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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.
................................................................................................................................................................................. 22 1.............2............................................... Targeting anonymous groups ...................................................................................... Praise of America and Americans ........ 14 1..............................................................4.............. Specific speeches ...................... 5 1.............. The minor use of arguments................1.....................1...... 30 1..............................................TABLE OF CONTENTS … TABLE OF CONTENTS .......................... 27 1..... 17 1..............1...............................1.......................... Analysis of the stump speech and of its evolution ............3...............................................................................1...................1.............4... John McCain...... 3......1............. The flourishing rhetorical imagery and characteristic stylistic devices.......................................................................................................... The appeal to emotions ......................2........................ 2........ Structure of Obama‟s speeches ................ Hillary Clinton ........ Obama on Obama ... 17 1........................................... 35 1 ..... 17 1................. 28 1................ The height of the primary campaign ........1........................... 17 1........... 13 1........... 10 1.............................................2............. Epideictic oratory in Obama‟s speeches..................2......1..................................1...................................3............. The rhetorical proofs at play in Obama‟s speeches .......................................................................1...............................2........... 20 1...........3..........................................1........ 11 1....................3................2............................................ 1 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS .........2.................... 15 1................. 4 INTRODUCTION ...3............................................... 11 1...................................2........................................................ The opponents . From the Whistle-Stop Tour to the Inauguration ................ Obama the political rhetorician ...........3..................................... 32 1.......2....
..........2.......................1. 85 3................1.............................1.....................................................2......................2............... Redefining America‟s national identity ...................................2................ Adopting the techniques of the Black Church ................. 41 2.....................2.........1...........2.........1.........1.1....2............................................2........................2.........2.. 71 2...2...................1....... A clearly defined yet not-so-rigid pattern................2.......... 51 2.3......... 88 3......5............3........ Obama‟s rhetorical frame: where the religious meets the political ................. Obama the Preacher ............ 73 3............................. The Ashley Baia story ... Determining who “we” refers to...... 83 3.......................................................1............. Verbal references ...............1..............2..2............. 92 3.........2...... 77 3.. 59 2......5.............................1........................................ 90 3.................................. 53 2.................. Shifting back and forth between “we” and “I” .................... 80 3......... 85 3.2.2..............................................................2.......... The structure and main components of the sermon ..................... 44 2...1.. Looking at the world through the prism of Black Church values ..............1................................................................ Non-verbal references ........................................................... Obama‟s personal narratives ............3... 53 2.... The tone of a preacher ..............1.............................3................. 76 3............................................................ A post-racial discourse? .......1.... References to race prior to “A more perfect union” ........ 39 2.................... Call-and-response ............... The manifold parallels with Lincoln ................................................................ 68 2......1..........5...........4............... Obama the modern politician .............................2...........................2..........1.............................2................................... Prefabs based on the personal narratives of anonymous Americans .............................2...................... The use of repetition ..2...... 72 2..........2......................................................... Using the motifs and stylistic devices used in sermons .......................................................2................................. 77 3............... 104 2 .......................................................................................................................................... 60 2.......1.1....1...............2....2........................... 58 2.............................................2................ The building-up of a crescendo in the overall structure.1...............2.............2.............................................. 96 3.................................. Forging unity through words . 56 2....1................................................................1.... Opposing “we” to “they” ............1....................................................3.........4..... 51 2..1.....1.. 77 3...... 96 3............ 92 3...................................................... 55 2......4.. The influence of black church rhetoric .... The functions of the toponyms ..2....2............................ 63 2.2.... What the tone reveals beyond the message ...............................................2.........4.....................2............ The use of hypotyposis .............. Use of the personal pronoun “we” (and possessive determiner “our”)...................................... 40 2...............................2................... Obama the storyteller ........................ Acting as a preacher ......................................... The nature of religious discourse in black churches................. 47 2...2.........................3.. “A more perfect union” .......
....................................................................................................... Sounding like MLK?...................................................................3............................................................................. 106 3......................... 120 BIBLIOGRAPHY .....3.............................................................................................................3.................................................................... 108 CONCLUSION ....................................................... 112 APPENDIX ............................................................... 117 TIMELINE OF KEY-SPEECHES ................ Using MLK‟s words .................................... 106 3.......... 123 INDEX .................................2................................. Echoing MLK .....................................3...................................................................1.............. 130 3 ............................................................................
p. January 3. Fig. p.68.87. p. Fig. p.10 They said 1 Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. January 8. Fig.102.93. 2008) – PRAAT.LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS … Fig.99. Fig. 2008) – PRAAT. Fig. p.101.6 Ebenezer 3 – PRAAT.13 Prosograms: Barack Obama and Martin Luther King‟s utterances of “We cannot walk alone”. Fig.69.93.9 Prosograms of four of Obama‟s utterances of “yes we can” during the New Hampshire Primary Night Speech (Nashua.5 Ebenezer 2 – PRAAT.3 Equilibrium and tricolon (Announcement Speech.12 They said 2 Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. p.7 Ebenezer 4 – PRAAT. Fig. Fig. p. 2008) – PRAAT. Fig. p.94. 2008). 2008) – PRAAT. Fig. p. 2007) – PRAAT. p. 4 . January 3.98. Springfield. Fig.1 Presentation of Ashley Baia at Dr King‟s Church (January 20.110.8 Prosograms of how Blacks and Whites pronounce “yes we can”.95. p. p. p. January 3.2 Presentation of Ashley Baia in “A more perfect union” (March 18.11 They said 2 Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. February 10.101. Fig.4 Ebenezer 1 – PRAAT. 2008) – PRAAT.
Bush (New York. The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. Interview of Allan Metcalf. July 2004). using the readability tests for example to show that presidential rhetoric had become simpler over the years. Oxford: Oxford University Press. analyzed the steady decline of presidential rhetoric up to George W. pp. The phrase was originally used by Bernard de Chartres and taken up by Isaac Newton. 5 . Lim. Professor of English at MacMurray College and author of Presidential Voices: Speaking Styles from George Washington to George W. 2008). Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University.org/speak/seatosea/standardamerican/presidential/voices/ 3. who was a bad public speaker.S. Barack Obama came as a watershed after the spate of lexical gaffes of his predecessor in the White House. Bush.INTRODUCTION … “On the shoulders of giants”1 George Washington‟s lofty rhetoric helped lend dignity to the American presidency.2 Elvin T. LIM. like Ronald Reagan who was known as the Great Communicator. It was not the case however for Thomas Jefferson. 2008 at Dr King‟s Church and at the NAACP Convention on July 17.3 Good orators have not vanished but skillful rhetoricians have given way to skilful performers. http://www. Elvin T. Bush (Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 2. 2009. With his widely acclaimed 2004 Keynote Address at the Democratic National Convention to support John Kerry‟s run for President. The U. It was used by Barack Obama in the speeches he delivered on January 20. a then fledgling institution. 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.pbs.19-39. Obama gained public recognition and came to symbolize a 1.
cit. “His Way With Words: Cadence and Credibility”. 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. “The only way he can convince people that he can become president is his rhetoric. 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. 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. Alec MacGILLIS. The ideas were taken up by CBS: “Obama‟s most powerful weapon: words”. His record was too slight. Obama won the presidency with words. Obama counterattacked at the height of the Primary season. His Democratic and Republican opponents were right: he ran largely on language. “The new Cicero”.” 8. “John McCain and Senator Clinton echo each other in dismissing this call for change.” Alec MacGILLIS. March 4. on the expression of a country‟s potential and the self-expression of a complicated man who could reflect and lead that country. Barack Obama has stood out on the national stage as a man of words. Scores of articles dealing with Senator Barack Obama‟s rhetorical skills were published during the 2008 presidential campaign. February 26. “Finding Political Strength in the Power of Words”. His eloquence has been both an object of praise and an easy target for his opponents during the campaign. Hillary Clinton heavily insisted on Obama‟s use of Governor Deval Patrick‟s phrases to denounce his lack of originality. […] Lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in. The New Yorker.” Charlotte HIGGINS. 2008. The Guardian. they should know that it's a call that did not begin with my words. As Gerald Shuster from the University of Pittsburgh explained. op. November 26. The Washington Post. “The Joshua Generation”. See also Henry ALLEN.” David REMNICK. “If your candidacy is going to be about 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. Since 2004. poorer sections of the American society. “There have been many controversial aspects to this presidential election.” Texas and Ohio Primary Night (San Antonio. This somehow represented a major obstacle for Obama as his well-spoken style made him appear too remote and aloof from the less educated. In an article published in The Sunday Times about how Obama was regarded by poor whites. And yet. op. 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. February 26. speeches and not solutions. then they should be your own words. it's change you can Xerox. 2008). 2008. 5. 6 . 7. 2008. 2008. the Democratic candidate‟s “liberal bullshit” (as one of the interviewees put it) was considered more damaging to him than his 4. They say it is eloquent but empty. November 17. cit. 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. CBS.clear break from the noted decline in political rhetoric. It also tells a lot about the extent to which candidates have to adapt to woo certain sections of voters.6 Despite those repeated accusations. The Washington Post. January 20.7 It was precisely because Obama had little national experience that he had to rely on his rhetorical and oratorical skills. Quoted in Alec MacGILLIS. 6. 2009: “As much as anything else.
Clinton and Obama scored very differently on the readability tests. That's how we get a finished product. 11. Connie SCHULTZ. “she looked like them and. you write something. 14. News. 10. “Obama and Working-Class Women”. ESPRIT. Obama.”9 For reporter Kent Garber.newsweek. his closest speechwriter for the 2007-2008 campaign was Jon Favreau. the politician would be essentially a performer. June 26. “Rhetoric and Speaking-Style Affect the Clinton-Obama Race”. The Washington Post. The Nation. the day it was delivered. I reshape it.m. August 3.”10 This sense of “artificial” belonging explains why Hillary Clinton decided to lower the level of her English. often. “In His Candidate‟s Voice”. 2008. This is a much more intimate way to work. August 3. http://www. you hand it in. sounded like them. March 25. 14 July 2008. 2008. December 18. October 2008. 9. he reshapes it.”14 This dissertation will not focus on the question of authorship. Favreau mentions in the article that the Announcement Speech was e-mailed to him by Obama at 4 a. See also Tony ALLEN-MILLS and Nina BERMAN. “Helping to Write History”. 12. those folksy vowels.”13 Writing in The Washington Post. Tony ALLEN-MILLS and Nina BERMAN. that identification with Bush “[had] less to do with the content of [his] words and more to do with his style – that Texas twang.com/id/84756/page/1. Eli SASLOW. The Chicago Tribune. Major politicians work with a team of speechwriters. This raises the question of authorship. you kinda like that around here. “To working-class. Clinton talks the talk”. March 31.” Favreau explains. I write. it gets hacked by advisers. 2008. Another explained that Bush had been popular among them because “he looks as dumb as we feel. which would appear more relevant if Obama was not working so closely with his speechwriters. 13. 2008. 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. Quoted in Richard WOLFFE. “the two men have formed a concert so harmonized that Favreau's own voice disappears. did not make the same choice. “Barack Obama peut-il séduire la classe laborieuse blanche ?”. In the case of Barack Obama. As Favreau confided. 2008. Eli Saslow commented on their special bond. He writes. As Connie Schultz pointed out. however. Jim TANKERSLEY.”12 Political speeches are often collectively drafted. January 6.race. “He talks and I type everything he says. Newsweek. 7 . It is obvious that campaign speeches are not the products of a single man. According to studies. which is to determine to what extent the voices of “ghostwriters” overlap that of the politician. “How Barack Obama can win over poor whites” The Sunday Times. It's a great way to write speeches. U. it gets to the candidate and then it gets sent back to you.11 Clinton wished to sound more like the voters she was targeting and that explained the support she garnered from working-class women. Kent GARBER. In such a case.S. 2008 and Sylvie LAURENT. A lot of times. When you see a president who looks aw-shucksy about everything. “How Barack Obama can win over poor whites” The Sunday Times. 2008 and also in “Will Obama pass the Waitress Test?” The Nation.
co. http://news. Charlotte HIGGINS. BBC News.16 Well-written speeches need to be well-delivered in order to be most effective and convincing.stm. It is indeed impossible to dissociate the rhetorical skills from the oratorical talent displayed by Obama.”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. regardless of race. gender. 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. 2009. 2007 on the steps of the Old Capitol in Springfield to his Inaugural Speech on January 20. posted on 14 February 2008. 16.17 A second series of articles clearly departed from this approach and put forward more typically American roots.uk/2/hi/americas/7735014. it is about delivery. cit. Slate. 8 . The text alone cannot tell us why they are so powerful. 17. posted on November 19. 2008. the question of influences proves crucial. 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. Says Ms Ekaterina Haskins. from his Announcement Speech on February 10. professor of rhetoric at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy. it is worth analyzing which traditions he seeks to break with or pursue and what makes him such an acclaimed orator. The corpus under scrutiny is made up of a wide selection of Obama‟s speeches delivered during the campaign. They swoon and wobble. though some have sometimes played down one aspect. 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." Quoted in Stephanie HOLMES. The reader will find an annotated timeline at the end of the 15. For both. “How Obama Does That Thing He Does”. Jack SHAFER. 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”. op.bbc. although few understand exactly why he has this effect on them. or political affiliation.Obama‟s speeches are powerful because of the impressions that they arouse: “Barack Obama bringeth rapture to his audience. In addition to the key-speeches such as the New Hampshire speech (“Yes We Can”) or “A more perfect union”. New York: "I've been going through his speeches textually. 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).
its difficulty. This dissertation will be divided into three parts. During a campaign.” Evan CORNOG. Bush (New York: Penguin. cit. The Power and the Story: How the Crafted Presidential Narrative Has Determined Political Success from George Washington to George W. 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. It has mostly been used to illustrate Conservative values. and can even suggest a lie. components and style. 9 . and. audio and video files) is provided at the end of the dissertation. 19. p. in the back cover. See Yves CITTON.20 a now characteristic feature of American political discourse. See pp. storytelling consists in the use of narratives as a political tool. 18. The second part will concentrate on Obama as a modern American politician as he often resorts to storytelling. The first part will focus on Obama as a political orator to determine the extent of classical influences. […] The word „story‟ can refer to the course of a person‟s entire life or a single moment in that life.19 A DVD with all the speeches selected (transcripts. and as he develops a rhetoric of unity inspired by Lincoln and crossing party and racial boundaries. Developed by Ronald Reagan. op. to factual narratives and fictitious ones. […] They connect a politician with both the issues of his time and with the hearts and minds of the voters. politicians use stories “about the nation. p. Alec MacGILLIS. most of all.68. This analysis of Obama‟s campaign speeches also focuses on the stump speech. 2010). gauging the extent of the various traditions that influence and inspire Obama. 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.dissertation18 indicating all the major speeches of the campaign. 2004). all aimed at characterizing Obama‟s speeches in terms of rhetoric and oratory. as much in terms of structure. 20. Mythocratie: Storytelling et imaginaire de gauche (Paris: Editions Amsterdam. about themselves” to persuade “those who have the power to elect them.2.120-2.
political. 2001. 10 . It was a technique before becoming an art. 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. For a clear yet detailed introduction to Ancient Rhetoric. Speeches were categorized according to the functions they performed: ceremonial. The structure of speeches was codified. This part will focus on analyzing the structures of Obama‟s speeches.1. Some of those elements have hardly changed (stylistic devices). 4th edn). 21. this section will be devoted to the stylistic devices that characterize Obama‟s rhetorical style. 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. it will concentrate on the use of epideictic oratory and the rhetorical proofs (logos. the plethora of stylistic devices listed. Finally. Introduction à la rhétorique (Paris: PUF. 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. Then. judicial. for instance what part should emotional appeal play. see Olivier REBOUL. ethos and pathos) privileged by Obama.
