individual responsibility instead of Providence. “Abraham Lincoln‟s Rhetoric”.
November 15. Lincoln was only once openly quoted in Election Night Victory Speech.266 Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.. They become more frequent after Obama‟s election. He used a variation of the expression. 267 A similar historic perspective is adopted in both speeches. 2009. 74 . Obama used the opening sentence of the peroration of Lincoln‟s first Inaugural Address: “We are not enemies. but friends." and suggested looking at the end of Lincoln's first Inaugural Address. The references to the Founding Fathers help reinforce that memorializing process. advised Favreau to “figure out a good Lincoln quote to bring it all together. January 20. and then again after the campaign was over. The expressions “first patriots”.expression “our better angels” in the Last Week Speech he delivered in Canton on October 27. The quote was put in by Jon Favreau who was in charge of preparing the draft of the victory speech. during the Whistle-Stop Tour. 267. Obama‟s Inaugural Address partly echoed Lincoln‟s first Inaugural Address as the following two excerpts suggest: It is seventy-two years since the first inauguration of a President under our National Constitution. Lincoln was not mentioned as the source of the original expression. which is a way to stress continuity with the founding era and therefore legitimacy but in an updated form 265. Such references can be found both in Lincoln‟s speeches and in Obama‟s. William Seward.”265 This use of intertextuality was a characteristic feature of Obama‟s speeches. They have conducted it through many perils. Obama‟s chief strategist. The speech was entitled “A New Declaration of Independence”. Obama used the expression in contrast with the expressions “worst instincts” and “easy instincts”. During that period fifteen different and greatly distinguished citizens have in succession administered the executive branch of the Government. every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.” (Inaugural Address. After Obama read the first draft. Barack Obama‟s Inaugural Address (Washington D. “Obama‟s Lincoln”. Newsweek. 266. 2009). hence focusing on the continuity and past stability of the country precisely at a time when the country was anything but stable. Abraham Lincoln. 2008. Evan THOMAS. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. and generally with great success. 1861). David Axelrod. Yet. The quote ultimately chosen by Favreau were actually words written by Lincoln‟s Secretary of State. 2009). January 20. in the Last Week Speech and his Inaugural speech. first Inaugural Address (March 4.C. “our better history”. 2008. It reinforced the identification of Obama to figures such as Lincoln and to what they symbolize in Americans‟ collective memory. “our American journey” and the date “1776” can be found in the speech delivered in Philadelphia and Baltimore on January 17. referring to Bush‟s constant tactics of fuelling fear and insisted on the notion of choice: “The time has come […] to choose our better history.
it has to face. What is specific about Obama is that he manages to combine old traditions with modern trends effectively. The many historical references make Obama‟s key-speeches rise above and transcend partisan politics. the repetitive historic references aim at restoring the sacred nature of the function in a period of political wanderings (military stalemates overseas and deepening economic crisis). The metaphor of the American family developed by Obama somehow made him appear as a patriarch.to adapt to the present circumstances. Obama is also very modern in the sense that he uses the tools that enabled Reagan to refresh political discourse and develop consensual communication (use of story-telling and praise of the country). To do so. the references to Lincoln who was seen as a father figure for the rebirth of the nation but also by the preacher‟s tone. by the figures of Lincoln and Martin Luther King. 75 . which was reinforced by the stories he told as they mostly focused on women. Partly breaking with the anti-intellectual tendencies at play. Obama sought to achieve national unity. inspired by the Constitution and the Bible. Obama‟s brilliant rhetoric restored the stylistic grandeur of America‟s greatest presidential figure in collective memory. Intertextual references to Lincoln‟s rhetoric reinforced that sense of the sacred: superior purpose. however huge. Rising over divisions. Obama developed a rhetoric of unity which was rooted in his political and historical references and also in his Christian legacy. They serve to praise American values. With the ceremonial of Whistle-Stop Tour. References to “our founding fathers” and “our founding documents” can be found in the Inaugural Speech. which he viewed as the key to overcoming the challenges to meet. sophisticated language. The references to the past hence fulfill two functions: make Obama appear as a spiritual and loyal heir to America‟s past leading political figures but also emphasize his faith in America and its capacity to overcome the challenges.
that is to say starting to do what he just said he would not. 76 . The Washington Post. According to Dyson. The Sydney Morning Herald.1 The building-up of a crescendo in the overall structure p. But I do wanna read a passage from Scripture. Obama the Preacher “Let me not try to preach today. “A President-Preacher from anaphora to epistrophe”. opened his eulogy of Rosa Parks268 at the memorial service held on November 2.2. who was Senator at the time. 2008. pointed out when writing that Obama‟s rhetoric was firmly rooted in black soil. Michael Eric DYSON. January 19. “His Way With Words Begins At The Pulpit”. The Washington Post. January 18. Professor of Theology at Duke University and an ordained Baptist minister. The statement is both an acknowledgement of Obama‟s self-conscious preaching style and a paraleipsis.” That is how Barak Obama. Obama‟s rhetorical and oratorical styles are deeply influenced by the Black pulpit tradition as Michael Eric Dyson.270 It is therefore relevant to define what the Black preaching tradition actually consists in in terms of rhetorical style and 268. 2009. Her rebellious act sparked a protest (including boycotts and peaceful marches) that led to the end of segregation in America. 2005 in Detroit. See also Michael Eric DYSON. 2009 and 3. January 18. Rosa Parks is the black seamstress who in December 1955 disobeyed the Jim Crow (or segregation) laws and refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a city-bus in Montgomery (Alabama).269 The legacy proves even more salient when Obama speaks in particularly religious contexts as was the case in Dr King‟s Church on January 20. the influence was already patent in the keynote address he delivered at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. “His Way With Words Begins At The Pulpit”. 269.92. 2009. Michael Eric DYSON. 270.3.
see Cheryl WHARRY. April 2003. p. Synthesized by Cheryl WHARRY. Instead.273 For Baptist preacher Sherman Haywood Cox II. (ii) preacher identifies the theme. Interestingly.271 Henry Mitchell considered that it was impossible to define a typical sermon outline. 1970) and Gerald DAVIS. the structure of a sermon is generally made up of a number of points which are each developed in a number of sub-points to be more effective: First.2.1. The structure and main components of the sermon 3. reasons for use of Black English in sermons. he focused on “describing such aspects as cultural context.1. 273. “Amen and Hallelujah Preaching: Discourse Functions in African American Sermons”. followed by a Bible quotation. A clearly defined yet not-so-rigid pattern The main studies on the framework of sermons by Henry Mitchell and Gerald Davis presented two very different. p. Vol.”272 Gerald Davis. 271. 1987). partially contradictory views. Black Preaching (Philadelphia: Lippincott Publishers. Cheryl WHARRY. you know (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. today‟s various American websites about sermon writing reflect those contrastive approaches. and descriptions of a sermon‟s climax. what exactly Obama took up from that pastoral tradition and also gauge the extent of Martin Luther King‟s influence. I got the word in me and I can sing it.1.oratorical specificities.. (iv) each unit of the sermon contains a secular-versus-sacred conflict and moves between concrete and abstract. he defined two major and essential components: the gospel had to be adapted to the culture and language of the congregants and it had to be adapted to the congregants and their needs.32. No.1. (v) closure is absent. cit.206. Wharry‟s analysis is based on Henry MITCHELL. The influence of black church rhetoric 3. In his work. op.205. Language in Society. 77 . and the sermon is left open-ended.. 3.1. cit. pp. 272. (iii) preacher interprets the scripture literally and then broadly . For more on the different and contrastive approaches of Mitchell and Davis. as sermons heavily depended on the preacher‟s individual imagination and spontaneity.1.205-6. op. distinguished five components precisely ordered: (i) Preacher tells the congregation that the sermon was provided by God. on the contrary. define the point.
” 276. in the speech “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. 2008).html . connect the point to Scriptures to give it religious legitimacy. it clearly appears that an effective sermon consists in constantly interconnecting the Bible.asp and especially http://www. at Dr King‟s Church (Atlanta. 2007). in the Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison. See also Cheryl WHARRY.274 Sherman Haywood Cox II insists that all subpoints are not always necessary and can be re-ordered and/or mixed.206: “Theme [. 78 . p. Obama never quoted from scripture. p. February 12.abcnews. No. Obama‟s stump speech encompasses a variety of political topics as he needed to answer criticisms and state his ideas. Such rumors were spread in November 2007 and then again in early March 2008. November 7.com/politicalpunch/2008/03/clinton-says-ob. is what primarily provides cohesion in African American sermons. not meter. 2008) and the Acceptance Speech (Denver. Henry H. In most cases. It should certainly and partly be seen as a moral caution proving that he is a Christian defending Christian values and not a Muslim as rumors had it. the Speech at the LULAC Convention (Washington D.4. See http://blogs. Interpretation. “The preacher is used by the Holy Spirit to achieve the transformation of the hearer in […] the behavioral purpose of the sermon. March 4. 2008). Though the sermon is divided into a number of points.. 51. op. July 8..”276 The whole sermon is constructed to make people change behavior. The sentence was not mentioned in the stump speech but in more important speeches: in the 2004 Keynote Address. As Henry H. apply the point to show how they can be applied in people‟s daily lives. 1997.380ff. current events or mundane life). 2008). 2008). 275. See http://sermonideas.. Vol. Finally.Then. what characterizes it is its topical unity275 as all the points are used to evoke an overall idea which has a transformative purpose. people‟s individual or collective behavior with elements from the community‟s shared culture to contrast what people sometimes or often do with what they should.soulpreaching.C. January 20. In any case. cit.277 which was mostly used in February and March 2008 when the race for the primaries was very tight. gospel songs.”278 274. the sentence was actually often reproduced out of context when taken up and spread in the media. August 28. “A more perfect union” (Philadelphia. 2008). 278. sustained by Hillary Clinton‟s awkward declaration during an interview for CBS‟s “60 minutes” that Obama was not a Muslim “as far as [she knew]. we are our sister's keeper”.com/expand-a-sermonoutline-into-a-sermon.. apart from the oft-repeated “we are our brother's keeper. 277. March 18. Thirdly. “African-American Preaching”. episodes of history.com/begin. MITCHELL. African American history in particular.]. Mitchell explained. Hillary Clinton actually goes on saying. illustrate the point with an extract from the Scriptures and/or other possible sources (hymns. in the Texas Primary Night Speech (San Antonio.