“Anatomy of a Stump Speech”. Alec MacGILLIS. 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. . Analysis of the stump speech and of its evolution The stump speech is the standard speech delivered by a candidate during a campaign. 11 . a list of the things he would do as president “if you are ready for change. 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. The structure of the stump speech has been delineated in The Washington Post by Alec MacGillis. and announced that I was embarking on this unlikely journey. 2008. the city where I served for many years before I went to the United States Senate.Introducing the beginning of his journey and establishing his credibility:23 “It has now been almost a year.” (Barack Obama.1. and rejection. Structure of Obama’s speeches I will mostly focus on the structure of the speeches. February 2. The basic structure of Obama's speech has remained more or less the same: a statement of why he is running now. Patterson CLARK and Larry NIST. 2007 by a list of narratives representing the major problems America is facing): 22. February 26. just a week short of a year. Illinois. 23. of the arguments against his candidacy.1. The Washington Post.1. a subtle argument for why voters should not “settle” for Clinton. Boise.1.” and finally an invocation. The Washington Post. 2008. the place where Abraham Lincoln served for many years before he went to Washington.The case for change: List of problems (replaced as of December 27. 22 The argument used against Hillary Clinton is not really a distinct part in fact. since I stood on the steps of the old state Capitol in Springfield. “Finding Political Strength in the Power of Words”. 1. an account of the movement the campaign is building. February 26. not on the designational paradigms that characterize each basic part. 2008) . I will also insist on the major variation and adaptations adopted at different moments of the campaign. Here are the five basic parts that structure most of Obama‟s stump speeches.
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. We. 2007). 2008) . that we are not as divided as our politics suggests. unless we have leadership that doesn't just tell people what they want to hear but tells everyone what they need to know. Chicago. . The speech itself represents a journey through time.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. we will remember that there is something happening in America. and together. Can.” (Reclaiming the American Dream. unless we stand up to the corporate lobbyists that have stood in the way of progress. For parallels between the economic and political situations between the early 2000s and the 1930s.Rallying cry to fight together. January 8. Bettendorf. November 10. […] When I am this party‟s nominee. from sea to shining sea . . 2008) The stump speech is basically constructed in a cyclical way with references to a journey to open and close the speech. This introduction states the purpose of the speech and sets the 24. or that I supported Bush-Cheney policies of not talking to leaders that we don‟t like. my opponent will not be able to say that I voted for the war in Iraq. that we are one people.” (New Hampshire Primary Night Speech. “Franklin Delano Obama?”. Springfield. 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. win together: the journey ahead. Political agenda and ideas and argument against Hillary Clinton: “I believe that Americans want to come together again behind a common purpose.” (A New Beginning. a dependence on oil that threatens our future.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. as we take this campaign South and West. The speeches sometimes end with a very long sentence that also encompasses the main ideas developed during the speech. October 2. we will begin the next great chapter in America's story with three words that will ring from coast to coast. The introduction is about the past journey accomplished so far.“All of us know what those challenges are today . November 27.a war with no end. we are one nation. January 3. 12 . The New York Times.Yes. Des Moines.” (Announcement Speech. 2007). including historical references while the closing sentences evoke the path ahead (use of the modal “will” or “would” in hypothetical contexts). Nashua. Obama‟s case for a new politics recalls the New Coalition formed by Roosevelt in 1932. 2007). op-ed. or that I gave George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran. 2008. February 10. and families struggling paycheck to paycheck despite working as hard as they can. But my own American story tells me that this country moves forward when we cast off our doubts and seek new beginnings.” (Iowa Caucus Night Speech. see Paul KRUGMAN. schools where too many children aren't learning. […] I believe that Americans want to come together again behind a common purpose. “And so tomorrow.
the outline of Obama‟s campaign speeches is very close to the classical structure of the judicial speech. the Roman rhetorician. Obama also replaced the factual list of problems by a list of individual narratives to illustrate the problems America was facing. the narratio in which Obama presents an assessment of the situation.edu/~honeyl/quintilian/contents. QUINTILIAN. 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. insisting on the nature of the challenges and problems to face. also insisted on the necessary use of pathos in the concluding lines of a speech.campaign into perspective. 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). the argument against Clinton related to her initial support of the war in Iraq was removed from the speeches and from early February. 26. 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. It usually constituted a fairly large section. however.2. Hillary Clinton generally concluded her speeches by thanking people. which corresponds to the look backward that characterized his earlier speeches of the campaign.public. Hence. 27. In judicial speeches. Book IV. 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.1. Institutes of Oratory. we may give full scope to the pathetic.pdf 13 . Aristotle defined the excitement of emotion as one of the key-part of the epilogue.”27 As the epilogue provides the lasting impression made on the audience. that part was devoted to the arguments developed to prove the guilt or innocence of the accused. however. As the Primaries unfolded. Chapter 1.26 Quintilian. The epilogue urges the audience to mobilize and fight for him. When the primaries really started in January 2008. A few variations can be noted. The height of the primary campaign On the whole.iastate. It also contained arguments to counter those of the other side. “In the peroratio. it is fundamental that it ends with electrifying emotion and a powerful dynamic rather than arguments on which people have to ponder. by specifying for how long he has been campaigning. 1. http://www. an 25. the structure of Obama‟s speeches remained fairly the same.
Obama added a definition of hope and the “Yes We Can” gimmick.31 foreign policy. A first speech on energy was delivered very early in the campaign on May 7. Those speeches.3. 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. his criticism of the current legislation or situation and of his Republican opponent‟s position and past record on the issue. The pattern thus remains globally unchanged even if the main rival changes. 2008. just before the New Hampshire Primary that “You campaign in poetry. He then moved on to promise what he would do instead.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. 28. a former Governor of New York. Obama still ended his speeches with a rallying cry and the urge to move forward but from January 8. They discuss current legislation and suggest reformed or new legislation. personal experience). Based on individual and/or personal examples and hence once more resorting to storytelling. A first speech on healthcare was delivered on May 29. 14 . Obama described various situations to show the many facets of the issue. you govern in prose. 1. Specific speeches Some of these speeches were delivered in the first months of the campaign. education) or as regards a specific audience (working women. 2007. veterans. Those speeches are often more technical. 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. The War in Iraq was already specifically dealt with on October 2. 30. 2008 and his defeat in the New Hampshire primary. 2007. Senate.S. came very late in the campaign. African Americans. which gave voters a precise and detailed idea of what he intended to do. 31.1. unionists). when Obama was directly and solely confronted to his Republican opponent. Hillary Clinton declared on January 6. 29 health care. but most of them were given after the Primaries were over. Latinos. That delay can explain Clinton‟s criticisms of his relying on nice words for most of the primary campaign.30 the economy. including many figures to sound more convincing. energy. 2007.important section was added as to why McCain should be opposed.” 29. Quoting Mario Cuomo. 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.
not just Americans. The expression dates back to the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. not “hyphenated Americans”33. To set out his views on foreign policy. Then Obama told the stories of 32. From the Whistle-Stop Tour to the Inauguration Shortly before the Inauguration. hence addressing the citizens of the world. 2009. Obama presents himself as a “global man”.C. he does so in events staged by legitimate organizations representing the specific audience (NAACP for African Americans. See for example the drop-out rates for Latinos. Focusing on his mixed origins. during the third mass immigration wave to America. 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. stressing his leitmotif of national unity.When Obama addresses specific audiences. this kind of expression is sometimes used by a community to stress the richness of its cultural roots. LULAC for Latinos. The Speech on Education was given the day after school resumed after the summer holidays.” The Philadelphia and Baltimore speeches were devoted to the beginning of the American journey and experiment and focused on American core values. proving that barriers can tumble down. AFL-CIO for workers). 1. 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. The symbolical journey was made on January 17. he can appear as a potential statesman whose popularity benefits America and therefore helps restore Americans‟ esteem in the world.4. German Americans. The theme of the journey was in keeping with the staging: “A new declaration of independence. July 8.. 2008. Today. In these speeches. Speech at the LULAC Convention (Washington D. 33. 2008). Capitalizing on his worldwide popularity. The Speeches on Energy were delivered in Michigan and a large section was devoted to the car industry based in Detroit. “The Cost of War” was delivered on March 18. It was disparaging at the time and used by Americans to define the “new Americans” coming from Europe: Irish Americans. imitating Lincoln‟s “Whistle-Stop Tour”.1. The three speeches delivered along the journey were more or less the same.32 When addressing ethnic communities. 15 . This is the case of African Americans. Obama insisted on their being Americans. that is to say on the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the war. Obama undertook a journey by rail to Washington in a vintage railcar. Obama delivered a speech from Berlin. Italian Americans. the Philadelphia and Baltimore speeches were almost identical word by word. The speeches addressing one particular issue were carefully staged as regards place and/or time.
2008). who boarded the train with his family there. 35.34 This stability of the structure also reflects the stability in the ideas put forward. Virginia Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Richmond. 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. in this winter of our hardship. and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us.”35 34. February 9. The stories were different in each speech and the Americans mentioned were each time named. 2008). It evokes the future as a projected past. we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations. January 3. where he lived. except for the sections devoted to his rivals. Potomac Primary Night (February 12. This epilogue echoes that of the Final Primary Speech. that we did not turn back nor did we falter.” The end is a projected glimpse forward: America. the structure remained the same as during the speeches. and endure what storms may come. 2008). The speeches ended with a call to perfect the union and keep the American spirit of the early patriots alive.107. Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. January 26. On the whole. The present is seen as a moment that will go down in history. in the face of our common dangers. let us brave once more the icy currents. let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end. being remembered by the posterity. with hope and virtue. insisting on “the same message we had when we were up and when we were down. South Carolina Primary Night Speech (Columbia. The speech delivered in Wilmington was more particularly focused on Joe Biden. 16 .three ordinary Americans to illustrate the everyday problems Americans were facing. 2008). let us remember these timeless words. which can be found p. There is a relative stability of structure in Obama‟s speeches throughout the campaign.
2007). Epideictic oratory in Obama’s speeches Epideixis. “the cynics” are characterized by a name which is already a criticism and therefore to respond to it would be to endorse the criticism. 17 . These collective targets are characterized by their generic representation and the quite systematic use of THE + plural NP. 2007).2. The opponents 1. 1. 38.36 Apart from “the lobbyists” and “special interests” which can be more or less identified. “the pundits”. also called praise-and-blame rhetoric. “The cynics” and/or cynicism are mentioned in most of Obama‟s campaign speeches. “the skeptics”. the references to Clinton were rarely direct. The cynics and the “skeptics” are by far his most frequent collective targets.2. what people 36. 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. that's about tearing your opponents down instead of lifting this country up. “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. He used counterarguments without ever mentioning his target by name. overt and harsh criticism is mainly limited to anonymous groups of people whose precise identity is never defined: “the cynics”. December 27.1. “the lobbyists” and “the special interests” in Washington.1.1. yet. is to be expected in the campaigns speeches of political candidates to emphasize one‟s own assets and the opponents‟ shortcomings and flaws. December 27.37 he had to respond to the attacks leveled at him by Hillary Clinton as regards his lack of experience. Despite his early statements that he rejected the divisive Washington way of making politics. 2.1. Targeting anonymous groups In Obama‟s speeches. The reference to the scoring-point game is made repeatedly in the course of the campaign. Obama opted for two different discursive strategies. “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines.1. 37.” 38 Yet.” “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. 1. Hillary Clinton As for his direct opponents.2.
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. “Clinton. as the race of the Primaries still remained very close and embittered. October 2. Obama explains that Americans were failed not only by the president but also by “the majority of a Congress . Obama substituted a collective entity of Democrats who had acted like Bush‟s Republicans for his main rival. Obama Clash at S. 2007). at that debate in Texas several weeks ago. there would be no war.” 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. January 22. In fact. The issue was in fact less and less developed as the campaign unfolded. 42. 42 39. and acting. Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines. He transformed a direct attack into a general rule of adequate political behavior. hence attacking not the person but the behavior. “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. “A New Beginning” (Chicago. 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. 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”. She was only directly attacked with some sarcasm when she was likened to John McCain in March. Debate”.41 Now. http://www. Clinton‟s error of judgment as regards the issue was the chief argument used by Obama against her. 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. 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. “The Cost of War” (Charleston.a coequal branch of government . Senator Clinton attacked John McCain for supporting the policies that have led to our enormous war costs.that voted to give the President the open-ended authority to wage war that he uses to this day. So let's be clear: without that vote.C.com/id/22771568/ns/politics-the_debates/ (04/11).” 40. 2008). In other cases. 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. see Andrea MITCHELL. 2007). 2008.msnbc. The speech dealt exclusively with the war in Iraq and its various consequences. 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.msn. Obama delivers in that speech a fierce diatribe against the decision made by Congress to support the executive. November 7. and voting like George Bush Republicans. March 20. 18 .should really have heard was the pronoun “she”. 41. For more on the feud opposing Clinton and Obama.
” 45. The speech is one of Obama‟s specific speeches. “And no matter how this primary ends. but because she's a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength. “more compelling”. Obama implied that the argument was fallacious by focusing on “her point”. 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.1. See 1. 2008. But as someone who's shared a stage with her many times. in Unity on June 27. 2008 when she was presented as “an inspiration for my daughters and yours.” It was exclusively the case in New York City during a joint meeting organized on July 10.46 This was combined with a fairly long account of her professional career and various commitments. Hillary Clinton was praised at length for who she was and what she represented. Obama performed a pool trick shot as it enabled him to target both Clinton and McCain. and for that we are grateful to her.14. 44. and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight. which is only rhetorical precaution. presented as a symbol for women. what sent her to work at the Children's Defense Fund and made her fight for health care as First Lady. all the more so as Obama‟s main focus that day was working women. Attacks on McCain started as of early February 2008. commitment and career were described as sources of inspiration.47 When Obama summarized her political career. 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. when the other Republican candidates had been left lagging much behind.” 46. “barrier-breaking). 200845. 2008). not on her directly and he used a comparative form. 19 . She was in fact often reduced to that simplistic approach. 2008.43 Praise of Hillary Clinton evolved in nature and length by becoming longer and by shifting focus. Senator Clinton has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and your daughters will come of age. Specific speeches p. 2008. 2008. 47. Yet. in Unity to symbolize the unity of the party on June 27. Hillary Clinton was praised in five main speeches: the Kentucky and Oregon Night Speech on May 20. In that speech.3. her courage. Final Primary Night (St Paul. 2008. a few weeks later. after Super Tuesday. and then briefly in the Acceptance Speech. what led her to the United States 43. 2008. In addition. in the Final Primary Night Speech on June 3.The use of the past conditional is used to undermine her own authority to attack McCain on the issue. June 3. Her personality. in the Final Primary Night Speech delivered in St Paul on June 3. Obama generally praises bipartisan consensus but in the case of Clinton and McCain siding together. including for his daughters. praise of Hillary Clinton was limited to. during the transition period as the primary campaign ended and the campaign against the Republicans was really going to start. in a joint meeting held in New York City on July 10. Ironically enough. it was Clinton who acted like the Republicans as the use of the verb “join” suggests. he made a very long sentence containing a series of nominal relative clauses to define what led her on (a pseudo-cleft sentence). Clinton was praised for being a relentless fighter (the noun “fight” is often repeated) and a pioneer for other women in politics (“made history”.44 as was briefly the case in the Kentucky-Oregon Primary Night Speech on May 20. 2008 and in the Acceptance Speech on August 28.
Senate and fueled her barrier-breaking campaign for the presidency – an unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans. no matter how difficult the fight may be. 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. 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. What makes this long sentence laudatory is the very nature of her driving-force. Interestingly enough. Using nominal relative clauses to define another such clause.3. only referred to Obama as Senator Obama. John McCain. counterbalanced by a criticism introduced by the conjunction “but”. Michael Moore‟s Sicko accused her of having HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations) fund her campaigns. 1. John McCain. 20 . McCain‟s campaign was articulated on the idea that he was an independent thinker and had on occasions voted against his own party. “what gets Hilary Clinton up in the morning”. Obama blamed her for sitting on the boards of major companies. The answer could have been “her ambition” without changing a single word before the pause. 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. When Obama directly mentioned his Republican opponent. he referred to him by his name and surname. 2007). The three stages of her career that Obama mentioned are the ones she evoked in her own speeches and decided to put forward. sometimes in the very same sentence. on the contrary. which is only disclosed at the very end of the sentence. June 3. Praise of McCain was brief and was immediately. Sicko (Dog Eat Dog Films. Michael MOORE. graphically represented by a dash. During a fierce debate in January. Final Primary Night (St Paul. the section was reproduced in the speech delivered at their joint meeting in Unity.1. John McCain It is a very different strategy used with his Republican opponent. 49. June 27.49 This is not mentioned. 2008 but was slightly modified and defines “her motivation” and “her passion” as what led her on.2. without mentioning his political title. thus building some suspense until the answer is given after a short pause. 48 The use of anaphora enables Obama to rhythmically reproduce the unflinching commitment. consists in turning around endlessly as the structures do not contain antecedents. 2008).