Unity requires and involves a change of attitude and mindset. the third time being a slight variation replacing “the” with “this”. 79 .” This inclusion of behavioral transformation into the speech reinforces its sermon-like style. stressing how individual and collective change is possible.279 It is extremely relevant to use the example of Dr King‟s own battle for freedom in the church in which he had been a pastor for years because it lends symbolical emphasis to the point. Unity does not appear as an end in itself but as the means to achieve success and “overcome the essential deficit that exists in [the] country”. see 3. 280. the epilogue is fairly characteristically patterned on the ending of sermons both topically as it usually consisted in a definition of hope and formally with the use of the typical call-and-response technique. This financial metaphor echoes Martin Luther King‟s check yet to cash in “I Have a Dream”. hence connecting the Civil Rights Era to the present day. All the points are developed by interconnecting the Bible. The political candidate then lists all the kinds of deficits that plague America. The sentence itself is repeated three times. Let us now focus on the nature of black church discourse and the analogy between church values and Obama‟s rhetorical frame.. “Scripture tells us that when Joshua and the Israelites arrived at the gates of Jericho.2. The second point developed by Barack Obama is how to achieve unity. “having been the target of so many ridiculous rumors. I have a great deal of sympathy for anybody who gets. they could not enter. “a broadening of their spirits. For more on the call-and-response technique.104.2. smeared with the kind of rumors that go on all the time. On but one occasion does the overall structure of one of Obama‟s campaign speeches strongly reflect that of a sermon.” 279. To illustrate his point further. Call-and-response p. Obama recalls the episodes of the Civil War Era and MLK‟s urge to unite.2. you know. African American history with today‟s situation and people‟s own responsibility in it. a relevant story with an obvious political reinterpretation. In the period stretching from January 2008 to the end of the Primaries..It is however significantly different with the speech Obama delivered at Dr King‟s Church which starts with a direct reference to the Bible.” The speech delivered at the Ebenezer Church is wholly devoted to that particular and key-idea. This second point clearly states that people have to change their "hearts and minds” and “look past what divides [them]” to achieve this “hard-earned” unity. it is not really the structure of Obama‟s speeches that recalls sermons. including the forceful reference to scripture. using once again the example of MLK who “could love his jailor”.” The overall point is later explicitly defined: unity thanks to God can make everything possible and tear down barriers. “Unity is the great need of the hour.280 Yet.
it is the possibility of effective behavioral change that is at stake in each sermon as was seen in 3. a young woman who still believes that this country will give her the chance to live out her dreams. despite all evidence to the contrary. 80 . Hope is the key-word of Obama‟s 2004 keynote address at the Democratic National Convention and was strongly influenced by Jeremiah Wright‟s sermon “The Audacity of Hope. 2007).1. Hope is what I saw in the eyes of the young woman in Cedar Rapids who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can't afford health care for a sister who's ill.2.1.”281 As for change. that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it. December 27. before developing what hope means for him. and then work for. and to fight for it.. And that's the change you can stand for in seven days. what had seemed impossible before. dynamic and essence of progress in American history. After finally giving his definition. and a story that could only happen in the United States of America. 282.1.1..282 [Our emphasis] Hope is that thing inside us that insists. Hope-hope-is what led me here today . Obama’s rhetorical frame: where the religious meets the political The direct references to Scripture may be few and occasional.with a father from Kenya. 2006). The full title is: The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (New York: Crown Publishers. The two words used to define the spirit and sense of his campaign are “hope” and change”. and to work for it. It's about the meaning of hope. Also the title given by Obama to the book in which he stated his political views. which soon came to sum up what his candidacy stood for. 283. This is a pattern frequently used by Obama when 281. […] That's the power of hope . what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation. Obama often adds a list of examples to illustrate it. Obama uses contrast and starts giving negative definitions of what it is not. 2008). “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. [. who still goes to bed each night praying for his safe return. That's the change we seek. the theme of the campaign is however directly framed by Christian values.283 The notion is reinterpreted as being the catalyst. Yet.to imagine. a mother from Kansas.1. the whole campaign is hence framed by a strongly religious rhetoric which is redefined in political terms in “Our Moment is Now” and the Iowa Caucus Night Speech. […] I know that hope has been the guiding force behind the most improbable changes this country has ever made. January 3. Hope is what I heard in the voice of the New Hampshire woman who told me that she hasn't been able to breathe since her nephew left for Iraq. the argument we are having between the candidates in the last seven days is not just about the meaning of change.] Hope is not blind optimism. Hope is what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire. Iowa Caucus Night (Des Moines. A clearly defined yet not-so-rigid pattern. Hope is one the three theological virtues in Christian religion along with faith and charity. Here are the two relevant extracts from those speeches: In the end. what led young women and young men to sit at lunch counters and brave fire hoses and march through Selma and Montgomery for freedom's cause.3.
The religious word is redefined in a political and historical context. 81 . They also add an element of suspense by delaying the time when the expected information is finally given. mixing examples of what hope achieved in the past for him and for Americans with the present stories of unprivileged people. introducing a cataphoric definition of hope. It is subtly formulated by Obama because it transforms a negative criticism into a call for more self-confidence. For the rebellious colonists and segregated Americans. As for change. Obama creates an analogy between the various examples by stating them in the same list (proximity) and reinforces the overall unity with the use of anaphora: “Hope is…”. 2007 and it 284. Though Obama insists that hope is derided by his rivals as being “blind optimism”. The number of occurrences of the noun “change” remains significant throughout the campaign with five to a dozen occurrences depending on the length of the speech. For Obama. The negative definitions enable him to respond to his critics. It is also religious in the sense that the aim of sermons was transformative and required people to change mindset and attitude. the State here replacing God as a somewhat deus ex machina. 2008).”284 The section is given a somewhat circular structural as it opens and ends with the two same words: “Hope is. January 20. hope was an active force which spurned them into action.” This frame helps signal the end of the section to the audience and adds additional emphasis on the definition. On occasions. October 27. 2008) and his Last Week Speech (Canton. Obama closes the section on hope with a final. in the Wisconsin Primary Night Speech (Houston. As for the two women mentioned. Urging people to hope is more consistent with religious discourse and somehow departs from the traditional political discourse of a candidate campaigning for an election. It consists in relying on the state to help them solve their problems. February 19. hope is passive and only appears as a spiritual solace. but change is implicitly at the core of all sermons. It is the case for example in the speech delivered at Dr King‟s Church (Atlanta. anaphoric definition: “That‟s what hope is. by questioning legitimate authority and even disobeying laws when necessary.he needs to (re)define a notion. hope can characterize both individual and collective entities. it is a crucial word in the mouth of the challenger in a political contest. It is the case for example with individual responsibility for underachieving communities. The word may not be used as often as in politics. his own multiple definitions of hope actually vary according to the examples given. The number peaks however just before the primaries started with twenty-four occurrences in the speech delivered on December 27. 2008).
at the DNC Convention (Denver. but in the words of Scripture. In Obama‟s most famous speech. “If you believe. June 3. the time has come to set aside childish things. is never used directly but is implied in the motto.85. Obama embodies change because of the color of his skin. That aspect. forcefully urging people to be more self-confident. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit.288 It was centered on the ideas of America‟s destiny and the American covenant and ended with a quotation from the Bible.peaks again as the primaries end and a new campaign begins with sixteen occurrences in the Final Primary Speech (St Paul. 288. Quoted in Luc BENOÎT À LA GUILLAUME. He is different.4. Besides. In fact fourteen occurrences of the verb “believe” 287 can be found in that speech. he pronounced the verb ten times: five times in the expression “John Kerry believes” and three times in the expression “I believe”. References to race prior to “A more perfect union” p.1. to carry forward that precious gift. using words that are both strongly connoted religiously and politically enable him to stand on the grey zone where the two areas merge. Obama also uses the hypothetical clauses.60. Obama only mentions God at the end of some of his speeches. See Obama‟s use of macrostructural anaphora in 3. Johnson‟s 1965 Inaugural Address which contained eight occurrences of believe (and believers). using the blessing call: “God bless America.2.” He can reach out to a wider audience. The repeated use of the verb “believe” echoes Lyndon B.1. The use of repetition p. Obama played the religious card in a way that was not divisive but inclusive.2. August 28). This is as ambiguous as “they said this day would never come. Johnson‟s 1965 Inaugural Address was a “perfect example of jeremiad”. passed on from generation to generation: the God-given 285. 2007). Bush‟s frequent reliance on and appeals to God. Unlike George W. 2008). “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. In all these cases. For more on the ambiguity in Obama‟s subtle references to race. 82 . One of Johnson‟s key-sentences was: “For we are a nation of believers. visually different. December 27. 286. though the most obvious one. p. 2003). 2. hence reaping the benefits of the moral and allinclusive vision without appearing as a zealot. It could just as well be a change of Administration with the Democrats replacing the Republicans in the White House.” Change in having a black President as it is implied. Le discours d’investiture des présidents américains ou les paradoxes de l’éloge (Paris : L‟Harmattan. to choose our better history. 2008 and finally again just before the election. Obama‟s own Inaugural Address developed the sacred origins of the American experiment: “We remain a young nation.” which are repeated four times in the epilogue of the speech “Our Moment is Now”286 as if political victory actually depended on an act of faith.1. the keynote address delivered in 2004. “Change is possible in America. the expressions were used to delineate paragraphs. He was also addressing people who do not turn out to vote because they distrust politics.”285 Obama‟s mottoes are not exclusively Christian. that noble idea.75. Bercovitch.” According to S. 287.
that of anonymous average Americans and that of Ashley Baia.” [our emphasis] Yet. As was seen in the first part. which is characterized by the use of many parables.1. Obama usually preferred to deliver a series of very short stories which reflected a variety of issues instead of narrating vivid. Obama articulated the shift from individual families to the metaphorical religious family which encompasses the whole society with the expression: “I am my brother‟s keeper. COX II on www.1 Use of personal narratives of anonymous Americans. and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.com/story-telling-and-role-playing. contrary to Johnson or Reagan‟s speeches. the reference to a God-inspired destiny is marginal and limited to the universal and political ideals developed in the Constitution. in that case connecting his own experience with that of Jesus. Storytelling is in fact an essential characteristic of biblical style. all are free. The nature of religious discourse in black churches Apart from the injunctions to and the rationale for behavioral change. Black Preaching : The Recovery of a Powerful Art (Nashville: Abingdon Press. As Henry H. lengthy. Obama however does not indulge excessively in the art of storytelling as is the case in sermon delivering. much-detailed 289. The analysis of the overall structure of sermons revealed that it was directed to achieve behavioral change. the sermons heavily rely on stories. one of the characteristic features of Obama‟s style was the use of stories: his own. “I‟ve Been to the Mountaintop” is an example of preaching in the first-person. MITCHELL. In addition. 1990) quoted by Sherman H. Henry H. As was stated in 2.1.” 3. not to the exclusive and religious experiment of the colonial period. Obama‟s stories stand in two categories: those that illustrate the situation as it is (the narratives of individual Americans) and those whose function is to illustrate that change has taken place: Obama‟s own career and Ashley Baia‟s dedicated commitment.soulpreaching. sometimes they even change into the character that they are preaching and preach a first-person story. by referring to families in his examples. Mitchell explained. “African American preachers often engage in a sermon that is “story-telling”. stating what was and what should be.” 289 Martin Luther King‟s famous speech.promise that all are equal.1.3. 83 . I am my sister‟s keeper.
This aspect is stressed by Evan Cornog : “Stories.1. Vol. The kids playing outside seem to work as an epiphany for the volunteers. intent on fighting joblessness and poverty on the South Side. the sermon has a transformational purpose and so do Obama‟s stories by offering illustrative rolemodels. The expression suggests that Obama identified with his volunteers when they wanted to quit and when they decided to go on and that they are the source of the action. I looked outside and saw some young boys tossing stones at a boarded-up apartment building across the street. And so did I. we discover. but no one showed up.2. They were like boys in so many cities across the country . The nature of religious discourse p.1.3. No. but it was not an unexpected sight. p. We had worked on it for days. When he did tell long stories. Obama‟s manipulative account of the story aims to present the volunteers as role-models. Obama‟s repeated use of the expression “so do I” suggests he felt like the volunteers. "Before you quit. have morals. “African-American Preaching”. Interpretation. 84 . but surely. Obama tells a personal story which illustrates his determination even at a time of defeat: I was a young organizer then.” Evan CORNOG. I want you to answer one question.1.1. The Power and the Story: How the Crafted Presidential Narrative Has Determined Political Success from George Washington to George W. The use of hypotyposis p. MITCHELL. Yet. without hope. and I still remember one of the very first meetings I put together. people whose attitude can and should be imitated. 2004). yet not-so-rigid system. they were invited to look at the kids and think again about their initial decision by Obama.3. a closer attention to the context shows that it was Obama who initiated the reversal of position (use of action verbs) and convinced the volunteers to go on: “I looked”.” Henry H.371ff. Our volunteers felt so defeated. so did I. It constitutes a sentence in its own right with significant pauses before and after its delivery to give it more emphasis.to keep organizing. But at that moment. As was seen in 3. And to be honest. they wanted to quit. In the following example which is taken from the Super Tuesday Speech (St Paul. being illustrations of how people can individually and/or collectively help to make things change. Penguin. And slowly. 3. “I turned” and “I asked” and only then “they looked” and “they decided”.stories. without guidance. p.51. Bush (New York. 2008). they had a didactic function290.88. keep fighting for better schools.4. It is important to imply that they made the decision and that they influenced Obama because the decision to finally go on despite the setbacks can indirectly convince people in Obama‟s audience to act likewise.1 A clearly defined. in the weeks and months to come.83 and 3. “Stories teach more effectively than abstractions. 1997. 290. and I asked them. See also for storytelling in sermons. lessons that we can incorporate into our understanding of life. And I turned to the volunteers. and better jobs. What will happen to those boys?" And the volunteers looked out that window. February 5. the community began to change.2.1.boys without prospects. and they decided that night to keep going . See also Henry Mitchell who wrote. and better health care. as Obama seems to have done.