2008). 2008). 2008. The compound verb “out-Bush” is made up of the adverb “out” referring to the idea of surpassing. Obama used expressions of similarity and continuity. August 4. 21 . 2008) 51. This compound adjective reinforces the use of presuppositions which convey the idea that all the Republican candidates are Bush‟s political heirs. Obama also coined the compound-adjective “BushMcCain” (March 20. April 14. The verb suggests that the subject-agent has surpassed the reference. The person whose name is used is reduced to their main characteristic feature and stands as a reference. 2008 and October 27. whose characteristic feature is surpassed. 2008). Obama‟s neologism is patterned on Shakespeare‟s expression “to out-Herod Herod”. 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. 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. “the same course” (March 4. Obama skillfully made an independent McCain criticize a loyal McCain. Going further. By using McCain‟s very words. “four more years” (March 4. 2008). 2008).Bush‟s third term” (April 14. From April 2. it can also be considered that the formerly independent McCain was more in tune with Obama. 51 As voters had become 50. 2008). 2008) to define the policies led by the Republican Administration. Obama also used McCain‟s words to criticize his position regarding America‟s addiction to oil in his Speech on Energy (Lansing. 2008. In addition. 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.” (taken up in a speech by Obama on February 12. To derail McCain‟s self-definition as an independent thinker. a new argument was developed by Obama after McCain admitted. deriding the Republican Primaries as a contest to determine “which candidate could out-Bush the other” (May 20. McCain had criticized those tax cuts because “so many of the benefits [went] to the most fortunate. 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. “the issue of economics is not something I‟ve understood as well as I should”. “more of the same” (April 22. 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. going beyond a limit and the proper noun Bush. 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.
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. Obama delineated his own distinctive praise of America throughout the campaign. p. 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. SCHLESINGER.”55 That is the sort of confidence that Obama sought to inspire.more and more preoccupied with the economy and the bail-out.” 54 Obama‟s upbeat discourse echoes Reagan‟s 1980 campaign speeches. Mariner Books. Alec MacGILLIS. the prevailing feature of Obama‟s speeches throughout the campaign is the optimism and enthusiasm that characterize them. 2008). 2004). it's because John McCain doesn't get it.” and “It's not because John McCain doesn't care. According to Arthur Schlesinger.”53 The point was made again and emphasized during the Acceptance Speech delivered at the Democratic National Convention. revised edition. 1. 55. 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.2. 52. 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. The Imperial Presidency (New York.” 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”. 2008: “I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. op. 54. on August 28.441. 22 . I just think he doesn't know. Arthur M.2. implying that McCain‟s unawareness and failure to understand are the only explanations. It cost billions of dollars. “like Franklin Roosevelt. [Reagan] radiated a reassuring confidence that all contradictions would be dissolved and all difficulties overcome. More than blame or petty politics. cit. November 3. 53. the hero of his youth. There‟s‟ no destiny we cannot fulfill. Final Campaign Speech (Manassas. Though elaborating along the lines of Reagan‟s “America is back”. The comprehensive program carried out by the Federal State to save banks from going bankrupt.
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.”
Obama seemed to offer and promise a new national epic. 2008 . 2007) and the Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. 73. and fight with me. January 3. February 10. The word can be found in the Announcement speech (Springfield. The sense of destiny was constructed through a widening of the geographical perspective and with hyperboles (use of superlatives). the echoes of the great leaders of the past served to establish a connection with Obama. More than a presidential election. 72..uk/1/hi/world/americas/7735014.Jefferson: “the world‟s best hope”70 (1st Inaugural Address. Luc BENOÎT À LA GUILLAUME. 1978). November 19.co. February 19. cit. 1801) Lincoln: “the last best hope of Earth” (Annual Message to Congress.” Sacvan BERCOVITCH. affirming to the world. consciously creating a sense of history. March 4. and despite the world. New Hampshire Primary Night Speech. who wished to appear as their heir..75 even though it is hardly ever a real break with the past. p. but together. December 27. Des Moines.stm. as was clearly stated one week before the election: And if in this last week. January 8. op. December 1. Wisconsin Primary Night Speech.”71 All these epilogues pointed to a better. to guide them individually toward salvation. 76. “His speeches are shaded with subtle echoes of great speeches past. and collectively toward the American city of God. As Professor of Linguistics Ekaterina Haskins argues. America‟s position in the world and as the leading force of the world was frequently asserted. He used lyrical outbursts to transform the future into a “destiny” 73 (Iowa Caucus Night.bbc. then I promise you this – we will not just win Ohio. Luc Benoît à la Guillaume speaks of “a rhetoric of the fake break” (“rhétorique de la fausse coupure”). purpose and continuity. it inverts the doctrine of vengeance into a promise of ultimate success. brighter tomorrow72. Nashua. p.76 This was emphasized by Obama with the use of the recurrent 70. January 3. 2008). sharing his faith in America. and talk to your neighbors.74. “Obama: Oratory and Originality”. cit. 2008). p. op. A more complex variation can be found in James Madison‟s Notes on Nullification. 75. and convince your friends. America‟s self-improvement appeared as a prerequisite. “on (this) Earth” and “repair the world”.206. we will change this country and we will change the world.” (1835-36). Like Martin Luther King. 26 . 74. 2008). Stephanie HOLMES. BBC News. 71.199. Houston. The American Jeremiad (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press. http://news. 2008. 2007. […] The purpose of their jeremiads was to direct an imperiled people of God toward the fulfillment of their destiny. we will not just win this election. Obama sought to point the direction ahead. Sacvan Bercovitch defined the jeremiad as the political sermon developed by American colonists: “In explicit opposition to the traditional mode. 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. and make some calls for me. if you will stand with me. quoted in Luc BENOÎT À LA GUILLAUME. Ibid.74 According to Luc Benoît à la Guillaume. To reach that goal however. the inviolability of the colonial cause. the promise of a new era is a recurrent topic in Presidential discourse especially in times of crisis. This is the very end of the speech delivered in Canton (October 27. and in particular a world destiny.. It can also be found often in the expression: “no destiny we could not fulfill” (“Our Moment is Now”. 2008). as he defined America as “the last hope of true liberty on the face on the earth. you will knock on some doors for me. and give me your vote.
The American Promise (August 28. 2007). 82. 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. 2008). 1. the turning-point.expressions such as “Its time to turn the page”77. 2008). Ronald Reagan used John Withrop‟s image of “the Citty upon a hill (sic)”83 to define his vision of America‟s destiny. 2008). perhaps decades.80 References to time are essential to build up on the notion of the sacred moment. Interestingly enough. Obama made his speeches more difficult to criticize. Kennedy also used it in 1961. 2008). 27 . He could reach out to Democrats and Republicans alike because a section devoted to America‟s greatness is essentially and intrinsically consensual. Election Night Victory Speech (Chicago. Reagan used the expression twice. These two notions are both congruent with John O‟Sullivan‟s concept of Manifest Destiny developed in 1845 to justify American westward expansion. He defined the essence of American identity as being rooted in the West. These lyrical outbursts were often hyperbolic in essence (“it all began”. 81. Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. January 3.84 By praising America. Oxford: Oxford University Press. “a moment that will define a generation”79 or the projected retrospective glance “This was the moment when it all began”. 2008). Frederick Jackson Douglas theorized in the late 19th century the concept of the frontier. 2007). January 3. November 3. The biblical phrase was used in 1630 by John Winthrop. 2008).”85 He deplores that today‟s presidential rhetoric is “short on logos. Final Primary Night Speech (June 3. 79. Last Week Speech (Canton. 2007) and “Turn the Page” Speech (San Diego. VP Announcement (Springfield. December 27. 85. April 28. a Puritan. 83. LIM. 2008). 2008). to express the belief that Puritans were sent to the New World by God to establish a city which the world would look at. 2008). 84. August 23. Bush (New York. 2008). to come”81). 78. Speech on Patriotism (Independence. disingenuous on ethos and long 77. June 30. June 3. Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines. Announcement Speech (Springfield. The expression is used throughout the campaign: “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. 2008). The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. Speech on the Middle-Class (St Louis. November 10. October 27. John F. Elvin T. 80. 2008). p. Final Primary Night Speech (St Paul. each time in a major speech: his Acceptance Speech at the Republican National Convention in 1980 and in his Farewell Speech in 1989. logos (argument) and pathos (emotion). February 10. 2008). Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. July 7.55. Speech on Education (September 9. “a contest that will determine the course of this nation for years. 2008). “We are at a defining moment in our history”78. Kentucky and Oregon Night Speech (Des Moines. “We expect political leaders to prioritize logos. Lim holds a Platonician view of what a political speech should include. 3. May 20. Elvin T. The rhetorical proofs at play in Obama’s speeches Aristotle defined the three proofs that were necessary in a political speech: ethos (character). Final Election Speech (Manassas. November 4. 2007).
Obama had therefore been a member of Congress for two years when he officially announced he had decided to run for the U. Indeed.on pathos. Senate.S. The city is highlighted several times with the repetitions of the expression. Obama‟s account of his experience as a community organizer echoed the rhetoric of Lyndon Johnson‟s War on Poverty. It was especially the case in his Announcement speech. 1. They are often all present in a political speech.1. From the very beginning of his campaign.87 From November 2007. Obama on Obama For Aristotle. The very place where the speech is delivered is quite significant as Springfield is the State Capital. Departing from the warmongers in Washington. 87. Obama has often been criticized for his lack of detailed propositions in his speeches. Interestingly enough. Ibid. Obama needed to establish his credibility and therefore a crucial section of his speeches in 2007 consisted in putting forward what experience he had. goodness).88 often associated with the present perfect or HAVE+V-en and BE + Ving to establish the experience he had gained. 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 used Bill Clinton‟s very words to counter attacks on his lack of experience. especially at the national level. The major criticism leveled at Obama was his lack of political experience.54.89 This indirect attack against Hillary Clinton reflects a strategy Obama would use 86.3.” 88. “The truth is you can have the right experience and the wrong kind of experience.” 28 . Obama developed a rhetoric of battle and started using the verb “fight”. Occurrences of the noun “fight” can also be found. 2007. Obama developed and used the fighting metaphor not about Iraq but about the war on poverty and discrimination. p. On December 27. but at different levels.”86 Manipulating the audience with emotion and a distorted self-portrait seems to have become the characteristic feature of political speech. “It was here that […]. ethos encompasses different notions: phronesis (practical skills and wisdom) and arété (virtue. 89.S. Obama had been a state Senator in Illinois from 1997 to 2004. Let us determine to what extent Obama actually corresponds to that now prevailing pattern. when he resigned after being elected to the U. Obama insisted on his experience before the primaries started. Presidential election. Mine is rooted in the real lives of the people and it will bring real results if we have the courage to change.
November 10. As was developed in 1. “A New Beginning” (Chicago. when the primary season was over. Obama could connect the two issues and emphasized his clear-sightedness. 29 . but is reduced with the non-defining restrictive relative clause to a very precise individual and should be understood as “some one”. I've actually done it. Obama also insisted on his virtue by emphasizing his lack of self-interest.1.even more effectively against John McCain: using an opponent‟s declaration on which he agrees but which the opponent is now attacking. Obama briefly mentioned his political and/or professional experience again. my opponent will not be able to say that I voted for the war in Iraq. I'm the only candidate in this race who hasn't just talked about taking power away from lobbyists. I took on the lobbyists in Illinois and brought Democrats and Republicans together to expand health care to 150. which is a feature that characterizes his whole career. In the speech delivered at the AFL-CIO. October 2. So if you want to know what kind of 90. The image as someone determined to defend his ideas whatever the obstacles was essential to establish his credibility as a future President. at the height of the primary season. Obama boasted himself of being right from the beginning as regards the war in Iraq.”91 Barack Obama is in fact the “someone” he is talking about. 2007).” 90 Obama insisted on his good judgment.000 people and pass the first major campaign finance reform in twenty-five years. 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. opposing the right experience and the wrong experience. Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines. the war in Iraq is the key-argument developed against Clinton whereas Obama‟s lack of experience was his opponents‟ central argument against him. unlike others: “When I am this party‟s nominee. 91. “The first thing we have to do is end this war. And the right person to end it is someone who had the judgment to oppose it from the beginning. Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton‟s error of judgment as regards the war in Iraq was clearly the kind of experience she should not boast about. 2007). By elaborating on the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience. Obama‟s self-portrait as a fighter somehow counterbalanced his commitment to seeking consensus. Obama used the word fight fifteen times. In February 2008. “Someone” does not represent here an indefinite individual.2. In addition to his experience and stamina. The argument is also connected to that of experience. on the right decisions he made and he was therefore the most adequate candidate to end the war.2. I turned down the big money law firms to win justice for the powerless as a civil rights lawyer. and I did the same thing in Washington when we passed the toughest lobbying reform since Watergate. He did it again in his specific speeches.
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. Wisconsin Primary Night Speech (Houston. Elvin T. whether anonymous average American families or his own. unconnected to any special interests. February 19. Professor of Linguistics at Berkeley. Le Monde selon Bush (2004). There is a reason why Obama and Biden spoke so much about the family. Lim observed that pathos had become predominant and there was even a tendency to resort to an extreme form of emotional appeal: bathos. Lim defined that tendency as a characteristic of anti-intellectual presidential discourse. 2008). reenacting a modern version of David vs. George Lakoff. p. 92 Through this self-portrait. “special interests) and the “powerless” / “jobless” (using the –less suffix to emphasize the poor‟s deprivations) whom he stands for. 2008) and very briefly in his Acceptance Speech (Denver. 2007). April 28. which he defined as the references involving children and families.choices we'll make as President. “I […] brought Democrats and Republicans together. although he used the pronoun “we” to refer to the Democrats and Republicans who allied to pass anti-lobbying legislation. op. He also described himself as the artisan of the legislative successes mentioned. William KAREL. 93. of whom Barack Obama had been a student. 2007). The appeal to emotions Analyzing the evolution of presidential discourse. “Turn the Page” (San Diego. Super Tuesday Night Speech (St Paul. Our national political dialogue is fundamentally metaphorical. Elvin T. in the Announcement Speech (Springfield. focusing both on the choices he did not make (“walked away”. 94. motivated by superior principles and not by selfinterest. “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. with family values at the center of our discourse. November 10. “turned down”) and the successes he managed to bring about. February 12. though not overabundant. 2007). cit. Obama represented himself as a person free of all bonds.3. 2007).. February 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. Goliath. Lim.93 This self-portrait actually consisted in a series of actions (use of action verbs). Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison. February 8. August 28. are frequent in Obama‟s speeches. Indeed. Obama‟s whole career was reduced to a conflict between the powerful (“lobbies”. 30 . references to families. Obama had initially presented himself as the one who had made that bipartisan conciliation possible. the nurturant 92.2. December 27.72.” 1.94 Indeed. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. Obama‟s decision to work in Chicago‟s South Side at the expense of the generous offers from Wall Street appeared in several speeches. explained how essential family values are in American discourse. 2008).
44. Texas and Ohio Primary Night Speech (San Antonio. employment. and someone should ask her where she is from. Like the Ashley Baia story. We believe that these jobs should provide wages that can raise her family. 97. 2008). There was an average of half a dozen occurrences during the height of the primary season.family. she should feel safe knowing that they are protected from the threats we face by the bravest. 96 The references to child/children were more frequent. health care) but also the issue of sex inequality and by depicting her as a future mother. with caring fathers and the family values that Obama put front and center in his Father's day speech: empathy. a “mother in San Antonio” and an “elderly woman”. 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. We believe that when she goes to school for the first time. education. 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.html. the three individual narratives developed in the Texas and Ohio Primary Night Speech (San Antonio. March 4. Unlike Reagan and the Bushes who insisted on a strong America and a manly approach to leadership. “The Palin Choice and the Reality of the Political Mind”. military in the world. he could focus on the motherly instinct of protection.1. best-equipped. p. Obama could have used the epicene “they” but he specifically intended to develop the story of a woman here. safety. 98. 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”. And if that child should ever get the chance to travel the world. The Ashley Baia story. 2007). Interestingly enough. it should be in a place where the rats don't outnumber the computers.98 By telling the story of this imaginary average girl. 2008. responsibility and aspiration. March 4.2.com/george-lakoff/the-palin-choice-and-the_b_123012. peaking exceptionally at forty occurrences in the speech dedicated to “A 21st Century Education” (September 9. it was surely also the result of his being 95. Obama‟s personal narratives often focused on women and more especially mothers or young women to insist on their vulnerability. See 2. 96. In addition to making his examples more emotional. that when she applies to college. 2008). 2004) exclusively focus on women: a “young [female] student”.huffingtonpost. 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. But even when Obama spoke of children in general and used the generic expression “a child”. this one ended with a sentence in direct speech. Obama could address the issues common to both men and women (racial discrimination. George LAKOFF. Obama shifted focus to domestic policies. on the streets of Chicago or the hills of Appalachia. posted on September 1. health care for when she gets sick and a pension for when she retires. with an average of half a dozen approximately throughout the campaign. often depicting families as matriarchies in his individual examples. 2008 on http://www. and eighteen in “Reclaiming the American Dream” (November 7. led by a Commander-in-Chief who has the judgment to know when to send them into battle and which battlefield to fight on. Louis. We believe that when she tucks her own children into bed. 31 . 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”.
Fathers were specifically addressed in Obama‟s speech to the NAACP on July 14.5.2. 32 .3. You're working longer hours. 2007). That's why I'll double spending on quality after-school programs . Simply Speaking: How to Communicate Your Ideas with Style..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.3. Substance.”101 Obama‟s development of arguments varied along the campaign. April 28. and Clarity (New York: Regan.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. 2007). November 7.22. Peggy NOONAN. 102. p. 1. p.so that you can know your kids are safe and secure. 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. See 1. Praise of America and Americans. 2007).” 100. he developed a number of fairly precise points though he remained quite general and did not delve into detail: no figures were given. November 7.”104 Obama repeated in other speeches that teachers should be paid as they 99. Meanwhile. it's hard to get a hand. What is crucial is Obama‟s determination to act personally (frequent uses of “I‟ll”).is the brain. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf.raised by a single mother and grandmother and a deliberate attempt to appeal to female voters who could feel closer to Hillary Clinton. and to cover elderly care. 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. 101. Lim. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. It's even harder to get a break. More families have two parents working. 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.you might call it America‟s understimulated organ . “Turn the Page” Speech (San Diego. cit.2. The minor use of arguments “The only organ to which no appeal is made these days . And that's why I'll expand the Family Medical Leave Act to include more businesses and millions more workers. 1998).70 quoted in Elvin T. Peggy Noonan was Ronald Reagan‟s former speechwriter. 103. op. At the beginning and almost until the late December 2007. p. to let parents participate in school activities with their kids. And we'll finally put federal support behind state efforts to provide paid Family and Medical Leave.
One of the reasons Obama avoided developing precise. July 10.” (South Carolina Primary Night Speech. Obama no longer referred to them directly but used the generic plural form (“workers”. Here again. a detailed analysis of the situation and his precise proposals. 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. but also lets you take leave to care for your elderly parents and participate in school activities like parent-teacher conferences and assemblies. 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. In both cases. 2008). 107. Columbia. First opposed to utilizing the Strategic Oil Reserve except in case of emergency. January 26. 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. we've got to do more to help folks at the bottom of the ladder climb into the middle class. which sounded more inclusive.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. 2008. families. giving precise accounts of his record. 106 Obama‟s proposals usually followed McCain‟s senatorial record on the issue. For example. This was at the core of his Inaugural Speech: “The question we ask today is not whether our 105. pragmatic approach. the middle-class and so on in the specific speeches which were mostly given once the primary campaign was over. As regards the people he was talking about. 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. It means standing up for paid leave – so I'll invest $1. he prevented attacks on the idea. “parents”). Obama directly addresses the working women facing him by using the personal pronoun “you”. In those speeches. Senator McCain has no clear plan to expand paid leave and sick leave – and that's a real difference in this election. Speech on working women (Fairfax. Obama detailed what he intended to do about Family and Medical Leave.deserved105 but never specified how much that represented and obviously no one could disagree on such an assumption. 106. Obama had to make a U-turn on the strategic oil reserve within four weeks. In the following example. bipartisan. Obama shifted back and forth between the pronoun “I” and the exclusive “we” which referred to his Administration.107 Obama avoided as much as possible partisan policies and advocated a consensual. we will reward them for their greatness. Obama developed his plans on energy. Finally. he often sounded less lyrical and more down-to-earth. “Instead of talking how great our teachers are. 2008). Obama approved it a month later on August 4. 33 .
First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life. what Obama mainly advocated was “a new politics” in which people and not “special interests” would have a greater say. the adjective “dumb” was used four times in that speech. programs will end. cit. with ethos and pathos. We need better government. 2008) and moving “beyond old arguments of left and right” (Speech on Education. p.government is too big or too small. More than detailed policies. 110. Obama‟s speeches follow the anti-intellectual trend that Lim defined and characterized. was the style he developed. 2002). “Studying Obama‟s Rhetoric”. Obama‟s focus on individual narratives. What made him different.”108 Obama‟s political decisions were not motivated by ideology.” John McWORTHER. September 9. 2008). For more on the shift between the November Victory Speech and the Inaugural Address. October 2. 111. ethos and pathos are “largely non falsifiable” and could not be deliberated on. who first electrified the electorate with touching autobiography and comfort-food proclamations about hope and unity--that is. “[Hillary Clinton] has lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama.55.” While the question of size is highly ideological as it involves the extent of the state‟s intervention in the economy and society.45ff.110 Unlike arguments. Obama followed the tendency Elvin T. but whether it works […] Where the answer is yes. the praise of America and Americans or the bipartisan approach was more consensual and therefore more difficult to oppose for his rivals. October 27. we intend to move forward. op. but by rational thinking.111 As far as substance is concerned. “A Rhetorical Question”. Obama opposed the war in Iraq because it was a “dumb war” (Chicago. 34 . see Michael NOVAK. January 20. Using the comparative form and the keyword “government” three times gives the (deceiving) illusion that there is topical unity. 2008): “We don‟t need bigger or smaller government. 108. Lim. Elvin T. 109. the question of efficacy is highly consensual and enables Obama to skillfully evade the question of size. apart from the special focus on praising America. October 27. October 2008. Lim delineated in today‟s political discourse: he won the Democratic nomination with “ethos and pathos”. Dayton. promoting a politics “that favors common sense109 over ideology” (Last Week Speech. Canton. Obama had developed the idea in his Last Week Speech (Canton. 2009.. As John McWorther pointed out. Where the answer is no. p. Issue 186.
February 12. 116 112.112 one of Cicero‟s best known techniques. if you are willing to stand with me.114 except in the Final Primary Night Speech. Besides. and believe in it. and to work for it. 2007). 2008). and believe in it” Final Primary Night Speech (St Paul. April 2. When the tricolon is found at the microstructural level. one every thirty seconds. listed about thirty three-part lists in Obama‟s Inaugural Speech. Here is the introduction to the Iowa Caucus Night Speech: You know.1.” Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison. They are usually located at the end of a sentence. tonight is your answer. 2008). too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. 114. Introduction to the Election Night Victory Speech (Chicago. 113 Kentucky Oregon Night Speech (Des Moines.4. “if we are willing to work for it. November 4. February 19. and work with me. who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time.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. 2008). December 27. Max Atkinson. May 20. They said this country was too divided. and fight for it. 115. a specialist in public speaking. 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 said this day would never come. linguist or political specialist.” Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines.” in “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines.”113 This example can be found with variations in a number of Obama‟s speeches. 2008). “if we have the courage to reach for it. and fight with me. 2008). “if you are willing to vote for me. January 3. They said our sights were set too high. 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. 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. 2008). 35 . June 3. if you're willing to caucus for me” Wisconsin Primary Night Speech (Houston. insisting on his frequent use of the tricolon. “So I'm asking you to march with me.” Speech to the AFL-CIO (Philadelphia. and fight for it. and to fight for it. it gives a regular balance to the sentence as the three parts are usually of the same length. The use of the tricolon can be either microstructural or macrostructural in Obama‟s discourse. 2008). who still questions the power of our democracy. The three-part list can also be found at the beginning of a sentence. “If we're willing to work for it and fight for it. Charlotte Higgins deemed Obama the “new Cicero”. and work for it. The third element makes the list unequivocal.
It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence.120 These techniques are given even more weight when they are combined. May 2009. Pierre Varrod in “Les trois leviers rhétoriques d‟Obama”117 and Malcolm Kushner. “Les trois leviers rhétoriques d‟Obama”. August 28. 2008).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. You have done what America can do in this new year 2008. Varrod listed over thirty examples of contrasting opposites in the fairly short Inaugural Address. not against us. Malcolm KUSHNER. not hurt us. Using contrasts allows the speaker to delay the moment before developing the idea. 2008). 121. Newsweek. November 4. Pierre VARROD. ESPRIT. It should help us. Election Night Victory Speech (Chicago. “The Mother and the Orator”. 120. op. Pierre Varrod suggested that contrasts enable the audience to anticipate on what is. You have done what the state of New Hampshire can do in five days. “The American Promise” (Denver. author of Public Speaking for Dummies. The tricolon actually gives way to another tricolon: “But on this January night . that goes back to the ancient Greeks. 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. 36 . the United States of America”. quoted in Jennie YABROFF. they are also combined with rhetorical 116. once they know what is not. and always will be.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. It puts the audience in a situation in which they follow the speaker‟s thought process. cit.”118 Contrasts are a predominant characteristic of Obama‟s speeches. These examples are in fact not only combinations of contrasts and three-part lists. January 10.119 Contrasts can be articulated with the conjunction “but” or simply with a comma (orally a pause). “In Iowa he uses contrasting opposites. but for every American who's willing to work. but not one penny of tax relief to more than 100 million Americans? Our government should work for us. 118.” 117. Pierre VARROD.you have done what the cynics said we couldn't do. insisted on Obama‟s use of contrasts. 2008. 119.at this defining moment in history . it generates an expectation for the audience. 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. The steady rhythm is reinforced by the combination with anaphora. as was the case in the oft-repeated expression: “we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are.
“Turn the Page” Speech (San Diego. November 10. We‟ve been trying to hide that for a long time. he can do so because he knows that his audience will understand who he has in mind. But establishing a direct connection with the audience was not the only purpose of the devices Obama mainly used. “Want to know how to handle all of these?” BBC NEWS Magazine. lexical contrasts (“those” vs. Max Atkinson insists on some specific rhetorical devices being used as claptraps. They are indeed taken up by the media as sound bites. 126. “help” vs.bbc. 2008 against Bush. 2008). http://news. a common experience of the debts to pay or the frustration caused by the 2000 “phony” election. “I left [Harvard] with a degree and a lifetime of debt. each time with an effective purpose.co. The sentence was first used at the AP Luncheon on April 2. 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‟.or at least. August 28. 2009. It is based on common. “The American Promise” (Denver.stm. During his 2004 Keynote Address while he was praising the American democracy.questions and hyperbole (contrast between “hundreds of billions” and “not one penny”). here‟s the good news – the name George W.” 127.” (Bettendorf. shared knowledge. Bush will not be on the ballot. 124. “I don‟t know about you but I am not ready to take a ten percent chance on change”124 or syllepsis. threepart lists as well as a combination of both prove effective claptraps. posted on July 14. 2007). 128. “every”) and of course phonological emphasis with a contrastive stress on the pair of words that are opposed (“for” vs. Obama sometimes adds a lighter tone to his speeches. “against” .”125 Obama‟s snapping remarks often made the audience laugh. Obama joked about being the hidden cousin of Dick Cheney: “Now. “hurt”). 37 . humor. contrasts.”128 According to Max Atkinson. 123. When Obama uses antonomasis by referring to Martin Luther King as “a young preacher from Georgia”122.126 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. "using contrasts is a real winner. 2008). Obama‟s mastery of language is characterized by the huge number of stylistic devices he uses and combines. The use of such device is possible because the audience can understand the reference. August 28. When he uses polyptoton in his Acceptance Speech. The name of my cousin Dick Cheney will not be on the ballot. 2007). most of the time.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8128271. In the Iowa Jefferson Jackson dinner. although it is not a predominant feature. hence telling the audience 122. April 28. Obama unexpectedly referred to the 2000 election after a significant pause: “and that our votes will be counted --.”123 It is the same with paronomasis. Research shows 33% of the applause a good speech gets is when a contrast is used. Everybody has a black sheep in the family. “The American Promise” (Denver. was used effectively by Obama. 125. which was usually a way of sharing something with his audience. Quoted in Denise WINTERMAN.
“Announcement Speech” (Springfield.132 This higher level was also strategic obviously as it kept Obama from being constantly dragged into controversies regarding specific political propositions.pdf (01/11). 129.fr. 2009. Obama offered change in the way he thought political battles should be led. which had contributed to lower the function to the level of ordinary citizen.” Philippe ROUSSELOT. 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. nonetheless. the third chapter focuses on Atkinson‟s theory of how rhetorical devices are used to call for applause. “Marcus Tullius Obama”.130 For Philippe Rousselot. And so it goes with the analogy with Cicero.html. 2007). See also Peter BULL. 2009 on http://maxatkinson. Max ATKINSON. The outline of Obama‟s speeches is rooted in classical tradition. Obama‟s superior rhetoric restores some distance and reinvests the function of politician with a rhetorical grandeur that helps sacralize it.com/2009/01/rhetoric-and-applause-inobamas. posted on January 22. February 10. 132. 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. This is also reflected by how Obama treats his direct opponents. 38 .when to applaud. Obama proved more in tune with some prevailing features of American modern political discourse. They are not specific to him. 131. “Ce n‟est pas tant Obama qui est décrypté que Cicéron qui est reconstruit.nonfiction. Obama wants to place his rhetoric at a higher level than political agendas. he had learnt in the Illinois State Senate to “disagree without being disagreeable”.131 What is sure. 2003). rather than the other way round. Christophe DE VOOGD. is that Obama‟s brilliant rhetoric contrasts sharply with Bush‟s style. www. the two are actually rereading Cicero with Obama in mind. 130. by many other standards. www. “Cicéron: „speechwriter‟ d‟Obama?: l‟éloquence revient à la Maison Blanche”. President of the Société Internationale des Amis de Cicéron. Yet. Obama‟s use of those effective devices shows that he is an expert in political communication. The Microanalysis of Political Communication: Claptrap and Ambiguity (New York: Routledge. This was Obama‟s key purpose and it never varied throughout the campaign. Breaking with the usual political practices. What makes the specificity of Obama‟s speeches cannot be reduced to his lofty rhetoric and abundant stylistic devices.129 Atkinson has been studying claptraps in British political discourse for over two decades. posted on January 21.blogspot. “Rhetoric and applause in Obama‟s Inaugural Speech as a measure of what the audience liked best”.tulliana. As he said in his Announcement Speech.eu/document/marcustulliusobama.
Obama sought to rise above the fray as his rhetoric suggested. Because America is “a nation of immigrants” as John F. he could not escape from some of the tendencies that had become most effective to attract voters like the use of pathos and ethos. After analyzing Obama‟s use of storytelling. In Obama‟s speeches. his treatment of race and the symbolical summoning up of Lincoln. which had become a characteristic of American political discourse. a population officially classified according to race. this section will focus on Obama‟s discursive strategy to forge unity: his redefinition of America‟s national identity. there was a constant movement between the particular and the generic but all tended to reflect and inspire unity. 39 . Reagan had proved what an effective tool of persuasion it could be and had inspired other American politicians to make use of stories too. Kennedy put it.2. Yet. Another characteristic in which Obama had specialized is storytelling (which is related to pathos) as we will first see in this section. especially as Republicans have sought to exploit tensions and divisions. his use of personal pronouns and toponyms. Obama the modern politician As was seen in the first part. the need for unity has been all the more necessary and all the more difficult to reach.