4. The sentence comes as a leitmotif in Obama‟s speeches: “Turn the Page” Speech (San Diego. 293. Summer-Autumn 1988.1. Vol.The stories in sermons often merge the time present and the past. Snead. What unifies and guides “this sacred universe” in sermons is God. connecting the sacred and the profane. “Epistemology of a Drum Major: Martin Luther King Jr. whatever the nature of the discourse. Macrostructural anaphora can be used at anytime throughout the sermon to make it more dynamic and create a rhythmic crescendo. 291 In Obama‟s speeches. Winter 1981. the identification is suggested with the past generations which have made America progress and overcome hazardous hardships. January 3. The use of repetition Repetition is a necessary device in oral culture.1. which help sustain a particular and steady rhythm and are characteristic features of the pastoral rhetorical style. MILLER. SNEAD “On Repetition in Black Culture”.2. Vol. Noah.292 Apart from storytelling or comments on Scripture. 85 . These devices are very frequent in sermons and can be microstructural (within a sentence) or macrostructural (to shape the construction of a paragraph).226. Super Tuesday Night Speech (St Paul. in Obama‟s speeches. 2007). 2008). p. April 28.15. 3. at the junction of music and language. Black Textual Strategies. It is very often used in the last lines to help impress the audience thanks to heightened rhythm. it is central in black church culture. For more on this aspect.151. Vol. David. No. Jonah. The repetition consists in formulating a similar key-idea in identical form or various modes to help listeners remember it but it is also a stylistic device to hammer in an idea or a set of ideas more forcefully.1. Black American Literature Forum. preachers often embed lyrics and Scripture in their oratory. February 5. For James A. No. see Keith D. and especially the enslaved Hebrews provided blacks a method of self-understanding: their lives resembled those of Old Testament heroes who faced grim odds and oppression but who finally achieved resplendent success. In this sacred universe.293 The most frequent rhetorical devices are anaphora and epistrophe. it is the American dauntless and pioneering spirit that “ordinary people can do extraordinary things”. p. one locates and defines a self by consulting Biblical narrative and by expecting an eventual Biblical-style liberation either on earth or in heaven.1: Theory.” James A. “The black church must be placed at the center of the manifestations of repetition in black culture. Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines.2. The process of identifying with the hardships and the eventual triumphs of Daniel. 292. and the Black Folk Pulpit”. Using the motifs and stylistic devices used in sermons 3. Rhetoric Society Quarterly. 2008).3/4.18. 291.
our own fears.297 294. the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta. South Carolina Primary Night Speech (Columbia. See 1. 296. Announcement Speech (Springfield. “all of them with a story to tell. 2008). Each of these Intonational Phrases has a relatively equal length. The following representation of the phrase “all of them with a story to tell. On the contrary he speaks more quickly and as a result as there were more words in those segments. February 9. too.”295 They are usually found at the end of sentences for additional focus (end-weight) and to prepare the audience for applause.296 As is shown in the two examples just given. 2007). 297.35. all of them clamoring to be heard” is balanced in its delivery even if the three parts are not equally long. all of them seeking a seat at the table. the hope of a millworker‟s son who dares to defy the odds. Many such repetitions can be found within a sentence and are usually combined to the tricolon for a better balance of the phrase: “we are also struggling against our own doubts. the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him. and our own cynicism. January 26. all of them seeking a seat at the table. the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores. all of them clamoring to be heard. The first part of the list being shorter is slowed and Barack Obama even marks a pause after “all of them” while he does not pause after the following two occurrences of the expression.” 86 . epistrophe or even a combination of both (symploce). it takes Obama approximately the same time to utter each segment. The flourishing rhetorical imagery and characteristic stylistic devices p.Barack Obama often uses anaphora. The Intonational Phrases were pronounced with more or less the same length: “It‟s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs.4. the part which is repeated can be given additional emphasis either lexically: the adjective “own” which reinforces the possessive determiner “our” or syntactically with the use of the quantifier “all” in the analytic structure “all of them”. 295. The same conclusion was made in a previous unpublished study of the epilogue of the 2004 Keynote Address.”294.
the focus on the crucial. 2007) PRAAT Structural anaphora is more frequent and more easily noticeable by the audience. The Iowa Caucus Night Speech for example can be divided into five sections that are clearly delineated by the anaphora used: a contrast between “They said” and then “you said” . a definition of the prospective President he would be: “I‟ll be a President who…” .Fig. It is the case for the speeches delivered in early January 2008 after the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary. using verbs like SAY or KNOW which are 87 . the sections are alternately made up of very short or longer paragraphs. the expression of awareness. In addition. and finally the definition he gives to the word “hope”: “Hope is what…”. Springfield. The definitions are often both cataphoric (“Hope is…”) and anaphoric (“That‟s what hope is.”) and serve to structure the paragraph. humility and sense of responsibility toward American citizens: “I know…. It is generally repeated several times and some speeches are constructed as series of paragraphs that can be delineated through the anaphora used.3 Equilibrium and tricolon (Announcement Speech. historic moment: “This was the moment when…” . February 10. Obama also alternates the syntactic structure of the elements repeated to avoid monotony.” . which helps alternate the pace of delivery of each section.
it would have been possible to have only one sentence “This is our time to turn the page. or education to our children.”299 3. The use of hypotyposis Another stylistic characteristic of sermons is the use of hypotyposis. op.103 300. Our time to turn the page…” (Final Primary Night Speech. the repetitive forms help convey a certain rhythm and “build verbal reassurance. that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough.. a specialist in Black preaching. 299. 2008).”300 Conjuring up scenes through vivid descriptions aims at arousing emotion because the 298.1. It is not enough to give health care to the sick.102-3. cit.” and “that single moment of recognition […] is not enough to give healthcare to the sick […]. Preaching to Every Pew: Cross-Cultural Strategies (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress.” Obama‟s frequent and various uses of repetitive devices fulfilled the same functions as in sermons. 2008) and in “By itself. At the macrostructural level. “African-American Preaching”. It therefore consists in the immediate repetition of a group of words which are only separated orally by a pause as in “This is our time. Obama sometimes uses anadiplosis. It is a deliberate way to insist on key words which do not necessarily have to be repeated in fact. defines the Black preachers‟ “capacity for vividness and communication from the depths” as being typical of the African-American tradition. NIEMAN and Thomas G. they acted as “a kind of handrail through the course of the sermon. MITCHELL. James R. pp.372-4. ROGERS. or jobs to the jobless. James R. NIEMAN and Thomas G.. cit. consisting in repeating at the beginning of a phrase (or sentence) the final words of the previous clause (or sentence). June 3. dating back to the times of slavery when preachers could not read and write and crafted their sermons “from a phenomenal memory of scripture and a culturally enriched imagination. St Paul. Mitchell.” (“A more perfect union”. 2001).2. orienting the listener in moving from one thing to the next.followed by complement clauses while some structures are a bit more complex including a non-defining restrictive relative clause: “a President who…”. Henry H.2. Henry H. Philadelphia. 88 . March 18. Instead of two sentences (one to state a fact with the use of the BE copula and the second to state the aim to reach). op.” 298 At the microstructural level. pp. p. ROGERS.
As Obama never says that he heard the story from someone else.” Henry MITCHELL. Obama uses people who are vulnerable.1. The impression comes from the details302 given by Obama in the description of people‟s position as for example. The kids are “young boys tossing stones at a boarded-up apartment building across the street. “While providing overarching forms easily recognized by churchgoers. Being incorporated in a political speech delivered in front of an audience. op. cit. creates a mise en abyme.. the durable narrative imagery clarifies many immediate examples of oppression. Only the second of these two stories is a personal story. 303 Obama‟s stories illustrate the change of attitude he wants to foster by using empathy (for Ashley or the unprivileged kids) that made other people stand up. 89 .”301 As indicated in 2. and almost anyone can make a hearer see it.soulpreaching.boys without prospects. What reinforces this impression that Obama attended the roundtable discussion is the use of speech verbs to introduce what people said.] For the most part people remember pictures better than they remember words. op.” in Keith D. See www. which reproduces the meeting form described in the stories. pp. but listening to the Ashley anecdote. Both stories are not action scenes but discussions between people who support Obama and both are centered on the sense of their commitment.com/emotionnecessary. “Emotion must be a part of real preaching if it is to affect the whole person and not just the mind. The Ashley Baia story. without 301. the reference is the storyteller (I/now/here) and the narrated time merges with the narration time. and so is the case with the story of the failed meeting organized by Obama while working in the South Side (Super Tuesday Speech). MILLER. “this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time” which could have been reduced to a more ordinary presentation like “an elderly black man”. They were like boys in so many cities across the country . H.. Unlike the parables in which a story is told to give people a moral lesson or make them understand an idea at a superior level. Obama arouses empathy with his stories. the listener has the impression that the scene is being revived. 303.. [. Ashley‟s story is one of the very few fairly long stories told by Obama. To arouse more empathy. cit. The action is past (Ashley‟s eating sandwiches for a year to save money) or outside (kids tossing stones outside). one gets the impression that it is not hear-say but words Obama heard directly. without guidance. 302. but instead of letting his listeners deduce the conclusions they should draw. and liberation.2. Mitchell insists on the importance of details: “The story becomes vivid when there are concrete details the hearer can envision. one has the impression that Obama has actually attended the scene and was present at the roundtable discussion Ashley had organized.225-236. spiritual vexation. By using the deictic “this”. revival. he bluntly tells them.transformative purpose of the sermon has to address body and mind as Sherman Haywood Cox II explained.
http://www. 90 . mâtiné de rythm‟n‟blues”. “Le style Obama : un ton de pasteur. Looking at the world through the prism of Black Church values Sherman Haywood Cox II tries to make the tradition and specificities of the Black Church better known.1. Black Church preachers are usually renowned for their stylistic skills. Obama is addressing adults and plays on the parent‟s instinct of protection and sense of responsibility.com/is-that-black-preaching. See www.35616.”305 This also results from the political role that the Black Church has played from its very beginning. Baptist minister Sherman Haywood Cox II explains that Black Church tradition is often reduced to those stylistic concerns. The hopeless and defenseless people in his stories are particularly unprivileged.306 and why the point of view traditionally adopted is that of the oppressed. See www. 306.hope. which is specific to the Black Church. The church has always been the place where the grievances of slaves and then segregated African Americans were spoken out.php. 305.soulpreaching. It also accounts for the emphasis laid on collective salvation. He insists on the “tendency to look from the angle of the underdog and those who have their backs against the wall”. Journalist and historian Gary Wills insists on the religious roots of this approach: 304. as well as a “tendency to see the practical rather than a theoretical angle.” And Ashley‟s mother had cancer and then lost her job and her health care when Ashley was nine.3.telerama.” Sylvie LAURENT. Obama uses exaggerations to make the situation as dark as possible with an accumulative effect created by the two repetitions of the preposition “without” (tricolon and anaphora). hence overlooking other major characteristics like the specificities of the outlook expressed.fr/idees/le-style-obama-un-tonde-pasteur-matine-de-rythm-n-blues.304 3.soulpreaching. “les hommes politiques américains sont souvent des pasteurs lorsqu‟ils sont AfricainsAméricains puisque c‟est là que s‟exprimaient les revendications politiques des Noirs. Yet. It explains why religion and politics are so congruent in the black community. See Sylvie Laurent.com/is-that-black-preaching.
But the Democrats also defend the middle-class against HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations) and other lobbyists. Unlike the Calvinist stress on individualism. 2008). That explains also why Obama defines the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s as the last great stage in American history by representing the last item in the list as if no major event had taken place since that time: Hope is what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire. See also Mary PATTILLO-McCOY. 91 . ethnic minorities. what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation.55. lobbyists). There is this idea in Obama‟s speeches of defending ordinary citizens against powerful forces (special interests. op. No. Vol. on the private experience of being saved. working women. The New York Review of Books.” 307 This leads to the privileged use of the personal pronoun “we”.“That has always been a mark of black religion in America.” 308. They target the underprivileged categories of people: single parents. which is precisely the predominant pronoun in Obama‟s speeches.773: “Prayers often focus not on individual salvation but on the needs of the family. 309. 2008). what led young women and young men to sit at lunch counters and brave fire hoses and march through Selma and Montgomery for freedom's cause.2. 307. “Two Speeches on Race”. the neighborhood. Praise of America and Americans p. January 8. 309 Obama‟s belief in the collective power of “Democrats. p. blacks thought in terms of the whole people being saved-all of them riding on the Ark. cit. See in 1. And there is also the idea in Obama‟s speeches that all Americans must move together forward. all reaching the Promised Land. Obama‟s redefinition of the American Dream308 reflects that approach of a collective enterprise.22. factory workers and therefore seek to defend their interests and give them a voice. The Democratic Party addresses the economically and socially disadvantaged. and even African Americans as a racial group. New Hampshire Primary Night Speech (Nashua. Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. Independents and Republicans”310 to make things change explains the appeal to fight for the election but also after the election.1. Garry WILLS.7. January 3.. May 1. 310. 2008.
“His Way With Words Begins At The Pulpit”. Michael Eric DYSON. The only speech that came fairly close to that steady building-up was the speech delivered at Dr King‟s Church. the overall movement is one of gradual build-up.77. with shifting cadences and varied registers.312 Yet. of the general movement of the speech. It takes half of the speech for Obama to really get warmed up.311 Obama‟s speeches generally ended with a climax (lyrical outbursts). or so we believe. Yet. go slow. “On that occasion. as the pace quickens and then slows down alternately. Dyson explained. applauding the aspirations of ordinary Americans and praising the virtues of democracy. he obeyed the black preacher‟s dictum: „Start low. they did not necessarily start low and were more alternations of lyrical outbursts and quieter sections.1. The first sentence selected is the opening sentence of the speech.2. 2009.‟” In a more detailed analysis of the steady crescendo reaching final climax. 311. which is an essential component of sermons for Henry Mitchell. rise high. This speech does not represent a steady crescendo.3. to a climax that exploded in lines of warning to cynics who would divide the country into blue and red states. The Washington Post. Acting as a preacher 3.1. See 3. he built steadily and rhythmically. Here are a few sentences from that speech to illustrate the gradual increase of pitch and intensity.2. After telling the story of his biracial roots. The building-up of a crescendo in the overall structure Analyzing Obama‟s 2004 keynote address. the second is taken from the crescendo or warming-up part. however. strike fire and sit down. 92 .1. January 18. A clearly defined yet not-so-rigid pattern p. all in measured tones.1. Baptist preacher Michael Dyson claimed that. the third illustrates the second part of Obama‟s speech and presents a characteristic of black preaching and the fourth sentence is one of the last. 312. The four sentences selected are representative.
5 Ebenezer 2 . which starts and ends at a fairly high pitch-level (slightly above 200Hz while the rest is below 175Hz).PRAAT 93 . This rhythm is fairly slow in the middle of the sentence.PRAAT The first sentence uttered lasts 10”.65” for the longest) and the vowels are lengthened. 1.Fig. As for the intensity. The pauses are fairly long (1” for the shortest.4 Ebenezer 1 . it remains below 75dB throughout. Fig.
see also 3.. it uses “the tonality of African languages”. This is what Black preachers often do to close their sermons.104. “Black preachers who 'whoop' -. The other significant difference with the opening line is that it is said with a higher pitch.minstrels or ministers?”. For more on whooping and audio and video examples. It is very close to singing and according to Henry H.” This a very interesting section because Obama “imitates” preachers “whooping”. http://edition. 94 . which “has greater dramatic power and appeal. p.2.com/2010/LIVING/10/20/whooping/index. ending each time the sentence with “I needed some hope to get here.”313 Pitch is significantly higher than in the two previous examples (mostly between 280 and 342 Hz) though this example is not significantly higher in intensity (mostly 67-79dB).2. The sentence is taken from a section which is characterized by the use of epistrophe. Obama resumes a quieter voice (mostly below 70dB) and lower tone (mostly below 225 Hz) except for the stresses on “unity” (274 Hz) and “cheap” at the end of the sentence (289 Hz). Call-and-response p. 2010. MITCHELL. cit. Fig. The pace is significantly quicker than in the opening sentence (shorter vowels. John BLAKE.html.6 Ebenezer 3 .” For the influence of African culture. The aim is to “make people feel the sermon. See Henry H.cnn.7”. Mitchell. October 20. partly because of its function as a nostalgic ethnic marker and affirmer of identity.The second sentence selected is pronounced after 8‟11” of speech and lasts 8. The sentence is almost solely made up of one-syllable words. CNN. fewer and shorter pauses).374ff.2. 313. It comes after a lyrical outburst. not just hear it.PRAAT The sentence is pronounced after 18‟57” and lasts 10”. op. In the two previous sentences Obama had talked about his father and then his mother.
cit. The indirect appeal to people with “we cannot walk alone” prepares for their interaction. The intensity is mostly at the same level as in the previous example but the pitch is less high (mostly between 240 and 297Hz).1. which can only be applauded by all. Henry Allen insisted in The Washington Post on the parallels between Martin Luther King and Obama‟s cadenced rhythm. Martin Luther King used iambs for the first sentences of the section about the dream he had: “I have a dream that one day down in Alabama…” while Obama used dactyls (metrical foot starting with a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed ones): “We are the ones we‟ve been waiting for.which helps quicken the pace and help produce a very regular rhythm which alternates with fairly significant pauses. The sentence is also situated in a section based on repetitions (epistrophe).PRAAT This sentence is at the end of the speech (33‟07”-37‟11”) and part of the final lyrical outburst. Henry ALLEN.1.” Fig. the vowels are lengthened. We are the change that we seek. 95 . To insist on these key-words.7 Ebenezer 4 . The special musicality it creates is based on the use of iambs:314 “I got in trouble when I was a teenager” and later a succession of trochees: “folks don‟t like to talk about”. focusing on general and universal ideas. A clearly defined yet not-so-rigid pattern. The sentence sounds like a consensual slogan. Obama‟s speech at Dr King‟s Church was the only one of the entire campaign whose outline and rhetoric were so 314. op. As was stated in 3.1.
As was the case for the general outline of the written sermon. December 1998. Vol. Year One (New York: Simon & Schuster. as was the case of MLK. 3. 3.6.2. For politicians or local organizers working in black communities. this is the only example in which Obama fully fits the requirements of sermon-making. Jonathan Atler explains that Obama‟s “commanding baritone” “could make his most ordinary utterances sound profound. she worked in Chicago‟s South Side. “Culture as a Strategy of Action in the Black Community”. 2010). whether spiritual or political. February 28. this one example is too marginal in Obama‟s speeches to account for the analogy frequently made between Obama‟s speeches and sermons. p.139. Yet. a sociologist who specialized in social constructionism and African American studies. American Sociological Review.”315 Her studies illustrate the power of church culture as cultural tools for facilitating local organizing and activism among African Americans. between Obama and preachers. 316.2. The tone of a preacher One of the main characteristics of Obama‟s speaking features is his baritone voice.strongly inspired by sermons. Adopting the techniques of the Black Church For Mary Pattillo-McCoy. adopting black church culture codes is essential. that is to stay studying how social action is constructed in AfricanAmerican communities: “Black church culture constitutes a common language that motivates social action.2.1.2.” Jonathan ATLER. p. Interestingly enough.768. either positively (for Obama) or negatively (for 315. 96 . A baritone voice is a natural asset for a leader. Quoted in Frank BROWNING. for it is the “the voice associated with authority” according to opera coach Rick Harrell. Mary PATTILLO-McCOY. 6. “Does Obama‟s baritone give him an edge?” Salon.316 The cultural conceptions associated with the different types of voices unconsciously influence the listeners. 2008. The Promise: President Obama. It is also the case thus for the tone used and the various specific characteristics (overall crescendo. whooping). No.
March 25. Absence of negative marker and presence of the adverb “yes”. The following prosograms320 indicate the prosodic difference between a black-cent rendition of “yes we can” and a standard American rendition. Prosograms present pitch contour stylizations by simulating tonal perception of speech. a former political consultant."318 As was seen in 2. “Rhetoric and Speaking Style Affect the Clinton-Obama Race”. See also linguistic anthropologist Jennifer Jackson‟s analysis of Hillary Clinton‟s voice: “If. “Every time [Hillary Clinton] changes her register.stm. people use that awful. It makes what is being said more powerful and puts Obama at an advantage against Hillary Clinton. that‟s not good for her.bbc. Quoted in Stephanie HOLMES.co. Obama can use the “black-cent” to sound “black” when he wants. see also Sylvie LAURENT.317 All those who have sought to analyze Obama‟s speaking style agree on the strong religious and pastoral influence that actually defines and characterizes it. For Philip Collins. this doubly-assertive319 expression starts at a high level and ends high. 2008 on http://news. BBC News.” Quoted in Frank BROWNING.” Quoted in Kent GARBER.2.3.the intonation. op . ESPRIT.4. The prosograms were made from John McWorther‟s oral comparison of those two ways of pronouncing the sentence. the “black-cent” is characterized by a shortening of “we” and the specific. December 2008. who was the first Frenchwoman to become Prime Minister in 1991. American linguist John McWorther explains that it worked precisely because it was delivered with a “black-cent”.uk/2/hi/americas/7735014. the blue one those of F0. the emphasis.S. the pauses and the silences. “the range of his delivery. sexist word 'shrill' and that's really code for the voice of the scold. the way he alters his pace.” For the pastoral influence. “La bonne parole d‟Obama”. She has to find unmarked space where she is androgynous. 2008. 317. The green line indicates the variations of intensity. 318. 97 . she starts to sound like all of the negative gender monikers associated with women. What the tone reveals beyond the message. Says Lynn Meyer. 320. Edith Cresson. which conveyed more warmth and made him sound more accessible. had to suffer from similar criticisms. who was often associated to a shrilling mother. News. musical black intonation: instead of falling. For Philip Collins. “His style of delivery is basically churchy. As regards the utterance of “yes we can”. when Hillary speaks.Clinton).cit. “Obama: Oratory and Originality”. Analyzing Obama‟s catchphrase “yes we can”. posted on November 19. U. former speechwriter of Tony Blair. It is based on an algorithm. 319. tone and rhythm – is closer to song. it's religious: the way he slides down some words and hits others .
Obama was speaking in front of large audiences whose oral reaction it was important to record as well.8 Prosograms of how Blacks and Whites pronounce “yes we can” The following prosograms made from Obama‟s utterances of the gimmick present outlines which are not as clear and precise as those from McWorther‟s interview. Unlike McWorther who was interviewed by a journalist in excellent conditions.Fig. 98 . The poorer quality of the audio files from Obama‟s New Hampshire Speech partly explains why the contours of the intonations are less sharp.
it takes some time and possibly warming-up for Obama to adopt the expected intonation. McWorther states that Obama uses the black-cent to pronounce his catchphrase but it seems in fact that it depends on the utterances and in some cases. 2008) As in McWorther‟s oral representation of the “black-cent”. In fact. Obama‟s utterances are fairly high both in intensity (mostly above 90dB) and in pitch (generally above 150Hz) while the standard utterance is both lower in intensity (at and below 80dB) and pitch (below 150Hz). It bears contrastive emphasis because the verb is not mentioned and to stress the idea of capacity conveyed by CAN. the verb was not mentioned before and therefore the elliptic sentence is open to interpretations. The vowel of the auxiliary modal is lengthened.Fig. The successive utterances are more and more patterned on the “black-cent” rendition. Obama sometimes pronounces the words as if they were disconnected. In addition.9 Prosograms of four of Obama‟s utterances of “yes we can” during the New Hampshire Primary Night Speech (Nashua. This can demonstrate that. although some of the characteristics of the “black-cent” are present (higher pitch and higher intensity). January 8. marking pauses between each one (which was often rendered in official 99 . especially for the first utterances when it is pronounced several times. the intonation is closer to the standard pattern.