The Power and the Story: How the Crafted Presidential Narrative Has Determined Political Success from George Washington to George W. Storytelling had become a predominant feature of American political discourse since Reagan in the early 1980s. 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.273. it‟s about a more visceral. the use of personal narratives was directly related to the influence of Obama‟s main consultant. Knopf. la machine à fabriquer des histoires et à formater les esprits (Paris: La Découverte. 2007). My Life (New York: Alfred A. This analysis was previously developed by Matt Bai on the New York Times blog. Bill CLINTON. Christian SALMON. A man who perfected the craft of encapsulating an entire life in 30 seconds. I always felt the main point of my work was to give people a chance to have better stories. Storytelling. The New York Times.” Evan CORNOG. p. While Cornog insists on the feature as being a characteristic of every U. “The Caucus” on March 13. 130. the Ad Man”. 2008. coll. 133.136 According to Bai. p.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.“Cahiers libres”. a New York Times columnist. Axelrod is an advertising guy.15. Obama the storyteller “When I grew up and got into politics. 2008. he has a gift for telling personal stories in ways that people can understand.2. The personal narratives were often synthesized in one or two sentences in Obama‟s speeches and were used as leitmotifs.124. more personal narrative. Matt BAI. Axelrod‟s essential insight […] is that the modern campaign really isn‟t about the policy arcana or the candidate‟s record. presidential elections.” 133 Evan Cornog. 2004). “In the Clinton-Obama Race.1. 135. have analyzed the major importance taken by storytelling in political discourse.” The strategy devised by the Obama team was to use the main tools of modern political campaigns. These prefabricated stories punctuate the campaign and the speaker knows them by heart. According to Matt Bai. professor of journalism at Columbia University and Christian Salmon who works at the CNRS. “Mr. Bush (New York: Penguin. 2004). The 2004 election.S. March 16. will be defined by the power of stories. It‟s the Pollster vs. David Axelrod. p. 136. 40 . “like all the elections that have come before it .
the speech included one example located in Ohio. February 19. February 12.com/2008-presidential-candidates/tracker/candidates/barack-obama/ (05/10). The examples given on February 19. January 3. March 4. 2007 and this would subsequently become a characteristic feature of his speeches. As little information as possible was given on the person portrayed: “a student”. details were removed. one in Texas and the last one in Wisconsin as it was the day of the primaries in Wisconsin. Speech to AFL-CIO (Philadelphia. the section was adapted to the global function it had. 2008. 2008) and Wisconsin Primary Night Speech (Houston. 138. 41 . December 27.” South Carolina Primary Speech (Columbia. 2007). 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. depending on the precise and specific function they were given in the speech. the day of the Caucus.1.117. February 10. Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison. 140. June 3. Texas Primary Night Speech (San Antonio. Obama extensively campaigned there: the Washington Post listed 174 events between February 10. February 19. 141. June 5. the series of prefabs could be found toward the beginning of the speech if they were solely used to illustrate America‟s problems. 2007. see the Appendix. April 2. 2008) were in fact the same ones told in Iowa on December 27. Delivered in Texas. “a worker”. just before the epilogue if they were used to define hope and Americans‟ dreams.141 Interestingly enough.139 toward the middle when they were included in the section devoted to John McCain (and sometimes Hillary Clinton)140 and at the end. 2008) and Final Primary Night Speech (St Paul. 2008). Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. August 28. These personal narratives have been listed in a table. Yet. 2008). Those individual narratives aimed to illustrate the problems America was facing. 142. “Theirs are the stories and voices we carry on from South Carolina. 2008 served to prepare the elections scheduled in Texas and Ohio two weeks later.washingtonpost. 2008). 2008). p. Wisconsin Primary Night Speech (Houston. 2007 and January 3. It was in 137. “a woman” “a mother”. 138 Obama first introduced personal narratives of average anonymous Americans on December 27. 2008) but as the speech is longer. 2007. No mention was made of race in these examples. 2008). […] 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. 2008). The section fulfils an illustrative purpose in the Acceptance Speech (Denver. the special narratives from South Carolina142 (January 26.2. As the narratives were repeated. Hence. when the race was still particularly close in February and March 2008.1. it can be found toward the middle of the speech. http://projects. it was used to fuel the criticism against John McCain and Hillary Clinton. 139. January 26. 2008) and Speech on Health Care (Bristol. “Our Moment Is Now” (Des Moines. The first events organized in Iowa took place on the day he declared his candidacy.
143 Details were given on when Obama met her. 2008) and the Acceptance Speech (Denver. 42 . the South Carolina Victory Speech (Columbia. 2008 and Acceptance Speech on August 28. In the Iowa Caucus Victory Speech (Des Moines. mainly until April 2. 2008). 143. The geographical indication was removed as well as the disease of the sister. the narrative was deprived of its characteristic details to ease the identification process. the Final Primary Night Speech (St Paul. 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. the Speech to the AFL-CIO (Philadelphia. 2008) . not because he has already introduced the woman in the speech and is now going to say something else about her. June 3. 144. 2008).particular the case with Obama‟s most-frequently repeated example. (1) (2) (3) (4) “a young woman in Cedar Rapids” (Des Moines. 2008) . December 27. 2007: Just two weeks ago. 2008). 3 January 2008). “that young student” (Denver. There was also an evolution as regards the determiners used to refer to that individual. 145. Obama shifts from the indefinite article “a” to the definite article “the”. 2007). 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 Cost of War” (Charleston. reaching a universal status. It was first mentioned on December 27. 2008) “the young woman” (Bristol. 2008). January 3. “A student from Cedar Rapids” was soon shortened to “a student” and the person hence became emblematic: “a young student” was any student. February 12 2008). 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. December 27. the Speech on Health Care (Bristol. “the young woman in Cedar Rapids” (Des Moines. the Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison. January 26. 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. The story was repeated a number of times afterward. Gradually though. The use of the indefinite article “a” allows the extraction from the group and lends a metonymic function of representation to the example. but to state exactly the same things but in a later speech. June 5. 2008). and wonders why the government isn't doing more to help her afford the education that will allow her to live out her dreams. 2007). 2008. March 4. August 28. June 5. Speech on Health Care on June 5.144 then occasionally (Final Primary Night Speech on June 3. becoming a prototypical example. 2008). She spoke not with self-pity but with determination. April 2. August 28. the Texas Primary Night Speech (San Antonio. March 20. “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. 2008).145 and finally the deictic “that” the last time he used the example in his Acceptance Speech (August 28.
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. But the story is also related to Health Care as the student also works to help her sick sister. That additional information was not always included. Instead of a multiplication of narratives. 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. 147. Obama focused on the “deserving poor” as they were called in Victorian England. April 2. 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. 2008) 43 . 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. who still doesn't have health insurance for himself or his wife and lives in fear that a single illness could cost them everything.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. “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. 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.”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”. In the Protestant work ethic as Max Weber defined it. The small number of prefabs used is directly related to the complex stories told: each narrative encompasses a number of wider issues.” Speech on Health Care (Bristol. June 5. But he always portrayed them as victims even though the passive form is not always used.147 The conservative notion of self-help was undermined because people alone could not overcome their problems no matter how hard they tried. their ability to act was reduced to none by the use of the modal auxiliary “can” or “could” in the negative form. Even when they remained the agent of the action and subject of the sentence. 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. 2008). people who did not work were often scorned and labeled as lazy people. 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. Speech to the AFL-CIO (Philadelphia. 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.
The reference to Cooper provided a frame to the story of America over the last hundred years. they show how families are affected and metaphorically how the whole social fabric is being unraveled. Obama refers to a 106-year-old black woman. October 27. 44 .2. Ashley Faulkner was a sixteen-year-old young American who lost her mother in the 9/11 attacks. 2008). 151. The other fairly long stories refer to a meeting Obama had unsuccessfully organized in Chicago (Super Tuesday Speech. there had been another Ashley story. the story of a letter sent to him by a little girl. During the previous presidential election. The use of hypotyposis p. Chicago. Canton. Her father. By evoking “workers competing with their sons”. which according to some had played a key-part in Bush‟s re-election. See 3. It is the only story to deal with interracial relationship.1. Robyn (Last Week Speech. June 3. in which a number of details have been removed.jobs at the local store. Ebenezer Church was the church where King was preaching as a minister. 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.1. Obama could insist on the absurdity of the system and its immorality as they stood in sharp contrast with Christian principles. His most-often quoted reference to the Bible was “I am my brother‟s keeper. 2008. We shall focus here on the structural and symbolical aspects of the story. The Ashley Baia story was told by Barack Obama to close the speech he delivered at Ebenezer Church on January 20. Ann Dixon Cooper. 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. suggesting that each problem is compounding others and that people are all interrelated by the consequences of a de-structured economy. to assess the progress accomplished by the black community in his Election Night Victory Speech. 2008). took a picture of President Bush hugging his daughter to comfort her 148. 2008) and the encounter with a woman in South Carolina who chanted “Fired up? Ready to go?” to welcome him (Final Election Speech. 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). The original version is fairly longer than the second one. I am my sister‟s keeper. an outspoken Republican. 150.2.”148 Obama‟s individual narratives do not just show how individual Americans are affected by health care problems or the economy.2.151 The anecdote was taken up and repeated to close “A more perfect union” two months later. 2.88 for the stylistic analysis. Answering Cain‟s question to God: “Am I my brother‟s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). 149. Each problem like industrial relocation here is hence set in a wider perspective. November 3.
”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”. 2008). and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom. 60-second commercial that Faulkner's photo spawned. Eric BOEHLERT. Now Ashley might have made a different choice. March 18."154 The episode has in fact two different levels: it consists of a story embedded in another story. And Ashley said that when she was nine years old. She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs. 2004. turned out to be an exception: a memorable. And because she had to miss days of work. 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.on May 6. She had been working to organize a mostly AfricanAmerican community since the beginning of this campaign. 152 compassionate father figure. cit. with its heartfelt 9/11 connection. He does not say health care or the economy. “The TV ad that put Bush over the top”. November 5. Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. Salon. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. They all have different stories and reasons." blanketed swing states during the final weeks of the election. 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. The Ashley Baia story is by far the longest story told by Obama during the campaign. "I am here because of Ashley. which showed Bush as a protective. They had to file for bankruptcy. 153. "Ashley's Story. 2004. or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. Eric BOEHLERT. 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. Obama tells the story of Ashley Baia.html . Democrats aired an ad featuring a 9/11 victim‟s next-of-kin “which appealed to voters' logic about the terrorist attacks. Here is a transcript of the second version: There is a young. It lasts approximately four minutes. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice. a twenty-three-year-old white woman who 152. twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence. At the same time. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. 154. And he does not bring up a specific issue. and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.com/story/news/feature/2004/11/05/bush_ads/print. He does not say education or the war. her mother got cancer. feel-good ad. 45 . He simply says to everyone in the room. motivating. Anyway. while „Ashley's Story‟ appealed to their emotions. And in a campaign known for its negative tone […] the commercial. The unique. Exit poll results that indicate "moral values" was a driving force among voters […] help explain the effectiveness of the ad. http://dir.000 times in swing states. The photo was soon turned into a TV ad campaign in favor of Bush and was broadcast over 30. South Carolina.salon. op. Because that was the cheapest way to eat. “A more perfect union” (Philadelphia. She did this for a year until her mom got better. she was let go and lost her health care. Many bring up a specific issue.
until her mother got better. her mother fell seriously ill (cancer). The use of hypotyposis p. The mention of “everyone at the roundtable” helps shift back to the metadiegetic level. “And she told everyone at the roundtable […].155 Obama is rewriting the anecdote.” Ashley‟s story is important because it helps establish who she is. giving more focus to the two people he considers the most important: Ashley and the elderly black man. This anonymity gives him a generic function. He stands as the anonymous representative of his community. and subsequently lost her job and health care. But before stating the elderly black man‟s reason for being there. He could almost be any elderly black man. 46 . quickening the pace before arriving at the last person: the elderly black man. which corresponds to the roundtable discussion. the war and the economy. beginning with “And Ashley said that when she was nine years old […]. Interestingly enough. The story is then told using a number of speech verbs associated to Ashley and an elderly black attending the discussion.organizes Obama‟s campaign in South Carolina. The intradiegetic level consists of the story Ashley told at the roundtable. 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. Because of the particular construction of Obama‟s anecdote.2.2. 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. saying that when she was nine. the occurrences of speech verbs are fairly numerous and so are complement clauses. hence fulfilling a symbolical function. „I am here because of Ashley. he delays its delivery again by giving details: “he simply says to everyone in the room.” and closing with. Ashley and the elderly black man symbolize the beginning of a new era for Obama and they also symbolize his campaign. To help her mother save money. The other people present are grouped into the personal pronoun “they” and are never singled out. Obama uses delaying techniques and builds up suspense. health care. The elderly black man never gets named.1. And even when he announces the answer. This will be discussed more at length in 3. Ashley ate relish sandwiches for a year. which he had never used before while telling this story. what kind of person she is. At its very end.‟” Obama impersonates the old man by using direct speech and thus shifting voices by using the pronoun “I”. It gives the impression that Obama is talking to his audience about something he had directly witnessed although it was not the case. For the 155. Their reasons for supporting the campaign are synthesized in two brief sentences.88. that is to say a sort of ordinary heroine. the story suddenly shifts from he/she/then/there to I/here/now. Ashley‟s personal story is framed by a speech verb followed by a complement clause.
2. 2009. age and race but can see themselves in the face of the other. Ashley is symbolically rewarded for her commitment by the elderly black man‟s gratitude and unexpected recognition.” Speech at Dr King‟s Church (Atlanta.” 158. March 18 2008”. Rhetoric & Public Affairs. Professor of 156. Obama has already managed to cross bridges.63. 159.3. Her physical description actually precedes her name: “There is a young.2. According to Evan Cornog. 12.” 159 Although Obama often repeated that the election was “not about [him]. See also 2. If the elderly black man can speak for a white young girl and not to voice his own interests. then Obama can speak for white voters. 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. 2.”160 the campaign was particularly centered on him. Obama’s personal narratives “My story is a quintessentially American story.1. 47 .C.158 The underlying message conveyed is that Obama‟s campaign can bring together people who could not be more different. The anecdote is also relevant for the message it sends to white voters. January 20.”157 Ashley and the old black man are direct opposites as regards sex.4. age and race.. “a young. South Carolina. Associated Press Annual Luncheon (Washington D. black speaker to white audience) raises the question of representation and disconnects it from ethnic and racial considerations. 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.sake of the argument. 157. his supporters are representatives of Obama‟s America. 2008). he cannot be named otherwise he would become a specific old black man. twenty-three year old white woman. “A more perfect union” p. 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. By bringing together people like Ashley and the elderly black man. 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. David A. Obama had pointed at the “moral deficit”. Vol. “empathy deficit” that characterized American society and which he defined as the “inability to recognize ourselves in one another. 156 which stand in sharp contrast with the physical portrait made of Ashley. April 14. 2008). The only details given to portray him are his sex. implying that visual differences are superficial and not fundamental. This reversed mirror effect (white speaker to black audience vs. Earlier in the speech. twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organizes for our campaign in Florence.
education and professional experience and a self-portrait as the embodiment of the American Dream. (New York City: Three Rivers Press. “pretty words” don‟t make things change and it had just “made [him] feel important. Associated Press Luncheon (Washington D. sometimes evoking his own daughters. “I was not born into money or status. entitled “The Audacity of Hope”. single mothers. 2008). It was about people who needed his help. 2008). Like the narratives of anonymous Americans.” Potomac Primary Night (Madison. August 28. 163. 162. February 12. 2008) and the Speech on Education (Dayton. health care (mother with cancer): After my grandfather served in World War II. 2007). The narrative was often used during the presidential campaign but Obama also included the stories of his relatives. Obama often declared that he “was not born into a lot of money”. 2008). can be seen as the matrix to most of his subsequent campaign speeches. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf.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. following the generational succession: grandparents. the Wisconsin Primary Night Speech (Houston. op. 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. p. 2008). the GI Bill gave him a chance to go to college. and to save enough to retire. 2nd edn). The expression was used in several speeches in April 28.. See also. January 3. 2008). before at the California Democratic Convention and afterward. "Presidential life stories are the most important tools of persuasion in American political life. To emphasize the contrast. February 19. November 7. 2008) and the “American Promise” or Acceptance Speech (Denver. to help raise me. February 12.” Barack OBAMA. Dreams from My Father. pp. 2008). working women. Obama‟s stories stood as a case for still believing in the American Dream. cit.161 Obama gained public recognition with the speech he delivered to support John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.” But his friend urged him to continue because “it [was] just not about him. It was mostly the case at the end of the primaries and afterward. The speech. June 30. worked hard at different jobs. the Indiana Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Indianapolis. the Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison. 2007. One of the key passages is devoted to Obama‟s personal story: his mixed roots. Obama told her that he would never again make a speech because it had been pointless. “The America We Love” (Independence. April 28. as in the Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. 2008). 2004. The references to his origins are sometimes reduced to his parents and his mixed origins.5. 48 .. Evan CORNOG. 2008). and were able to provide my mother with a decent education.C. 160. September 9.journalism at Columbia University. May 4. 161. After being congratulated by a friend shortly after he delivered his first speech. They moved West. The stories of his relatives can be found in “A more perfect union” (March 18. in the Final Primary Night Speech. then parents and finally his own story. This expression can be found in Obama‟s autobiography. contrasting sharply with George Bush‟s personal story of the political dynasty.162 The narratives were often given in the same order. and the government gave them a chance to buy a home.108-109.