322. The words are irrelevant. They said our sights were set too high. They can also be found in the course of the speech to provide for a change of rhythm and have the audience interact and they can almost always be found toward the end of the speech with the final lyrical outburst.transcripts by using full stops between the words) and stressing all them. Patti Wood‟s online comment is available at www. Quoted in Stephanie HOLMES. It's about the tune. All these elements help convey a sense of building-up. hits the tune. but you‟ll remember the feeling. The first utterance of the verb “said” is much shorter than the second and third utterance (almost four times as long).323 The following representations in PRAAT of the three utterances of “they said” shows that the second and third utterances are higher-pitched (respectively 270-280Hz and 290Hz compared to 245Hz for the first utterance). Obama also uses repetitions (anaphora in particular) to build up a crescendo.” 323. Then he gives time for the audience to respond…It doesn‟t really matter what he‟s saying because his voice tells you what you should be feeling about what he‟s saying. the intensity is also higher (from 70-75dB to approximately 80dB for the second and third utterances). The vowel is hence considerably lengthened. You might not even remember the word message after the speech. Obama‟s rendition of the phrase is generally musical. All writing is a rhythm of kinds and he brings it out. They said this country was too divided. long pauses. cit. The cretic foot (101) is here based on the strong form of the modal auxiliary “can”.net/program. 321. .”321 No wonder that American singer and musician Will. op. 100 .I. As Philip Collins pointed out. too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. not the lyrics. The three occurrences of the verb “builds” correspond to the initial three sentences of the Iowa Speech: “They said this day would never come. Such sections are sometimes found at the beginning of certain speeches as is the case with the Iowa Caucus Night Speech which is a Victory Speech. To arouse emotion. just as preaching is close to singing. “He is close to singing. Except at the beginning of his enumerations. Commenting on the exordium of the Iowa Caucus Night Speech.Am (from the “The Black Eyed Peas”) decided to make a song to support Obama based on the “Yes We Can” catchphrase.asp?PageID=5396. with Obama.pattiwood. There are usually at least three elements but sometimes more. body language specialist Patti Wood analyzed the magical power of Obama‟s voice and tone: He builds and builds and builds his voice up 322…he also has long.
January 3. 2008) Fig. January 3.11 They said 2 Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines.10 They said 1 Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines.Fig. 2008) 101 .
“Le style Obama: un ton de pasteur. 326.telerama. 325. See also Christophe B. 2008) Patti Wood insists on the use of pauses to let the audience respond and they therefore function as an invitation to interaction.christopherbduncan. Duncan‟s website (http://www. pauses perform a different function. Johnson‟s 1965 Inaugural Address.php. http://www. June 30.325 It is the case for example in Obama‟s Speech on Patriotism (Independence.Fig.com/christopherbduncanisbarack.on the meaning of patriotism. They precede the important word and the pause is a sign sent by the speaker to the people he is addressing to pay attention to what is going to be said. His very frequent and fairly long pauses recall King‟s delivery of “I Have A Dream”. Précis de Phonostylistique (Paris : Nathan. 2008): “I will never --. Pauses often punctuate Obama‟s sentences. --.”326 Or in the same speech: “I think it is fitting to reflect --.fr/idees/le-style-obama-un-ton-de-pasteur-matine-de-rythm-nblues.” In this second example. According to Pierre Léon. See Sylvie LAURENT for the analysis of Obama‟s use of scansion.html) who has been imitating Obama in the Jay Leno Show on NBC since the 2008 campaign. Pierre LÉON. It is interesting to listen to Lyndon B.question the patriotism of others in this campaign. (pause for applause) But I will not stand idly by when others question mine. pauses can also be used to emphasize a word.35616. pp. January 3. 102 .theirs and ours.324 In that case. mâtiné de rythm‟n‟blues”. 1993). They reflect the pastoral tone. the two pauses have different 324.143-4. There is also in fact a contrast as regards the pace of delivery of those two sentences. Obama‟s pauses are never as long. This has stood out as a major characteristic feature of his spoken style.12 They said 3 Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. Léon speaks of “emphasis by expressive juxtaposition” (“emphase par joncture expressive”). largely taken up by imitators. The first one is delivered at a fairly slow pace while the second one is uttered much faster (and also more loudly).
there's a shift in tone from being a politician in Iowa to a preacher in New Hampshire. is carefully orchestrated. Obama‟s style combines the characteristic features of the black preacher‟s speaking style. using the most adequate preachers‟ oratorical tools. Newsweek.329 Yet.37 for another example of this two-time construction.functions. Quoted in Jennie YABROFF. The first one is used to delay the moment for Obama to say what they should reflect upon. but Obama unexpectedly adds a precision. When he is not building up a crescendo.pattiwood. He actually speaks on a beat. 327. which seems to come as an afterthought. Patti Wood‟s online comment originally broadcast on the History Channel. January 10. 329.126 p. For Peter Prober. www. 2008. most of the characteristic features were already present before: the building-up of crescendos (often combined with anaphora). It lets people time to wonder what they should ponder about. The paragraph seems to have reached its end. See n. director of George Mason University's forensics team.asp?PageID=5396. For Patti Wood. “The Mother and the Orator”. As for the second pause. rhythm and intonation according to what he is saying just as the preacher alters as he needs to adopt the appropriate tone and pace to tell a story. Obama often speaks with a regular rhythm. The long pause in the first example to let people applause also functions that way.”328 Obama adapts his tone to the section of the speech. but Obama suddenly centers the argument back on him (the sentence starts and closes with 1st-personal pronouns). 328. He has a new religiosity in his tone when he talks about "three words that will ring. “[In Obama‟s speeches] the cadence and the rhythm are hypnotic. 103 . comment on the Scripture or appeal to his congregants‟ emotional reaction as the sermon ends." He's embracing the pulpit.net/program.327 Obama actually alters pace of delivery. the frequent pauses. What changes with the New Hampshire speech is that he uses the call-and-response technique to close his speech with the catchphrase “Yes We Can”. It‟s a model of the Baptist preacher. He really does hearken back to Martin Luther King a lot. it seems to mark the end of the sentence. The additional idea. Obama‟s shift from politician to preacher can be determined very precisely: With Obama. This function of pauses in Obama‟s spoken style is fairly frequent.
333. op. cit. the days of segregation. in musical and verbal cooperation.332 Interestingly. Clinton‟s campaign revolved around her (use of the personal pronoun “she”). 332. That the audience shall play a central role in the performance is a characteristic feature of oral cultures. As noted before.. Trinity increasingly helped and supported the poor. pp.. and the long night of racism. cit. Cheryl WHARRY. p." the mother continent. make the journey toward freedom in one body. 334. Henry Mitchell defined Chicago‟s Trinity Church which Obama attended for decades as “one of the strongest black churches in commitment to the spiritual strengths of indigenous culture.3. The motto of the Church which has not changed since 1971 affirms black pride: “Unashamedly black Unapologetically Christian”334 and among the slogans to define its identity: “Imagine where Africa is a part of one‟s theology.371 ff.204. more and more African Americans considered Christianity as the religion of the whites and many converted to Islam like Malcolm X. There was also an evolution in the Church‟s social approach under Wright. Trinity lost many congregants and the 1971 turningpoint (reaffirmation and enhancement of Black identity) was decided as a response to that situation.2. it is a survival of African tradition in the United States. 335. quoted in Cheryl WHARRY.. See Trinity‟s website: http://www. 2008: “yes she will”.2.” 336.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=114 where the Church presents itself as follows: “We are an African people. which was reinforced in 1972 with the arrival of Jeremiah Wright.2. From being a middle-class Church.203-4. 104 . op. Melville J. Call-and-response Call-and-response consists in an interaction between the preacher and group of congregants with the preacher calling for his congregants‟ reply. call-and-response is rooted in the African oral tradition. 330 Its function is to unite preacher and congregants and achieve communion. and remain "true to our native land.”333 From 1971.. The Myth of the Negro Past (Boston: Beacon Press. p. The Clinton team developed a counter-slogan which first appeared during her Texas and Ohio Primary Night Speech on March 4. while Obama‟s campaign centered on Americans (use of the personal pronoun “we”). which he first used in his New Hampshire (Defeat) Speech to galvanize and remobilize his supporters at the end of his speech.”335 It is therefore not surprising that Obama who attended Trinity Church for decades took up the call-and-response to create that same sense of unity with his audience. 331. the cradle of civilization.”331According to anthropologist Melville Herskovits. cit. cit. 1958).336 The speech had in fact originally been drafted as a victory speech and was rewritten by Favreau in the three hours preceding its 330. Trinity slowly adopted a more ethnic-oriented approach. Mary PATTILLO-McCOY. “Using the call-and-response style. op. In the late 1960s and early 1970s. HERSKOVITS. Henry MITCHELL.org/index.770. op.trinitychicago. The most famous example of call-and-response in Obama‟s speeches is with the use of the motto “Yes we can”. the preacher and the congregation. p. Wright increased call-and-response and introduced gospel music (with a youth choir). God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days of slavery.
337 The sentence was used at the end (epistrophe) of each sentence of the epilogue and after the third occurrences. Ashley PARKER. without the need for a direct call to say Amen”. March 4. After finishing the anecdote. “What would Obama say?”. the preachers in this study appeared to rely more on phonological prominence.340 This shows that Obama masters the technique and uses it very similarly to how a preacher does. 2008). Obama mainly echoed preachers as regards the frequent pauses and building-up of crescendos. op. The repetitions enabled Obama to build up as more and more people joined him. cit. The New York Times. the calls for response were mostly phonological and had to do with rhythm and intonation. a sociolinguist. What reinforced the analogy with preacher was the many parallels with Martin Luther King that Obama deliberately sought to establish.2212. the congregation is well attuned to the preacher‟s rhythm and can interact accordingly. Super Tuesday Night Speech (Chicago. 105 . stumbling at times. the woman had started shouting “Fired up? Ready to go?” and the other supporters attending the meeting had repeated her chant.338 For Jennifer Jackson. Yet. Final Campaign Speech (Manassas. Quoted in Kent GARBER. fairly suddenly Obama switched to a fairly long personal campaign anecdote about an encounter with an elderly woman he met at a meeting in Greenwood.delivery.. Obama ended his speech in a climax by taking up the chant and interacting with his huge audience. 339. “Tired Obama addresses huge Virginia crowd at final campaign rally”. 2008). 341. studied discourse markers in sermons to determine their functions and noticed that sermon discourse markers were rarely a call for response (one out of 112) but were generally used to mark textual boundaries. pp. Cheryl WHARRY.341 Obama started to deliver his stump speech mechanically. cit. 337. Obama called “for the „call-and-response‟ by elongating his vowels or doing a lilt in his intonation. November 4. To welcome Obama. 338. A tired Obama used the technique in the last speech he gave before the election. Texas and Ohio Primary Night Speech (San Antonio. It was however what Obama used in the other example of call-and-response that can be found in his campaign. February 5. In the studies led by Wharry. the call for response came from a direct interrogative question in only one out of the 112 cases she had recorded. The gimmick was also used to conclude the South Carolina Primary Night Speech (Columbia. people started to take it up. linguistic anthropologist. At the end of the speech. January 26. 2008). 2008) and the Election Night Victory Speech (Chicago. 2008.000 people. South Carolina. November 3. See Ewen MacASKILL. January 20. “This may indicate that the preacher has other strategies for „calling‟.” These phonological modifications worked as “interactional cues”. op.339 Cheryl Wharry. 340. Most often. Sounding clearly exhausted. The Guardian. The speech was delivered late at night (approximately 11 pm) in front of a huge crowd of 100. According to Cheryl Wharry. not trying to imitate but reproducing it. it had reached a climax and become a chant taken up by all his supporters. 2008). November 4. 2008.