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. Like the narratives of anonymous Americans. he mentioned the color of every member of his family. According to the speech in which they were included. 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). aimed at helping people buy a home. he emphasized the part played by the federal government in helping his family make progress (“This is a country that…” repeated several times). In “A more perfect union”. Obama‟s personal stories revolve around his family. The stories were the same but adapted to make a particular point. 165. Independence. Unlike the narratives of anonymous Americans which were aimed at describing the current social situation. never what they thought. Obama was more or less concise and insisted on different details. emblematic American family. 166. June 30. 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). 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. a metonymy of the wider American community. The stories were basically the same but were much more detailed in the speeches devoted to praising America and American values. November 7. 49 . which is a Democratic event. Obama‟s personal narratives were about the past and always ended as an apology of America and indirectly the American federal government. At the Indiana Jefferson Jackson Dinner. The Acceptance Speech (Denver.the GI Bill and the FHA loan164 for his grandfather). was introduced at the time of the New Deal.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). August 28. See “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. All the stories about Obama and about his relatives focused on a sense of sacrifice. 2007) and “The America We Love” (or Speech on Patriotism. 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. References to his father were rare and brief. which was presented as a typical. 2008). The measure. 2008).166 Obama‟s own story was indeed used to stress America‟s exceptionalism as he declared emphatically and 164.
Precisely because Obama is a metaphor of America‟s core values and notion of progress. c‟est l‟art du storytelling porté à son incandescence”. Il a mis en scène le voyage du héros : Hawaï. 2008 on www. the hard work and the progress made despite the odds and circumstances. Obama rewrote the family‟s story into a typically American myth with the move westward. August 28.fr/television/christian-salmon-obama-c-est-l-art-du-storytelling-porte-a-sonincandescence. Obama constitue un événement symbolique au sens strict. Yet.170 which explains why his personal story as well as that of his family were given such focus in his speeches. places. Chicago. hence giving more weight to his call for national unity. through Djakarta.”167 Obama sought to present his story as a quintessentially American one. Télérama. Posted on June 6.html).. He staged the journey of the hero: from Hawaii.hyperbolically.ilovepolitics. His relatives were depicted as everyday heroes.. http://television. Chicago to Washington. 2008 that his “story could only happen in the United States of America. Obama defines his relatives as being his “heroes” in his Acceptance Speech (Denver.35081. Obama can bridge gaps between races. Los Angeles. “Obama tend à une Amérique désorientée un miroir où se recomposent des éléments de sens fragmentés depuis le 11 septembre. with the upward mobility as in Horatio Alger‟s typical rags-to-riches stories. The declaration echoes one he had made in “The Audacity of Hope” (July 27.info (www.” 168. 50 .info/avec-obama-c-est-toute-une-amerique-qui-retrouve-ses-reperesperdus-depuis-le-11-septembre_a617.168 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. posted on November 21. “Obama. vecteurs de signes. jalonné par les références à Abraham Lincoln ou à Martin Luther King qui l‟inscrivent dans l‟histoire américaine. Djakarta.php. 170. punctuated by references to Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King which make him part of American history.” Interview of Christian Salmon to Sophie BOURDAIS. 2008). Indeed. 2008). 2004).ilovepolitics. ” Christian Salmon interviewed by Marjorie PAILLON and Julien LANDFRIED. It was the first time Obama mentioned what his grandmother thought and “uttered” instead of solely focusing on what she did. March 18. Perhaps to counter attacks on his lack of patriotism and on his being a true American.169 Thanks to his journey through space and time and his biracial roots. insisting on her bias against young black men and her stereotypes. performatif. 2008. C‟est-à-dire un événement non pas „fondateur‟ ou „historique‟ mais „séminal‟. Washington… C‟est aussi un voyage dans le temps.telerama. It is also a journey through time. Los Angeles. Obama said on January 3. porteurs de signes. “I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible. 167. times and embody unity. 169. “David Axelrod. 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.” […] Obama incarne une nouvelle génération d'hommes politiques qui méritent d'être qualifiés de sémio-politiciens. he helped rebuild and revive America‟s fundamental beliefs. “A more perfect union” (Philadelphia. son conseiller a créé une véritable légende: celle d‟un homme global à l‟ère de la globalisation.
Forging unity through words 2. It was the case in particular in the Announcement Speech 171. 172. 2004) and again in the 2008 campaign. blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them. it was the whole purpose of his campaign and the main object of his discursive strategy. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America. there are those who are preparing to divide us. 173. The sentence was first used in “The Audacity of Hope” (Boston. “This is not America. all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes. Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison. 2007).2. This is not who we are.2. August 28. October 2. Redefining America’s national identity “Out of many we are truly one. The pundits .1.”171 As we have seen in 1. March 18. “A New Beginning” (Chicago. Obama devoted large sections of his speeches to praise America and the American spirit but he also redefined American identity. and we don't like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the red states. January 26.unity was not only evoked through symbols. We coach little league in the blue states and. 51 . by combining the verb “to share”. 2008). 2004). the adjective “common”. 2008). “A more perfect union” (Philadelphia. the adverb “together” or the quantifier “all” which abolishes all differences. yes. It is in that speech that his definition of American identity can first be found: Now even as we speak. The matrix for all his speeches is the keynote address he delivered at the 2004 DNC Convention. We are one people. I say to them tonight. “The Audacity of Hope” (Boston. July 27. the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. the spin masters.172 Obama rejected the divisions as being un-American. and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. too. Well. February 12. July 27.2. 2008). there's the United States of America.the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans. 2008) and in “The American Promise”(Denver. there's not a liberal America and a conservative America. we've got some gay friends in the red states. The use of the BE copula is paramount in such contexts of (either positive or negative) definition and redefinition. all of us defending the United States of America. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq. generally in the epilogue: South Carolina Primary Night Speech (Columbia. there's the United States of America. We worship an awesome God in the blue states.”173 To establish this sense of unity.2 Praise of America and Americans. 2. Obama insisted on a rhetoric of unity.
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.” New Hampshire Speech (Nashua. our policies. 2008). According to Gary Wills. not partisan. Gary WILLS. 179. which implies that “he is my keeper. and women to Seneca Falls. but for each other. 180.html. November 7. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. The Huffington Post. “Obama as told by George Lakoff”. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. and workers to picket lines and factory fences.1. George LAKOFF in David WINER.” Obama‟s definition of American identity and as a corollary of American patriotism is based on core values that are moral and consensual. see 3.7.not just for ourselves. May 20. The New York Review of Books. posted on February 27. 2007) in which Barack Obama declared that he would be running for President. November 7. I am my sister's keeper . 2007). 178. that dream is worth fighting for .24 for the analysis of the contrast between “ourselves” and ”each other”. November 7. “It's what sent my grandfather's generation to beachheads in Normandy. 2007). Obama insists on reciprocal responsibility with the use of the compound pronoun “each other” and the genitive used in a sentence with generic meaning.(February 10.3. that through hard work and sacrifice each of us can pursue our individual dreams.”175 In the epilogue. this reflects an approach which is typical of the Black Church. The pronoun “I” here has a generic meaning and represents anyone.176 is that we stand up and fight for each other's dreams.” 177.huffingtonpost. 2008) 181. See p. The expression is used in “The American Promise” (or Acceptance Speech): “It is that promise that's always set this country apart. what makes us one American family.through our politics. No. as well.55. Obama offered a consensual definition of what bound Americans together. a US journalist and historian. “It was the call of workers who organized. Looking at the world through the prism of Black Church values p.180 “I” is only used and defined in its interrelation with others. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. and in our daily lives. that we reaffirm that fundamental belief . 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. And what binds us together. but still come together as one American family. 2007). while they were seen by conservatives as socialist anti-American actions. 2008. Obama also insisted on collective responsibility as being the essence of American identity.”179 This allowed Obama to include episodes of workers‟ collective action as being fundamentally American. America is the sum of our dreams. to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams. May 1. the American Dream was redefined as being not just an individual pursuit but a collective pursuit: “Because in this country. 52 . I am my sister‟s keeper. 175.com/dave-winer/obama-as-told-by-george-l_b_88772. Vol. 176.I am my brother's keeper.” Kentucky Oregon Night Speech (Des Moines.” 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. January 8. 181 “I am my brother‟s keeper”. 2008 on http://www.89. “Two Speeches On Race”. For more on this. One of Obama‟s most 174.
”185 This “oracle effect” as Bourdieu defines it186 is given special prominence in Obama‟s speeches because of the political strategy associated to it. “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. using the copula BE to equate the plural “we” to the singular “one nation”. 1961) 185.” Walter FISCHER..”182 This is another way to define Americans.4. “Rhetorical Fiction and the Presidency. 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.2. p. Moving beyond the question of patriotism used by the Republicans to define who is and who is not American.1.183 2. Last Week Speech (Canton. Determining who “we” refers to “I believe in the power of the American people to be the real agents of change in this country. but what you can do for your country.674. 182. p. 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. Kennedy‟s address to Americans: “Don‟t ask what your country can do for you. January 20. 2001).60. quoted in Ryan Lee TETEN. December 27. which symbolizes unity. This partly echoes in substance John F. Obama delineated a definition of the nation that is closer to the French Republican definition than the traditional American one.2. 2007) and Final Campaign Speech (Manassas.”184 Among the other discursive strategies to create unity through words is the use of the personal pronoun “we”. 184.” Quarterly Journal of Speech. pp. References to race prior to “A more perfect union” p. U. April 1980. 183.120. presidents must find ways of breathing life into the otherwise abstract notion of American political community.2. 2007).8. Langage et pouvoir symbolique (Paris : Seuil Essais.” (Inaugural Address.. The expression “one nation” was taken up in many other speeches.] L‟effet d‟oracle. As Vanessa Beasley points out. November 3. 2004). 2008). As for Walter Fischer. Vanessa BEASLEY. or an American „we‟. Vol.. ” Pierre BOURDIEU. 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. 186. cit.frequent sentences to define Americans was: “We are one nation.1.S.66.2. “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. The idea is further developed in 2. all of us patriots. or even an American presidency at all. Use of the personal pronoun “we” (and possessive determiner “our”) 2.269-270.2. 53 . You the people: American national identity in presidential rhetoric (College Station: Texas A&M University Press. [. October 27. p. op.
John M. reaching to Republicans and Independents alike. I.190 Except in the speeches delivered in front of Democrats. who was often seen as a reference by Obama. she defined herself as the solution to the crisis.” The context was obviously widely different as the secession was well under way. January 8. with Obama. Obama gave that speech in Cooper Union. it was thanks to that speech that Lincoln had been elected. whose occurrences were more frequent than the exclusive “we”. He explicitly used the personal pronoun “you” to refer to the Southerners. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. 2007). workers and businesses. 2008 when Obama was invited to speak in Martin Luther King‟s Church. 2008) and Indiana (Indianapolis. “Renewing the American Economy” (New York. For many. “Rhetoric: From Aristotle to Obama (Yes We Can)” http://motherpie.George Lakoff noted that Obama‟s speeches were characterized by “we. 188. Obama shifted between an exclusive “we” referring to African Americans or Democrats and an inclusive “we”. Vol. 54 . chose a different strategy to address his countrymen. we will care for our veterans […]. 1861). they don't get to buy every chair. Obama‟s inclusive “we” here clearly encompasses groups of people opposing each other. we” while Hillary Clinton‟s speeches focused on “I. In his first Inaugural Address. but friends. we. 2008). “Political Economy and Rhetorical Matter”. Obama sought to reach out to all Americans.192 In fact. Democrats and Republicans together. 190. 2008). 192.com/motherpie/2008/rhetoricfrom-a. Lincoln. March 27. he often associated action verbs with the pronoun “we”. we will end this war in Iraq and bring our troops home. people were seen as “agents.typad. 191. MURPHY. In Iowa (Des Moines. February 9. 187. 187 In Obama‟s speeches. and we can tell the drug and insurance industry that while they'll get a seat at the table. is the momentous issue of civil war. as in the Jefferson Jackson Dinners191 or in front of exclusively African American audiences as was the case on January 20. and not in mine. I”. The use of the pronoun “we” in the speech clearly implied the existence of two opposite sides. we will finish the job against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. 2008). No. “we” represent the solution because it depended upon the choices that the American people made. Rhetoric and Public Affairs. “The American experiment has worked in large part because we guided the market‟s invisible hand with a higher principle. “In your hands. “We are not enemies. […] And when I am President. embedded in history‟s journey.”188 While in Hillary Clinton‟s speeches. even in the specifically homogenous audiences mentioned.2.12.” (March 4. The Government will not assail you. Jefferson Davis had been inaugurated President of the Confederation two weeks before Lincoln was sworn in as President of the United States. This shows that even in front of specific audiences he feels a part of.html. 189. p. where Lincoln had delivered his anti-slavery oration in 1860.303 ff. New Hampshire Primary Speech (Nashua. 2009. May 4. my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen. Virginia (Richmond. 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. November 10. We must not be enemies. Obama exclusively used an all-inclusive “we”.”189 Because Obama sees people as “the real agents of change”.
The Washington Post. To some extent.In “The Audacity of Hope”. It was taken up with variations during the 2008 campaign. 2. favoring their own interests at the expense of the public good. Obama‟s discourse is anti-elitist in nature. “The Audacity of Hope” (July 27. the “skeptics”. they will not get a job in my White House. “We” here could actually be replaced by “some of us”. 55 . Although the word is never mentioned. Obama‟s discourse resonates with Jacksonian echoes. and “those who are preparing to divide us”195 who were never identified by name and they 193.2. and we don‟t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the red states. Obama is explicitly referring to two different and opposed sections of the society. It is more effective however to use the personal pronoun “we” “than the expression “some of us” as it expresses a fragmentation. 2004). Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines. stating that “he [was] not one of them.” The identification is fairly complex. 195. 194. 194 For Obama. or at least collusion. Alec MacGILLIS and Gerald R. 2007). and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am President. 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). Gerald R. The pronoun “we” is used to represent Americans and enabled Obama to identify with both Democrats and Republicans.2. Obama uses the pronoun “we” in a special way: “We worship an awesome God in the blue states. Schuster from the University of Pittsburgh explained that it was important for Obama to “emphasize the argument for separation”.2. a separation with the extraction from the group. They are anti-democratic forces and hold real power in Washington. By using “we” in this exclusive sense. Obama can discursively (and symbolically) join both groups. a form of corruption. Opposing “we” to “they” Obama frequently and harshly criticized the “lobbyists” and “special interests” in Washington who control America. November 10. is here pointed at. In his analysis of Obama‟s stump speech. Obama also used the personal pronoun “they” to refer to the “cynics”. “lobbyists” and “special interests” are seen as threats to democratic principles. defending the common man against special interests. “Anatomy of a Stump Speech”.”193 I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists – and won. 26 February 2008. SHUSTER. They have not funded my campaign.