345. 343. both directly and indirectly.”343 Martin Luther King‟s life epitomizes this close-knit interrelation between politics and religion. 1967. 2007. Shortly before the primary season started. The expression was also used in MLK‟s fierce diatribe against the Vietnam War delivered on April 4. January 20. and again on December 27. on the forty-fifth anniversary of MLK‟s “I Have A Dream” speech. 2008 342. Obama multiplied events in Iowa prior to the caucus. Barack Obama about Martin Luther King. Today. seeking to establish a connection. “Over 90 percent of the clergy […] believed that churches should express their views on political and social matters. Iowa is by far the state where the Obama team organized the highest number of events: 178. 2007. cit. and heavily relying on symbols.1. if not a legacy between them two. nearly all of those 178 events were scheduled before the caucus. p.344 The expression was used by Obama at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner organized in Iowa on November 10. but he also led with deeds. 106 . The speech was entitled “Beyond Vietnam”. a key-expression from the “I Have a Dream” speech. for example in the speech delivered in Dr King‟s Church on January 20.. The Acceptance Speech was for example delivered on August 28th.770. 3. It is deeply rooted in a long-standing political struggle for liberation from oppression and a strongly-held belief in spiritual liberation. op. The caucus was also symbolical because Iowa is a mostly white state and therefore it was a victory that would make all the others possible.345 The whole speech was actually devoted to that idea of urgency. MLK was also a vigorous and unyielding political leader on the national stage. Barack Obama often referred to MLK. 344. 2008).3. Obama directly quoted King by using the expression “the fierce urgency of now”. The last days before the first caucus reveal a certain tension. That sense of urgency was also mentioned later on in the campaign. The strategy was to win the first symbolical caucus at all costs to gain legitimacy and credibility and set a momentum. A minister at Ebenezer Church in Atlanta. Speech at Dr King‟s Church (Atlanta. Mary PATTILLO-McCOY.”342 There is typically and frequently a strong political message in Black church sermons and hence no clear-cut frontier between the realms of politics and religion in the Black church tradition. also in Iowa. Using MLK’s words Barack Obama often uses well-known expressions from King so as to emphasize the historical and political connection. combining politics and religion is seen as a matter of fact among black ministers as Mary Pattillo-McCoy pointed out. Echoing MLK “He led with words.3.3.
This confidence in ultimate victory also echoed the epilogues of Martin Luther King‟s major political speeches. but America . then I am absolutely certain that generations from now. This expression is slightly modified by Obama by using the same words but with a different syntactic pattern. he even defines the projected upcoming victory as a past turning-point in American collective and popular history and a moment of pride. and believe in it. we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless. and fight for it. as a people. Obama‟s speech is mostly based upon those words by MLK. In some cases. and our highest ideals. Obama emphasizes either the assessment of the present and overwhelming difficulties (repeated use of the deictic “this”. best hope on Earth. It is worth noticing that it comes after the final victory. 107 .but it is a recurrent topic and often appears in a number of lexical variations: “we are at a crucial moment” (October 2. this was extremely marginal. Obama subtly shifts to the “fierce urgency of us”.including a false start due to overwhelming applause . the optimistic belief that people‟s victory is at hand (use of the possessive determiner “our”). this quote also contains one of Obama‟s very few uses of a performative verb. the words “something” and “happening” being given special focus as they are juxtaposed and set apart. this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal. that we.we as a people will get there. Interestingly. 1968). will get to the promised land!” (Martin Luther King. 347. November 4. from “the fierce urgency of now”.347 It is also the case with expressions that were repeated several times in MLK‟s speeches through anaphora. which is generally stressed) or the historic chance of taking over. 2008). “And I've seen the Promised Land. Obama echoed those words in his Election Night Victory Speech: “The road ahead will be long. 2007). 2007) for example. I have personally not found any occurrences before. This was the moment – this was the time – when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves. This is in particular the case in the epilogue of the Final Primary Speech as Obama launches the campaign against McCain: Because if we are willing to work for it.in the speech delivered after his first defeat in the New Hampshire Primary and 346. April 3. the expression “Something is happening” which is repeated twice in the speech “I‟ve Been to the Mountaintop” (April 3. one of MLK‟s most famous speeches. For example. We may not get there in one year or even one term.I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. 2007. Hence. which proves in any case that even if he used any before. the day before he was slain). I promise you . “There‟s something happening” is repeated five times .” (Chicago. 1968. The expression is actually used as a title for the speech delivered on December 27. “we are at a defining moment in our history”. this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last. “our moment is now”346 and this is the moment” (December 27. But I want you to know tonight. I may not get there with you. The sense of pride is developed through the use of a number of superlatives which serve to characterize both America and Americans. Our climb will be steep.
the point is to make King‟s words resonate through the ages. January 26. it resonates with optimistic undertones (“what we‟ve accomplished”) and the awareness of a movement on the way (use of the gerund “happening”).2. The use of repetition p. It is the same with the expression. 2008).” It has often been said that Barack Obama recalled Martin Luther King as an orator. Yet. 108 . There is clearly an attempt to revive the spirit of the civil rights movement to woo voters in the South. 2008). In addition to the macrostructure which is clearly delineated through anaphora/epistrophe. January 20. Two other occurrences of the verb “overcome” can be found in the South Carolina Primary Night Speech delivered less than a week later (Columbia. after several repetitions to build up suspense and sustain the audience‟s attention. “Unity is how we shall overcome. The indefinite “something” never gets precisely defined. there are undeniable common features in the form of addressing people and the way of delivering.85. Obama hardly ever pronounces the word. but the point is elsewhere. it is ultimately defined as “Change is what happening in America. 349. while Martin Luther King‟s rhetoric used to revolve around the fight for freedom.1.”349 which echoes the battle cry of the civil rights movement. however.1. using MLK‟s very words in combination with the repetitive patterns commonly used by preachers. It is not the case however in all his speeches but it is the case in some key-speeches as is the New Hampshire Primary speech. Though the speech is delivered after his first defeat.was never used afterward. The indefinite pronoun “something” is not immediately defined. See 3. The words taken up are generally famous words or expressions that should be easily identified as MLK‟s words and suggest an 348.3. It is not surprising that Barack Obama has willingly multiplied the references to MLK in that particular speech.348 Barack Obama sought to appear as a political leader carried by MLK‟s spirit.2. Beyond the different thematic approaches. Speech at Dr King‟s Church (Atlanta. Sounding like MLK? It is mostly when Obama had to deliver a crucial speech that he sought to establish a greater identification with Martin Luther King. but hardly ever afterward in the campaign. 3. in particular African Americans.
He addresses his “brothers and sisters”. we cannot walk alone. the utterance still remains shorter than in King‟s speech. In the struggle to heal this nation and repair this world. The analysis of the respective prosograms of King‟s utterance of the sentence “We cannot walk alone” and of Obama‟s repetitions of the phrase shows that King‟s delivery is marked by a fairly long pause between the modal auxiliary and the verb (approximately 0. 2008). In the struggle for justice and for equality. The last utterance presents a significant pause between “cannot” and “walk” just as in King‟s speech. His rhetoric here forcefully echoes that of Martin Luther King: the repeated reference to a “struggle” as though 2008 recalled the civil rights movements and fights of the 1960s and the expression “we cannot walk alone”. The second. Obama begins the lyrical outburst by shifting to a religious semantics. It was indeed at the core of the struggle. which is heavily connoted religiously. In Obama‟s speech. Obama mixed up the notions. that section represents the main and final clause of the sentence. Obama uses it again in the epilogue of his Acceptance Speech at the Democratic National Convention (August 28. the expression “Let freedom ring” was indeed repeated eight times and appeared as a forceful leitmotiv in “I Have a Dream”. Brothers and sisters. we cannot walk alone. 350. we cannot walk alone. which was pronounced by Martin Luther King in “I Have a Dream”. And even if the vowels are lengthened. 109 . third and fourth utterances reveal a slow fall. According to the final draft as prepared for delivery. the topic is different. the key-word in MLK‟s speeches was freedom. Interestingly enough. Obama‟s numerous repetitions develop a sense of crescendo (in intensity) and each utterance is longer than the previous one. Taken up by the impetus. yet not as long. It is especially the case in the lyrical outburst which precedes the epilogue of the speech delivered in Dr King‟s church with the use of symploce (anaphora combined with epistrophe).8s) and a significant lengthening of the vowels. the expressions were supposed to be “peace and justice” and then “opportunity and equality”. instead of addressing his fellow citizens. 351.351 Yet. The intonation remains high and only lowers on the final syllable. The first utterance is the most dissimilar to King‟s delivery but each new utterance reveals greater similarity by gradually lengthening the vowels.immediate connection between Obama and King.350 we cannot walk alone. In the struggle for opportunity and justice.
being of relatively poor quality.8s and 1.”352 Like Martin Luther King in his renowned speech on Vietnam. That interval should therefore be considered as a pause. 1967.353 Obama often concluded his speeches with a series of sentences or one very long sentence containing a 352. including the loud participation of the audience. The epilogue of the speech on Vietnam. the epilogue of “I Have a Dream” is characterized by clauses introduced by “when”.Fig. The seconds are indicated on the horizontal line.13 Prosograms: Barack Obama and Martin Luther King‟s utterances of “We cannot walk alone.6s. 353. the obtained prosogram is partly faulty: King does not say anything between 0. The recording of King‟s “I Have a Dream”. 110 . “A Time to Break Silence” delivered on April 4.
it is different. 111 . “if you will” and “if you‟re willing to” which are repeated several times whereas in Martin Luther King‟s speech. 354. It consisted in conditioning the victory on people‟s mobilization and volition. It is the case in fact with the epilogue of the speech that pushed Obama into the limelight at the 2004 DNC Convention. It is the voters who can put Obama in a position to act. hence involving everyone: “If we will”. at Dr King‟s Church and at the very end of the campaign.series of hypothetical clauses. the condition rests on an inclusive “we”. except for the speech delivered at Dr King‟s Church. In Obama‟s epilogues. April 28. Springfield. According to the speeches. it was played in three different variations: “if you want”.354 It was especially the case with the speeches at the beginning of the campaign. Interestingly enough. just before the election. the pattern as regards the apodosis evolves in the course of the campaign and “then I”. the intonation is either rising to convey energy (“Announcement Speech”. The pattern of the protasis was generally the same. San Diego. 2007). becomes “then we”. Depending on the speeches. adding further cohesion to the epilogue and maintaining the focus on people instead of shifting it to Obama alone. February 9. 2007) or falling to convey solemnity (“Turn the Page”.
2008) Using a sentence from Margaret Atwood‟s The Handmaid’s Tale.” Barack Obama (February 17. what supporters traditionally chant. The richness of his stylistic devices is combined with the now prevailing feature of storytelling and the more traditional praise of the country and nation.” The various components of Obama‟s rhetorical and oratorical styles reveal multiple sources of inspiration in the form as well as in substance. Through the use of call-and-response. 112 . By adopting the tone of a preacher. Even the self-referential anecdotes about his life function to illustrate how intrinsically American his own experience is. It is fitting that he used interaction (and thus polyphony) to impose that message of collective action. he naturally managed to impose the upbeat catchphrase “yes we can” that soon replaced the shouting of his name. not on a specific agenda. it might well be said about Obama‟s style that “its genius is synthesis.CONCLUSION … “Don‟t tell me words don‟t matter. This is symbolic of the whole strategy: centering the whole discourse on America and Americans. Obama‟s powerful voice gains an even greater sense of authority. Obama is not the first.