For more on this deliberate ambiguity. Then. Anyone knows who he is referring to. 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.2.were never clearly defined. it is immediately followed by an inclusive reference (country “[coming] together”) so that anyone in the audience can feel directly addressed to. it is more subtle and it enabled him to focus on the object of his criticism: the attitude of pointing at scapegoats. then back again to the pronoun „I” to respond to criticisms leveled at him and to tell his personal story. 56 . the pronoun “they” was not even pronounced but was strongly implied when Obama used the passive form as in. ambiguous reference.3. “They” is later specified as representing the “skeptics”. The shifts correspond to the various parts of Obama‟s speeches which alternate between the personal perspective (personal story and 196.2. They said our sights were set too high. He concluded by urging his listeners to join him and win together. “We‟re divided into Red States and Blue States. it is open to various interpretations without pointing at anyone in particular. 196 The racial reference is stronger for not being explicit. By remaining a vague. 2. too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. those who believe that race was still a barrier in America although this is never said explicitly. and told always to point the finger at somebody else – the other party.215 p. They said this country was too divided. The most famous use of the pronoun “they” by Obama was in the opening lines of the Iowa Caucus Night Speech: You know.63. Shifting back and forth between “we” and “I” As most candidates and Presidents in office. they said this day would never come. or immigrants. Sometimes. “Turn the page” speech. To mention the agent would have put emphasis on it (end-focus). 2007). or gay people. (San Diego. 197. Does “our” refer to Democrats (or people) supporting him? African Americans? The Obama campaign team? Though this possessive determiner is clearly exclusive. see n.”197 Obama can not mention the agent because it is not necessary. not the people responsible for fostering such attitude. Obama often shifted between “we” and “I”. April 27.
1961: “Don‟t ask what your country can do for you. and what you will do. and your dreams.” 199 As was pointed out earlier. see Franck RICH. the pronoun “I” was often used in combination with the modal auxiliary “will” but hardly ever with a performative verb.1.political commitment) and a larger perspective (account of the problems faced by Americans. Bush‟s 2000 Inaugural Address. op. cit. op-ed. As Ryan Lee Teten pointed out in his analysis of George W. Obama somehow echoed Kennedy‟s famous quote in his Inaugural Address on January 20. “Ask Not What J. “Turn the Page” Speech (San Diego..2. pp. 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. 2008. Hillary Clinton often focused on the first personal pronoun. Ryan Lee TETEN. When she did use the pronoun “we”. February 3. 199.K. it's about you.”200 Generally. 2007). it's about your hopes. Though not yet elected. the shifts between the pronouns “we” and “I” allowed Obama to appear as “one of them” and also as their potential and prospective leader. praise of America and Americans). As we pointed out in 1. It was the case in Hillary Clinton‟s speeches as it had formerly been the case in Reagan‟s speeches when he was campaigning. April 28. it was an inclusive “we” which she associated with state verbs. 57 . Because there are few obstacles that can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change. Can Do for Obama”. Indeed. not just for the election. For more parallels between John Kennedy and Barack Obama.2.F. for example “we know”. 200. With action verbs. 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. 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.”198 The pronoun “I” enabled Obama to present what his actions as President of the United States of America would be. “You” referred to the voters who were not considered as agents of change by Clinton: 198. 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. she used more generally an exclusive “we” to refer to her team or later her Administration. but what you can do for your country. The New York Times.669. presidential candidates use the pronoun “I” to set themselves forward.
p. 201.2. It was used each time Obama explained why he had decided to run for President. if not imperialistic. Le discours d’investiture des présidents américains ou les paradoxes de l’éloge (Paris : Harmattan.“We came back tonight because you spoke loudly and clearly. especially at the beginning of the campaign and then in speeches delivered at key-moments: in the Final Primary Speech. The full name was hardly ever used by Senator McCain during his campaign.3. 202. In addition to focusing on the notion of unity.”202 It lent more solemnity to the function. Hillary Clinton. calling.76. 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). 203. 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. You want this campaign to be about you because there is so much at stake for our country. 58 .203 It is indeed more frequent in Obama‟s speeches than “the United States”. 2003). Luc BENOÎT À LA GUILLAUME. not about what will be done after the election. it was also a way to sacralize the country by not reducing it to a combination of initial letters. 2008). 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. it is clearly with the election in mind. Obama‟s notion of unity was predominant and was delineated into a cohesive discursive strategy.”201 When she associates “you” with an action verb. The functions of the toponyms Barack Obama used the expression “the United States of America”. in the Acceptance Speech. that is to say the full institutional name of the country. 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. The words “President” was hence often coalesced with the expression “the United States of America. which marked the beginning of the campaign against McCain. It is interesting to note that Obama never used the acronym. New Hampshire Primary Night Speech (January 8. 2. Obama generally used “the United States” in association with the title: “president of the United States of America”.
MOTS. March 2008. Obama sometimes used that metonymy: “America. 2004). 206. the people will rise up in November. A post-racial discourse? There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America. partisan divisions. “America” can more easily refer to the nation than the institutional designation of “the United States of America” can. the identification was possible. it was not just to defend a political vision but to convince voters that. If Obama presented America as a united country. It therefore helps reinforce the idea of unity. “The Audacity of Hope” (Boston. For Obama. it was even more delicate. the stakes of presenting a unitary vision of the country were hence also very personal. he used either “our country”. “this country” or “America”. Georgeta CISLARU. August 28. from Florida to Oregon. 2007) and in The Acceptance Speech (Denver.2.” 205. Apart from these imperialistic undertones. The metonymy was also used to introduce the epilogue of “The Audacity of Hope” in 2004: “America. It was also used in the speech against the war in Iraq (October 2. “Le nom de pays comme outil de représentation sociale”. fragmented nation prevails even at the institutional level and has therefore a paramount influence on how Americans view their country. 2007). The fact that it is possible to use America as a metonymy for Americans reinforces the reference to the American nation.4. Obama‟s speeches sought to overcome.”204 For Georgeta Cisleru.When he had to mention the country. That was also the case with racial divisions but in that case. there's the United States of America. Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines.206 As America is a country where official censuses classify people according to racial criteria.53. if you feel the same energy that I do. tonight. such a use of a country‟s name operates as a “semantic integrator”205 which permits to represent the nation as a unitary entity. Les langages du politique. Through his discursive strategies. he could represent them all. the representation of the country as a divided. at least with words. November 10. our moment is now. 2. 204. from Washington to Maine. and John Kerry will be sworn in as president. 59 . July 27. 2008). if you feel the same passion that I do […] then I have no doubt that all across the country. he sought to stand at a superior level. p. although he belonged to a “visible” ethnic minority.
Vol. the mention of his skin color is strangely missing: My parents shared not only an improbable love. Marc Lawrence McPHAIL. Obama here “romanticizes the historical realities of black suffering and borders on the stereotypical image of the „happy darkie‟ of traditional racism. Obama mainly focused on the hope and the common goals. p. By reducing slavery to a trauma among others.2.” For McPhail. Even when he listed the obstacles that might have hampered his social ascension. FRANK and Mark Lawrence McPHAIL. Compromise. The reference is implicit in the places he mentioned (Kenya. 60 . a particularly underprivileged African American area as well as his successful professional career. without giving any special focus to the past traumas and present grievances of the African Americans and overlooking white responsibility. In the speech that gained him public recognition at the 2004 Democratic Convention. they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. The autobiographical lines sound more like the praise of a mythical America. he is an African American with a direct connection with both Africa and America.”207 In addition. “f”. and the (Im)possibility of Racial Reconciliation”. Unlike most blacks in the U. Winter 2005. soldiers). Barack.. he emphasized his bi-racial roots and his experience as a community organizer in the South Side of Chicago. The epilogue was lyrical with a rhythm heightened by the use of anaphora and the use of alliterations (“s”. “r” and “g” in the sentence on slavery). because in a generous America . They would give me an African name.2. 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.4.S. Consilience. “Barack Obama's Address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention: Trauma. common ideals and common future uniting all Americans.you don't have to be rich to achieve your potential." believing that in a tolerant America. or "blessed. depicted as a magic land than as a realistic account of his life.S. “Obama‟s Menexenusian Message” in David A. the sentence is one item in a list in which Obama evoked other traumatic experiences (immigrants. No. even though they weren't rich.1. Obama sought to recognize the past and present hardships of all those he was addressing and 207.8. though. The uses of the noun “faith” and the verbs “believe” and “imagine” are quite telling. Rhetoric & Public Affairs. 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. with the trauma of slavery and segregation. South Side of Chicago). Obama never mentioned any direct references to color.583.4. They imagined me going to the best schools in the land. your name is no barrier to success.
that wasn‟t African-American history we were celebrating. When Hispanics lose their jobs faster than almost anybody else. 2007). “Turn the Page” speech (San Diego. Clinton during the primaries but gradually shifted to Obama once the primaries were over. it was a necessary corollary for him to redefine the past (and present) as a common and shared experience.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. op. McPHAIL. The aim of the attack was to prevent the marchers from reaching Montgomery. a white scholar who considered it as a successful discursive strategy of consilience209 to achieve reconciliation and Lawrence McPhail. 1965.. April 28..211 people tapped me on the back and said. that's an American problem. i. no.208 It is not surprising therefore that the 2004 speech has not been received in the same way by David A. a black scholar who considered it revealed an old vision of racelessness influenced by the whites‟ “dominant rhetorical tropes: innocence. http://articles. the 42nd anniversary of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. “Poll: 'Sharp reversal' for Obama with Latino voters” . you don't understand. Being identified as the candidate of the African Americans would prevent the other communities from identifying with him. op. in Selma. oh.tone down the specificity of any group. 2008. or work jobs that pay less. cit.572. cit. July 24. The section can be found at the end of the speech just before the lyrical outburst of the epilogue. and come with fewer benefits than almost anybody else. That was American history that we were celebrating. Because Obama insisted so much on the common future. The Latinos had heavily supported H.” McPHAIL. On March 7. “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‟. and a nursing mother is torn away from her baby by an 208. p. op. 61 . Ed HORNICK. that isn't just a HispanicAmerican problem. 211.. 213.582.e. race neutrality. 210. that's an American problem. peaceful civil rights demonstrators were violently attacked by the police. that isn't a Hispanic-American problem.com/2008-07-24/politics/pew.. When twelve million people live in hiding in this country and hundreds of thousands of people cross our borders illegally each year. p.cnn. positive selfpresentation”. Frank. 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. 209.poll_1_obama-latino-voters-full-poll?_s=PM:POLITICS. the Alabama state capital.” David A. cit. This was the strategy delineated for the campaign in 2007-2008: When I came back from that celebration. 212. 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. p. when companies hire undocumented workers instead of legal citizens to avoid paying overtime or to avoid a union.583. what a wonderful celebration of African-American history that must have been.latino. 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.CNN. FRANK and Mark Lawrence McPHAIL.
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”. But we are here tonight to say that this is not the America we believe in. I saw crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children. but the United States of America. Interestingly enough. “that‟s an American problem”). Speech at the LULAC Convention (Washington D. I saw South Carolina. then there was not a black candidate and white candidates but just American candidates. Obama played on the perception which could be visual but also intellectual.. When he spoke about race. July 8. I saw shuttered mills and homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from all walks of life. and fight together. and brown – must solve as one nation. he mainly focused on the issue of responsibility and in particular individual responsibility. white. Obama never addressed the question of his own biracial roots directly but always indirectly. that is a problem that all of us – black. Obama was primarily defined in the media as the first major black candidate. I saw what America is. blacks and Latinos can't come together. In the speech delivered at the LULAC Convention. and I believe in what this country can be. the idea was given more weight as it came as a leitmotiv at the end of each sentence (epistrophe). 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. If there was not a white America and a black America. 2008).immigration raid. It is interesting to note that when Obama is specifically addressing the black community (Speech at Ebenezer Church and at the NAACP Convention). hence adopting a conservative approach. 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. The section is used at the beginning of the speech to describe the problems the community is facing. Obama developed the same idea at the South Carolina Primary Night Speech on January 26. The 214.C. and bleed together under the same proud flag. 62 . and men and women of every color and creed who serve together. By using the verb “see”. 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. The two notions are here combined and intertwined. whites can't support the African-American candidate. I did not travel around this state over the last year and see a white South Carolina or a black South Carolina. 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. Obama redefined American history (use of the BE copula) after denying the common assumption and representation (use of the BE copula with the negation).
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.
to develop concrete projects to meet these goals and begin together to implement them. to identify common goals for the future.” 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. p. Obama in fact insists on his close connection with Wright. quoted in David A. that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming the victims of our past. In Search Of Human Nature (London: Routledge. 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. Obama disarms race for white people by largely avoiding the topic.” 232. second.583.CLARK. a former key-leader of the Civil Rights Movement and former chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (NSCC). p. Obama again uses the mirror effect to give voice to the two sides‟ grievances. to address the past as seen by each side. 2008. 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.” But echoing Wright‟s urge to self-help. Lawrence McPhail blamed Obama‟s 2004 Keynote Address for failing to address the specific problems the black community was confronted to.” It was in particular the case in a speech delivered on February 21. is troubling […]: it ignores the structural and historical conditions that gave rise to such attitudes. February 14.229 According to Mary E.. FRANK and Mark Lawrence McPHAIL. cit. 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‟. making him the axis (or rather centre) of the symmetry. “[Obama‟s] lack of discussion of race. 231.”230 In “A more perfect union”. In fact it isn‟t even past. And they are part of America. cit. op.” Lawrence McPHAIL. Obama recognizes their specific difficulties but also expresses the usually secret stereotypes and 229. “The past isn‟t dead and buried. Mary E. p. Obama also calls on the blacks‟ own responsibility: “For the African-Americans community. he makes sure to juxtapose the traumas experienced by nonblacks with those experienced by AfricanAmericans. The section devoted to Wright and Obama‟s grandmother ends with a declaration of patriotism. reconciliation can only be effective if it involves: “First. Slate. 2005 to honor Rep. To insist on how much the past determines the present. Obama had already used that mirror structure previously: “Bill Clinton disarmed race for blacks by inviting them to talk about it. 230. Jack SHAFER. “How Obama Does That Thing He Does”. and on a wider scale. Because Obama is at the centre of the symmetry.368.Obama‟s speech. the contradictions of America: “These people are part of me. The mirror effect created by juxtaposing and confronting Wright to his own grandmother puts Obama at the centre of the symmetrical approach.. but without ever equating the two. John Lewis. this country that I love. 66 . Obama quotes Faulkner. Clark.232 By using this polyphony. op. When he does talk about race. 2002). he can embody the contradictions of the two communities.” The use of the deictics “this”/”these” reinforces the self-referential strategy used by Obama. third. who is “like family” and therefore makes the reflection with his grandmother even more relevant.583.
such features of white racism against blacks are transhistoric. One of Lévinas‟s key-ideas: “God is found in the face of the other. The story urges people to see themselves in the face of the Other. FRANK.do?diaryld=4751. 237. To close his speech. 236. 234. David A. No. 235.235 Obama considers that episodes like segregation are over while for Wright.12. Obama sees the problems as common political problems. the adverbs “all” and “together”. ibid. Frank. p. optimistic tone to the speech. That story of recognition of an elderly black man in a young white woman is. Rhetoric and Public Affairs. however different they are. it is Ashley Baia‟s story.openleft. He develops once more the rhetoric of unity that he has developed since he announced his candidacy: use of the adjective “common”. no matter what they said about us. 233.” This echoes an idea developed by King in a sermon he delivered on December 5. ibid.2. uttering prejudices against the other community they would not generally dare express in public. The anecdote which illustrates and calls for “pure empathy” 238 gives a last.237 although for both Lévinas and King.anger that are only heard in “hush parlors”233 and widen mutual misunderstanding. The anecdote is the one he used to close the speech he had delivered two months before at the Ebenezer Church. Frank. FRANK.com/showDiary. Even the two people involved in the anecdote are connected to Obama as they are defined as supporters from South Carolina. trying to overcome and “work through”234 past trauma instead of “acting it out” as is the case in “hush harbors”.236 He never mentions the agents of the discriminations blacks have to suffer. Clark had defined to make reconciliation effective. Obama actually uses the expression in the speech. “No matter how bad [white Southerners] are. http://www. 2009. “A more perfect union” responds to the three requirements Mary E. That reinforces the “self-referential” essence of the speech and gives credibility to what he suggests. recognition in the face of the Other is mediated through the image of God. permanent features or racial relations in the US. see David A. no matter what they do to us. 67 . Obama uses an anecdote to illustrate his urge for Americans to “find that common stake we all have in one another”.” For a more detailed analysis. Unlike “The Audacity of Hope”. 1957. we must still believe that in the most recalcitrant segregationist there is the image of God. according to David A. 238. “Hush parlors” are places like the barber shop or the Church where people from a community feel free to say exactly what they think. “The Prophetic Voice and the Face of the Other in Barack Obama‟s „a More Perfect union‟ Address. hence requiring unity and political solutions. Obama‟s speech has a clear therapeutic purpose. “Much More Than Race : What Makes a Great Speech Great”. FRANK.167ff. George LAKOFF. For David A. 2008”. Vol. David A. March 18. strongly influenced by both Lévinas and by the prophetic voice of MLK.