Professor of Classics at the University of Glasgow. February 17.355 Obama also used the great voices of the past to stress the historical continuity with those respected elders. Kent GARBER. That simplistic approach helps conjure up a mythical America through words. For Cicero.6 p. The Baptist Standard. It is therefore both ironical and quite unexpected to hear Obama‟s characteristic phrases and slogans such as “Change we can all believe in” in the voice of his former Democratic opponent. For Catherine Steel. 357.” Interviewed by Kent GARBER. but he did a warped register of the sermon. For Obama. 2003. 113 . Bush. March 25. it is Lincoln. audiences and venues. it was Licinius Crassus. The trumpeted and recurrent references to Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King overshadow the tacit discursive influence of Reagan.6.358 Some ideas like “the invisible Americans” that Hillary Clinton developed as a major theme of her campaign are present in the Reconciliation Speech. News. Drawing a parallel with Cicero. by focusing on her connection 355. the preacher‟s tone or the use of call-and-response was adapted to circumstances. Scipio Aemilianius and Cato the Elder. 356. Jennifer Jackson addresses the problem of indexing a specific group in the interview given to Kent Garber. depending partly on the distance Obama would seek or need to establish from the black community. He was never quoting scripture. Bush: Presidential Preacher”. U. op. 2008. 358. “George W. He was using the language of a preacher.S. and according to Jennifer Jackson. “Rhetoric and Speaking-Style Affect the Clinton-Obama Race”.”356 This particular and specific combination of rhetorical and oratorical elements provides us with a detailed guideline of Obama‟s idiolect and spoken style. to have used a preacher‟s tone: Lyndon Johnson did.357 Whatever the exact measure of those specific components. “[George W. Roosevelt and King. it was the Protestant southern sermon. the measure of some specific components like the black-cent. It is also ironical as Hillary Clinton had accused Obama of plagiarizing the phrases of others. It was not the African-American sermon. which mainly had to do with his oratorical skills. The connection with Lincoln and King is more symbolical than truly historical and has more to do with what the two represent in American collective (and partial) memory. the further he moved away from the others. she considered that Obama‟s compensatory talent for the lack of family backing and the absence of a military record was a skill at “setting up a genealogy of forebears – not biological forebears but intellectual forebears. The Guardian. Bush] also handled the register of the sermon. Charlotte HIGGINS. cit. The closer he got to an ethnic group. See n. the speech also includes a storytelling section which. so did also George W. Hillary Clinton in the speech she delivered to give him her endorsement. “The new Cicero”. 2008. Yet.however. the rhetorical characteristics of the speeches remained unchanged. November 26. they also fulfill another function. See also Deborah CALDWELL.
2007). “Americans who love this country”. 364. there is also a dramatization of the stakes of the 2008 election. Clinton kept fighting the primary season as an internal Democratic contest all along. 114 .” (Unity. Clinton usually reinforces the dramatic effect produced by using direct speech as she did in the Reconciliation Speech. June 27. she can‟t afford insurance. Clinton criticized him without praising his military service.100. just after it became clear that McCain would be the Republican nominee.”363 There is obviously a deliberate wish to show with and through words that Clinton is fully in tune with Obama.with individual ordinary Americans.359 Yet. 361. She changed strategy as the Primaries appeared much tougher than expected. Obama sometimes implied a direct connection with the anonymous Americans he mentions with the use of verbs like “see” or “tell” but never uses direct speech in the short narratives. She took on Barack Obama for his lack of experience: “Change. In fact. it generally amounted to a rhetorical question to ask who could most surely defeat him in November.361 On February 9. So. 2008).8 and p. “I know he‟ll work for you. In Clinton‟s campaign speeches. the beginning of the speech echoes Obama‟s usual introductory account of the journey travelled so far.” See also the frequent use of “this” in that speech to insist on the urgency of the moment. 2008. Obama: speechwriter of Clinton? What Obama successfully managed to do throughout his campaign is to show that he could inspire the country with his words. As was seen in the introduction and in Patti Wood‟s comments. Unlike Obama‟s speeches which began to focus on McCain very early in the campaign. “We are one America. sounds much as it did in her campaign speeches. “This election is one of the most important in our nation‟s history. „what you‟re going to make sure you do so I have health insurance?‟ and began to cry because even if she works three jobs. Clinton refers to John McCain here as Senator McCain as Obama usually did. 362. change was hardly ever set into historical perspective but meant a change of Administration with the Democrats replacing the Republicans in the White House.360 The attack on McCain also echoes the strategy used by Obama when attacking the Republican candidate: start by honoring the war hero and then attack his political ideas. 363. In her speeches. which is both 359. she usually just called him McCain.” Hillary Clinton at the Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines. before the Primary season actually started. See n. 360. When she did. presenting it as the beginning of a new era.” Interestingly. Here is one example among others: “We‟re standing for the mother who grabbed my hand and asked me. restore a damaged confidence by praising the “unique” American experiment.362 Many key-expressions from Obama‟s speeches have sneaked into Clinton‟s Reconciliation Speech: “the country we love”.35 for Obama‟s use of the expression.364 Obama‟s speeches manage to produce a feel-good effect. November 7.” . She hardly ever mentioned him in her speeches afterward and until the end of the primary season. after eight years under President Bush. he‟ll fight for you and he‟ll stand up for you every single day in the White House. See p. Senator McCain is simply offering four years more.114 p. “Now Barack and I both have a great deal of respect for Senator McCain and his heroic service to our nation but in the end. Clinton concentrated her campaign speeches on putting forward her experience and attacking the Republicans. change is just a word if you do not have the strength and experience to make it happen.
the magic did not last long. his mastery of communication and his power of conviction. 115 .366 This inspirational force helped cast Obama as a presidential figure and a would-be rhetorical president. Posted on June 6. “Obama is to me very analogous to Robert Kennedy. Tulis and is directly associated to President Reagan. they also provided an immediate positive effect. Jeffrey K. After “A more perfect union”.info/avec-obama-c-est-toute-une-amerique-qui-retrouve-sesreperes-perdus-depuis-le-11-septembre_a617. pp. This idea is largely developed by Christian SALMON: “Obama constitue une tentative de faire rebondir le récit américain mis à mal et de reconstruire narrativement une identité américaine en renouant avec ses archétypes. See in particular Bill Clinton‟s showdown with the Republican Congress in 1995-6. George PACKER. the president should have pedagogical leadership. Reich who found Obama particularly inspiring. “Within minutes. The closer you got to him. 366. January 28. Clinton managed to have the Republicans (and Congress) blamed for the crisis. New Yorker journalist George Packer evokes how he personally felt after attending one of Obama‟s rallies.119-120. The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. LIM.” David BRODER.367 That rhetorical aspect of the presidential function has now become intrinsic to it.” 365 By praising America and Americans. The New Yorker. all the more so with the ever-developing communication tools which require the President to go public as much as possible and establish a direct link with the population that is sometimes used to undermine the influence of the Congress.inspirational and therapeutic. Obama also managed to reconstruct a nation whose self-confidence had seriously faltered after 9/11 and the stalemates in Afghanistan and Iraq.” For some. Packer quoted in this article former Secretary of Labor Robert B. I couldn‟t recall a single thing that he had said. 369. Lim who promotes the necessary rehabilitation of presidential rhetoric.html). It would in fact be fairly relevant to prolong this research and extend it to Obama‟s presidential speeches. TULIS. 2008. educate and inspire people. 367. “Inside Obama‟s Rhetoric”. The concept of “rhetorical president” was developed by Jeffrey K. “In recent decades. see Robert SAMULESON. Non-essential services were suspended for over two months (November 1995-January 1996).info (www. The Rhetorical President (Princeton: Princeton University Press. Oxford: Oxford University Press. however. The New York Sun. and the speech dissolved into pure feeling.” Christian Salmon interviewed by Marjorie PAILLON and Julien LANDFRIED. March 23. which stayed with me for days. 368 For Elvin T.ilovepolitics. few presidents other than Ronald Reagan have been able to lead the nation by the power of their words. the more you realized that his magic lay in his effect on others rather than in any specific policies. 2008). 2008. Lim insists on the difference between great communicator and great teacher. February 20.369 President Obama got personally involved in the complex and fiery debate on healthcare legislation and delivered a major speech to Congress on September 9. 2009 to present and defend his plan. His speeches were not only about building a new future. to see how his style has evolved and how the visionary rhetoric has adapted to political responsibility and accountability. 1988). 368. Elvin T. The Inaugural 365. David Broder made an analogy between Obama and Reagan. “The Choice”.ilovepolitics. 2008 on www. “The Real Value of Obama‟s Speech”. What Obama showed in Philadelphia [with the race speech] is the potential similarly to inform. 2008. Bush (New York. The Washington Post.
“I can tell you who can definitely beat you in 2012: 2008 Barack Obama. 2011 provides many echoes with the campaign speeches that this dissertation sought to analyze and characterize. recalled the sense of national unity that prevailed after the 9/11 attacks when people united as “one American family” and concluded the announcement by praising America and defining “who we are”.Speech provided a first glimpse at the solemn tone President Obama would use. After taking on the cluster of Republican hopeful candidates at the 2011 Annual White House Correspondents‟ Dinner.” Whatever happens at the 2012 presidential election. No. Obama helped measure how much progress had been made by African Americans since the Jim Crow era. in his Election Night Victory Speech. When forced to address it. Rhetoric & Public Affairs. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Ann Dixon Cooper. Nearly 3. March 18 2008”. When the situation requires though. 370. His major campaign achievement was precisely to convince voters to look at him and see an American. November 17. The empty seat at the dinner table. “The Prophetic Voice and the Face of the Other in Barack Obama's „A More Perfect Union‟ Address. Vol. 2008. FRANK. “We know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. “The Joshua Generation”.2. comedian Seth Meyer addressed President Obama and told him. Hailed by some as a “new black Moses”371 or as the prophesied. Obama revives the rhetoric of unity and sounds very much as the presidential hopeful used to sound. it echoed the tone he had used to deliver “A more perfect union”. David REMNICK.000 citizens taken from us. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child‟s embrace. Obama included in that announcement pathos and storytelling370.” 371. Collin Craig. he presented himself as the metaphor of the American unity he had always been promoting. leaving a gaping hole in our hearts. 116 . provided the economic situation improves. Obama‟s 2008 victory will remain historic for its symbolical meaning. Someone who could represent them all. Obama might well need to rely on the same rhetorical tools he used in 2008 to capitalize on his record. 12. By recounting the past century through the eyes of a 106year-old black woman. Obama‟s televised announcement of bin Laden‟s death on May 2.372 Obama sought however to deliberately evade the issue of race throughout the campaign. The New Yorker. Come 2012. 372. 2009. quoted in David A.
Hope is what I heard in the voice of the New Hampshire woman who told me that she hasn't been able to breathe since her nephew left for Iraq. January 3. She spoke not with self-pity but with determination. who are still digging into their own pockets to pay for school supplies. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq Iowa Caucus Health care. Just two weeks ago. 2007). the disabled or homeless vets who wonder why their service has been forgotten.APPENDIX … The personal narratives used by Barack Obama: Speech Political issues Prefabs (the paradigms analyzed in the dissertation are in bold characters) “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. and from those who still can't afford their prescriptions because Congress refused to negotiate with the drug companies for the cheapest available price. who still goes to bed each night praying for his safe return. health care I've heard from seniors who were betrayed by CEOs who dumped their pensions while pocketing bonuses. low wages. The elderly. students‟ standard of living Veterans. the mothers weeping in my arms over the memories of their sons. Night Speech students‟ standard of living (Des Moines.[…] I've spoken to veterans who talk with pride about what they've accomplished in Afghanistan and Iraq. a young woman who still believes that this country will give her the chance to live out her dreams. War in Iraq Hope is what I saw in the eyes of the young woman in Cedar Rapids who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can't afford health care for a sister who's ill. I've met Maytag workers who labored all their lives only to see their jobs shipped overseas. but who nevertheless think of those they've left behind and question the wisdom of our mission in Iraq. education Health care. 2008). who now compete with their teenagers for $7-an-hour jobs at Wal-Mart. I've spoken with teachers who are working at donut shops after school just to make ends meet. low wages Teachers. I heard a young woman in Cedar Rapids who told me she only gets three hours of sleep because she goes to bed at ten and gets up at one because she works the night shift after a full day of college and still can't afford all the health care that she needs for a sister who has cerebral palsy. 117 . Industrial relocation. December 27.
[…] It's the dream of the teacher who works at Dunkin Donuts after school just to make ends meet. International trade agreements Bankruptcy. 2008) Bankrupty / Housing The elderly 118 . […] We're here because of the mother that I met in Green Bay. Ryan. Ohio students‟ standard of Primary living Night Speech (Houston. March 4. students‟ standard of 2008) living It's the dream of the father who goes to work before dawn and lies awake at night wondering how he's going to pay the bills. There's nothing empty about the call for help that came from the mother in San Antonio who saw her mortgage double in two weeks and didn't know where her two-year olds would sleep at night when they were kicked out of their home. He was 20 when he was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. February 12. And next to his name.who've worked in factories for 20 years. She's got 2year-old twins who are legally blind. who've worked in factories -. There's nothing empty about the call for change that The elderly. it says. 2008). […] We're here because of the mother in San Antonio that I met just today. […] It's the dream of the woman who told me she works the night shift after a full day of college and still can't afford health care for a sister who's ill. Health care. Inscribed on it is the name of her son. just this afternoon. who gave me this bracelet that I'm wearing. housing War in Iraq Texas and Health care. Ohio. who've watched job after job after job disappear because of bad trade deals like NAFTA. Wisconsin. but he gave all. and then one day they come in and literally see the equipment unbolted from the floor and sent to China.Potomac Low wages Primary Night Speech (Madison. industrial bankruptcies Wisconsin Industrial Primary relocation/unemploy Night Speech ment (Houston. […] We're here because there are workers in Youngstown. February 19. She told me she was on the verge of packing and didn't know where her family would go next. […] It's the dream of the senior I met who lost his pension when the company he gave his life to went bankrupt." They should know that there's nothing empty about the call for affordable health care that came from the young student who told me she gets three hours of sleep because she works the night shift after a full day of college and still can't pay her sister's medical bills. "All gave some. She somehow entered into a predatory loan and saw her mortgage payments double in two weeks and has paid thousands in fees to try to stave off foreclosure.
Maybe if he went to Iowa and met the student who works the night shift after a full day of class and still can't pay the medical bills for a sister who's ill. Bill. In the face of that young student. who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift. We're going to finally help folks like the young woman I met who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can't afford medicine for a sister who's ill. Health Care. who signed up after Pearl Harbor. who still doesn't have health insurance for himself or his wife and lives in fear that a single illness could cost them everything. who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management. and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the G. lack of opportunities) 119 . When I -.I.01 and a simple verse of scripture tucked inside. he'd understand that she can't afford four more years of a health care plan that only takes care of the healthy and wealthy. I see my grandfather. who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree. despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan. 2008) Health care. 2008) Bankruptcy. marched in Patton's army. students‟ standard of living Unemployment. housing cystic fibrosis and couldn't pay their health care bills.when I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down. The Acceptance Speech (Denver. I think about my mom. Health care. but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships. August 28. 2008) Final Primary Night Speech (St Paul. or the man I met who living (Bristol.Speech to AFL-CIO (Philadelphia. 2008) Treatment of veterans Because. June 3. I think about my grandmother. students‟ standard of living came from the elderly woman who wants it so badly that she sent me an envelope with a money order for $3. industrial crisis Sex discrimination (glass ceiling. June almost lost his home because he has three children with 5. students‟ standard of living Speech on Health Care Health care. April 22. There's the young woman I met who works the night students‟ standard of shift after a full day of college and still can't afford medicine for a sister who's ill. I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed. who once turned to food stamps. And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business or making her way in the world.
For the other key-speeches. “A More Perfect Union”. “A World that Stands as One” and “The American Promise” are the official titles of these speeches. the speech that propelled Obama into the limelight.TIMELINE OF KEY-SPEECHES … Before the 2007-8 campaign July 27. 120 . the name used in the media was either based on the function of the speech (Announcement or Candidacy Speech for example) or on the event (Final Primary Night Speech).373 Boston (MA): key-address delivered at the Democratic National Convention to support the Kerry-Edwards ticket. “The Audacity of Hope”. During the campaign The primary campaign 373. 2004 “The Audacity of Hope”.
March 18. The speech he delivered that night. etc. 121 . 2008 Super Tuesday Night Speech. 2008 July 24. January 8. though. aka “The race and unity speech” Philadelphia (PA): attacked by the media and his opponents over the highly controversial anti-white declarations made by Jeremiah Wright. Obama intends to get over the past racial divisions. 2008 “A More Perfect Union”. 2008 Final Primary Night Speech. the economy. 2008 “Yes We Can”: New Hampshire Primary Night Speech. hence demonstrating that he is no token candidate. June 3. Obama responds to the criticisms with a speech that proves a carefully-written reflection on race in the U. 2007 The Announcement Speech.S. Chicago (IL): Obama still has the lead but he has not won in a decisive way yet. his minister. The race with Hillary Clinton is over: Barack Obama will be the Democratic candidate against John McCain. Nashua (NH): Obama is defeated by Hillary Clinton in the first primary. will prove a powerful battle cry and urge to go on. Obama defines the part America should play in the world. February 5. energy. ethnic minorities. “A World That Stands as One”. Springfield (IL): Obama announced he is running for President. Berlin (GERMANY). 2008 Reconciliation with Hillary Clinton. Des Moines (IA): Obama wins the first caucus in a mainly white state.February 10. Unity (New Hampshire). 2008 Iowa Caucus Night Speech. St Paul (MN). January 3. Obama delivered the following key-speeches: June 27. The campaign against McCain Apart from a series of speeches to develop his views on women..
January 20. Obama delivers his first speech as President after swearing on Lincoln‟s Bible. November 4. Chicago (IL). The speech is delivered on the forty-fifth anniversary of Martin Luther King‟s “I Have a Dream”. DNC Convention. A similar tour was performed by Abraham Lincoln before being first sworn in as President in 1861. August 28. Philadelphia (PA): part of the Whistle-Stop Tour performed on January 17th which took Obama from Philadelphia to Washington. Springfield (IL). Barack Obama delivers his first speech as President-elect. Washington D. 2008 “Yes We Did”: Election Night Victory Speech. 2009 Inaugural Speech. Joe Biden is introduced as Obama‟s prospective VP. Denver (CO).C. After the campaign and onto the Inauguration January 17. 122 .August 23. Barack Obama is officially nominated as the Democratic Party‟s candidate for the presidency. 2008 VP Announcement Speech. 2008 “The American Promise” or Acceptance Speech. 2009 “A New Declaration of Independence”.
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22. 44. 123. 125. 24. 34. 127. 29. 95. 96. 89. 51. 23. 63. 75. 114. 19. 83. 83. 62. 52. 34. 63. 34. 108. 35. 20. 94. 63. 39 exaggerations. 58. 82. 75 Ashley. 13. 60. 55. 75. 116. 48. 115. 57. 30. 99. 64. 104. 10. 41. 74 G George Washington. 100. 24. 104 Founding Fathers.. 116 Favreau Jon. 87 catchphrase. 18. 30. 126. 33. 78. 97. 91 anadiplosis. 23. 89 epideixis. 76. 70. 40. 44. 94. 4. 66. 78. 18. 31. 41. 79. 87. 115. 44. 32. 49. 86. 50. 21. 62. 14. 90. 31. 58. 58. 115. 40. 45. 49. 47. 57. 50. 38. 54. 65. 71. 107. 53. 17. 7. 66. 27. 114.. 125 Civil Rights. 39. 19. 48. 70. 64. 103. 45. 85. 9. 12. 32. 23. 102 E empathy. 85. 35. 66. 52. 108. 46. 25. 90. 24. 59. 79. 5. 48. 52. 109. 61. 26. 87 anti-intellectual. 38. 77. 56. 27. 69. 56. 67. 27. 30. 97. 124. 80. 81. 84. 103. 99. 51. 60. 31. 25. 112. 15. 34. 113. 121 American Dream. 74. 91. 124. 22. 72. 79. 5. 113. 113. 73. 24. 104 Carter Jimmy. 121. 126 130 . 35. 78. 76. 109. 97. 85. 52. 68. 49. 125 ethos. 20. 105. 127 Axelrod David. 31. 44. 71. 43. 65. 79. 17. 7. 66. 125 Bible. 123. 57. 24. 129 C Call-and-response. 49 F family. 113. 57. 61. 100. 112. 91. 11. 74. 129 Constitution. 84. 25. 59. 37. 31. 125 anaphoric definition. 47. 25. 82. 91 Clinton Hillary. 6. 40. 35. 12. 75. 105. 74. 47. 23. 70. 36. 82. 74 B baritone. 108. 75. 37. 9. 66. 12. 114 D Duncan Christopher B. 22 cataphoric definition. 28. 113 Bush George W. 50. 74. 16. 62. 38. 32. 125. 60. 122 black-cent. 86. 9. 6. 90 exceptionalism. 7. 36. 115. 49. 28. 112 Cicero. 83 country. 82. 40. 17 epistrophe. 80. 89. 32. 26. 23. 80. 79. 86. 67. 81. 8. 70. 81. 44. 14. 88 anaphora. 6. 92. 48. 113.INDEX … A America. 30. 107. 21. 114. 84. 27. 20.
61. 23. 64. 81. 79. 95. 100. 83. 76 passive form. 111. 102. 109. 105. 53. 122. 50. 54. 105. 25. 18. 27 lyrical outburst. 44. 114. 8. 53. 39. 40. 107. 62. 77. 29. 5. 20. 88 P paraleipsis. 56. 24. 20. 71. 39. 124. 113. 26. 23. 86. 95. 107 Pitch. 55. 43. 19. 26. 18. 27. 78. 125 pronoun. 77. 69. 78. 25. 105. 94. 57. 128 logos. 67. 46 metaphor. 56. 82. 97. 24. 46. 69. 70. 82. 4. 100. 94 Praise. 79. 59. 94. 108 R Reagan Ronald. 103. 10. 31. 89 nation.gimmick. 75. 113. 78. 63. 39. 64 pathos. 57. 125 performative. 11. 75. 114 I intertextual. 13. 9. 36. 37. 25. 109 Lincoln Abraham. 13. 93. 15. 115 representation. 102. 5. 22. 107. 24. 98. 80. 82. 116 pattern. 114. 99. 81. 113 K Kennedy John Fitzgerald. 25. 79. 6. 25. 75. 22. 79. 64. 84. 29. 83. 128 leitmotiv. 75. 69. 57. 91. 33. 72. 27. 92. 69. 24. 30. 126 L Lakoff George. 121 metadiegetic. 9. 103. 116 metonymy. 27. 70. 62. 54. 39. 96. 89 N narrative. 27. 63 symploce. 65. 109 M macrostructure. 38. 103. 95. 44. 108. 32. 104 H hero. 88. 33. 35. 25. 100. 71. 56. 92. 17. 59. 109. 112. 111 intradiegetic. 26. 28. 25. 99. 54. 99. 95. 21. 52. 28. 18. 104. 17. 68. 15. 39. 113. 115 King Martin Luther. 85. 53. 88. 95. 50. 85. 109. 97. 71. 112. 51. 92. 75. 67. 22. 19. 113 signifiyin‟. 50. 28. 30. 37. 75 intonation. 60. 24. 60. 105 S sacralize. 30. 22. 122. 63. 99 rhythm. 80. 70. 105. 85. 77. 83. 91. 107. 91 preacher. 85. 93. 31. 37. 10. 43. 20. 41. 14. 107. 48. 102. 105 symbol. 27. 55. 77. 126. 51. 73. 68. 108 McCain John. 77. 65. 106. 50. 103. 73. 70 stump speech. 105 God. 113. 19. 103. 42. 62. 46 J Johnson Lyndon. 86. 109 131 . 57. 58 scripture. 74. 58. 32. 104. 97. 54. 83. 34. 59 mise en abyme. 9. 55. 76. 42. 15. 20. 53. 49. 115 non-defining restrictive relative clause. 8. 26. 123. 47. 110. 111 pauses.
4. 79. 81. 39. 15. 103. 34. 58 unity. 121 W Wright Reverend Jeremiah. 68. 45. 58 tricolon. 36. 69. 78. 63. 86. 90 U united. 75. 38. 67. 97. 70. 104. 24. 67. 50. 61. 64. 58. 63.T tone. 67. 116 toponyms. 53. 121 132 . 19. 94. 9. 59. 112. 116. 94. 113. 66. 23. 37. 96. 65. 80. 18. 51. 35. 24. 70. 87. 104. 100. 39. 102. 75.
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