the pauses are less frequent and much shorter than the first time he told the story. What the tone reveals beyond the message Interestingly enough.2. fairly monotonous voice when delivering “A more perfect union”.1 Presentation of Ashley Baia at Dr King‟s Church (January 20. It is in fact fairly striking to analyze the differences between the delivery at Dr King‟s Church and at the Constitutional Center.3. sudden upward intonations along the delivery at Dr King‟s Church. 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.4. 2008)239 . the yellow line the variations of intensity.PRAAT 239. A comparison between the two presentations of Ashley Baia shows that Obama maintains a lower. The variations of pitch are fairly homogeneous while there are a number of his characteristic. 68 .2. The blue line indicates the variations of pitch. Fig. 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.
lpl. the pauses characterize the black pulpit influence.pdf.” The marked pauses in the speech delivered at Ebenezer Church occurred between each functional unit: between subject and verb.55 second in “A more perfect union”.univ-aix. 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”. Danielle DUEZ. Vol.2 Presentation of Ashley Baia in “A more perfect union” (March 18. Danielle Duez.1. 1999.7. 242.240 The slower rhythm is here due to a significant lengthening of the vowels. The tone of a preacher p. 2008) .64 second in the speech given at Dr King‟s Church while it only lasts 0.” and 5. Faits de langues. 69 . the delivery lasts 0.242 Obama‟s 240. “La fonction symbolique des pauses dans la parole de l‟homme politique”.1” for Obama to say “Ashley has been working to organize mostly black folks. They were characteristic of the symbolic. who studied how French politicians in power and in the opposition speak.PRAAT It takes 5.13.Fig. This will be discussed in 3.fr/~fulltext/895. No.2. however. 241. But the pauses are not enough to account for the longer delivery.2.241 In the case of Barack Obama.58 second in “A more perfect union” (no contraction being made to quicken the pace). 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. http://aune.2” to say “She‟s been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign. For “to organize”.96. hierarchical distance between those in charge and ordinary citizens.77 second for “has been working” but only 0. showed that pauses were symbolic markers of power.
delivery of the “race speech” was much less stylistically and ethnically marked: no significant variations or specific pauses. expressing understanding for the deep-seated. For more on “code-switching”. 70 . 2008.” Dennis BRODER. “Rhetoric and Speaking Style Affect the Clinton-Obama Race”. News. which consists in the use of words that have a different meaning for African Americans.” Stephanie HOLMES. Obama effectively attained a superior position and talked like a statesman thanks to his capacity to sound calm. This. For Dennis Broder. what characterizes the “black-cent” is the contours of the vowels and aspects of the intonations. March 25.” Kent GARBER.S. The speech mostly received positive comments248 and enabled Obama to boost his campaign.uk/2/hi/americas/7735014. a staff writer of The Washington Post. Jennifer Jackson.studio360. “Humeur vagabonde”. emotionless and in control at a time of fierce and raging controversy. 245.Obama's finest. lingering resentments of each and presenting himself as the embodiment of unity. as one of Mr. 248. “A more perfect union” was “a presidential address”. 2009. not just “black folks” but all Americans. March 23. “A president-preacher from anaphora to epistrophe” The Sydney Morning Herald. “Many commentators pinpoint the "A More Perfect Union" speech.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.and on the touchiest issue in American life. these speeches have been campaign rhetoric. The “black-cent” is different from Black English (or Ebonics). her ability to change voice enables her to impersonate Americans from various ethnic communities. Obama had to use the language of mainstream politics when addressing virtually all Americans. 2008. which is considered as a “dialect” with its syntactic specificities (double negatives). 2010. It was a speech which wrapped the experience of different races together. 247.Obama's candidacy but his response managed to tackle the question of race in US society with delicacy. The show was based on “code-switching”. For George Lakoff. stylistically. http://news. a specialist in linguistic anthropology at the University of Toronto. listen to the discussion between Sarah Jones and linguist John McWorther: http://www.co. 2008. 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”. As it was intended as a solemn speech.247 By adopting a serene and controlled voice. For John McWorther. using signifiyin‟. Interview of John McWORTHER. 243. which had to be specifically established given his college education and white upbringing. November 17. was largely a presidential address . Reverend Jeremiah Wright. posted on November 19. “The Real Value of Obama‟s Speech”. American actress Sarah Jones wrote and performed a theatrical show entitled “Bridge and Tunnel” in which she performed several different characters. made in March 2008 in the aftermath of a scandal about his former pastor. 246. The Washington Post. France Inter. “Obama: Oratory and Originality” BBC News. he has been writing and giving exceptionally effective addresses.stm.bbc. explained that “the story in the [Ebenezer Church] was more fitting.org/2008/oct/24/sounding-black/. U. 244. however. But almost without exception.245 Professor John Dyson insisted on the specific way Obama sometimes addressed the black community. Michael Eric DYSON.246 Using the “black-cent” and signifyin‟ when addressing black audiences conveyed a sense of belonging. January 19. “All year long. Evidence of Rev Wright's inflammatory sermons risked irrevocably damaging Mr. because [Obama] was in a church with the intonation and lift.
and what politics should be fundamentally about. Abraham Lincoln. a frequent idea in Martin Luther King‟s speeches. and are to be. EINHORN. which received mediocre if not downright negative reviews then.94. It was the case in particular for Roosevelt.254 According to Luc Benoît à la Guillaume. 249. See 3. George LAKOFF. p. cit. October 2. 253. The two men were both lawyers whose oratorical skills are widely praised today253 . 250. 251.1 Using MLK‟s words p. 252.65. The manifold parallels with Lincoln251 “He tells us that there is power in words. 255. p.”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.“A more perfect union” is a great speech because.250 2. Gary WILLS.5. it “transcends its immediate occasion and addresses […] the most vital of issues: what America is about. like any other great speech. For more parallels between Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln: Anne JOCTEUR MONROZIER “La référence Lincoln”. op. it was not the case at the time he delivered the Gettysburg Address. 2007). Lincoln is a key source of inspiration in times of crisis. 2007) is frequently stressed in Obama‟s speeches and is directly connected to the idea that it was necessary to act very quickly. Barack Obama about Abraham Lincoln. January 13.”252 The major political figure to which Obama kept looking to during the campaign is Abraham Lincoln.com/showDiary. the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport: Greenwood Press. France Info. “Announcement Speech” (Springfield. 71 . as Americans. February 10. both were Senators representing Illinois and both were candidates at a time where the nation was deeply divided. This awareness of the country being at a “pivotal moment” (Chicago. op. 1992). cit. 2009.. who we are.do?diaryld=4751.” Lois J. Luc BENOÎT À LA GUILLAUME. “Much More Than Race : What Makes a Great Speech Great”.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.106.openleft. http://www.3. 254. “If Lincoln is now widely seen as a great orator.2.
000 inhabitants. however. February 10th. 256. Obama chose to deliver his last speech of the campaign. only stopping at Wilmington where Biden lived and got on the train and then Baltimore. encounters between the President-elect and his citizens. was also symbolic as the speech was given on the eve of the 198th anniversary of Lincoln‟s birth. the population of Manassas City is under 37. and instead of departing from Springfield. hence making it the starting-point of the historic journey which led him to the White House. 260. Census Bureau. Obama‟s journey lasted only one day. Obama attracted and gathered a huge and impressive audience of 100.S. 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. The speech was delivered on June 16.260 The journey.5. Interestingly enough and contrary to the initial plan. January 17. Obama decided to announce his candidacy in front of Springfield‟s old State Capitol. Baltimore is where many emancipated slaves came to settle. added a ritual to the official ceremonies and were popular events.gov/qfd/states/51/51683. on the eve of the election.257 The date chosen by Obama. It was also the place chosen by Obama to “introduce” his VP pick publicly on August 23. which had a symbolic function (from President-elect to President). 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. at Manassas (also known as Bull Run) in Virginia where the Civil War is considered to have started and ended.2.000 people.census. Direct references to Lincoln actually became more frequent after the campaign was over.2.1. 72 . Lincoln crossed Baltimore at night and did not deliver a speech in the city. in particular the Civil War. 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. Obama announced his candidacy in Springfield. 1858. According to the U. 259. Sometimes. Compared to the size of the city‟s population. He reluctantly had to do so because of rumors of assassinations. http://quickfacts. The announcement of Joe Biden as VP appointee was made via text messaging. like Lincoln. Obama used symbols that do not refer to Lincoln directly but to Lincoln‟s times. Among the direct non-verbal references to Lincoln is the Bible on which Obama swore on Inauguration Day and which had belonged to Lincoln.html. 258.259 Obama set off in Philadelphia and then headed for Washington. 2008.256 precisely where Lincoln gave one of his most famous speeches “A House divided against itself cannot stand”. 257.
“Abraham Lincoln‟s Rhetoric”. Duncan261 who impersonated Obama in Jay Leno‟s Tonight Show on NBC often insisted on Obama‟s repeated references to his political elders. Jefferson Davis had been inaugurated President of the Confederation two weeks before. the original expression used was “the guardian angel of the nation” which Lincoln modified into “the better angels of our nature”. Duncan was considered as the best “fauxbama” (fake Obama) according to a CNN report. Christopher B.christopherbduncan. once going as far as making the fake Obama utter a series of plagiarisms. 263. hence choosing to stress people‟s individual responsibility instead of Providence. BASLER. a close connection to Lincoln‟s law partner.com/christopherb. American Literature. 262. Roy P.181-182.2.html# (clip 1): a fake Obama quoting MLK‟s “I Have A Dream”. references to Lincoln became again more frequent toward the end of the campaign.2. pp. May 1939.youtube. The connection established exophorically provided a key to interpret Obama‟s discourse. 262 These were much exaggerated performances but Obama did not always specify he was quoting. He quoted the expression “that government of the people. Verbal references During the campaign. Lincoln‟ first Inaugural Address (March 4. 1863)263 in several speeches: once at the very beginning of the campaign on October 2. Obama used the 261. The expression came initially from a Unitarian minister and reformer Theodore Parker. The expression was rephrased into a condensed version “a government of. 73 . http://www. 2. 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. Vol.Symbolic. As was mentioned earlier on.2. by the people. No. Christopher B. for the people” from Lincoln‟s Gettysburg Address (November 19. For none of the quotes was Lincoln‟s authorship stated: the expression was sufficiently famous for people to trace the source.5. 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). See http://www. 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”. 2007 in a speech focused on the war in Iraq. non-verbal elements played a critical part in Obama‟s campaign.com/watch?v=NlhWmCTOWOU. In the draft Secretary of State Seward prepared for Lincoln.11. 264.duk. and then after the campaign was over on Election Night. by and for the people” in the speeches delivered during the Whistle-Stop Tour in Philadelphia and Baltimore. 1861) was delivered at a time when the civil war was no longer preventable and actually broke out the day after.
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. Obama used the expression in contrast with the expressions “worst instincts” and “easy instincts”. He used a variation of the expression. Obama used the opening sentence of the peroration of Lincoln‟s first Inaugural Address: “We are not enemies. The speech was entitled “A New Declaration of Independence”. “Obama‟s Lincoln”. November 15.C. and generally with great success. After Obama read the first draft. 2009). It reinforced the identification of Obama to figures such as Lincoln and to what they symbolize in Americans‟ collective memory. The quote ultimately chosen by Favreau were actually words written by Lincoln‟s Secretary of State. Newsweek. hence focusing on the continuity and past stability of the country precisely at a time when the country was anything but stable. They become more frequent after Obama‟s election. 74 .266 Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. 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. Evan THOMAS. Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was not mentioned as the source of the original expression. They have conducted it through many perils. During that period fifteen different and greatly distinguished citizens have in succession administered the executive branch of the Government. January 20. and then again after the campaign was over. but friends. advised Favreau to “figure out a good Lincoln quote to bring it all together. 267 A similar historic perspective is adopted in both speeches. William Seward. Such references can be found both in Lincoln‟s speeches and in Obama‟s. Yet. January 20. Barack Obama‟s Inaugural Address (Washington D. Obama‟s chief strategist. The quote was put in by Jon Favreau who was in charge of preparing the draft of the victory speech. which is a way to stress continuity with the founding era and therefore legitimacy but in an updated form 265. 2009. 2008. first Inaugural Address (March 4. 266. in the Last Week Speech and his Inaugural speech. every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.expression “our better angels” in the Last Week Speech he delivered in Canton on October 27. The expressions “first patriots”. Lincoln was only once openly quoted in Election Night Victory Speech. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. during the Whistle-Stop Tour.”265 This use of intertextuality was a characteristic feature of Obama‟s speeches. “our American journey” and the date “1776” can be found in the speech delivered in Philadelphia and Baltimore on January 17. “our better history”.. The references to the Founding Fathers help reinforce that memorializing process. 2008. 267. 1861).” (Inaugural Address. David Axelrod." and suggested looking at the end of Lincoln's first Inaugural Address. 2009).
Obama developed a rhetoric of unity which was rooted in his political and historical references and also in his Christian legacy. What is specific about Obama is that he manages to combine old traditions with modern trends effectively. however huge. inspired by the Constitution and the Bible. Obama sought to achieve national unity. which he viewed as the key to overcoming the challenges to meet. it has to face. Obama‟s brilliant rhetoric restored the stylistic grandeur of America‟s greatest presidential figure in collective memory. 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. Intertextual references to Lincoln‟s rhetoric reinforced that sense of the sacred: superior purpose. 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). 75 . by the figures of Lincoln and Martin Luther King. Rising over divisions. The many historical references make Obama‟s key-speeches rise above and transcend partisan politics. which was reinforced by the stories he told as they mostly focused on women. References to “our founding fathers” and “our founding documents” can be found in the Inaugural Speech. The metaphor of the American family developed by Obama somehow made him appear as a patriarch. 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). With the ceremonial of Whistle-Stop Tour. Partly breaking with the anti-intellectual tendencies at play. sophisticated language. the references to Lincoln who was seen as a father figure for the rebirth of the nation but also by the preacher‟s tone.to adapt to the present circumstances. They serve to praise American values. To do so.
2009. Professor of Theology at Duke University and an ordained Baptist minister. 76 .92. The statement is both an acknowledgement of Obama‟s self-conscious preaching style and a paraleipsis. “His Way With Words Begins At The Pulpit”. The Washington Post. Michael Eric DYSON. “His Way With Words Begins At The Pulpit”.270 It is therefore relevant to define what the Black preaching tradition actually consists in in terms of rhetorical style and 268. 270.2. But I do wanna read a passage from Scripture. Obama‟s rhetorical and oratorical styles are deeply influenced by the Black pulpit tradition as Michael Eric Dyson. Obama the Preacher “Let me not try to preach today. Michael Eric DYSON. 2009 and 3.269 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. “A President-Preacher from anaphora to epistrophe”.” That is how Barak Obama. pointed out when writing that Obama‟s rhetoric was firmly rooted in black soil. January 18.3. who was Senator at the time. The Sydney Morning Herald. 269. 2008. According to Dyson. The Washington Post. 2005 in Detroit. Her rebellious act sparked a protest (including boycotts and peaceful marches) that led to the end of segregation in America. opened his eulogy of Rosa Parks268 at the memorial service held on November 2. the influence was already patent in the keynote address he delivered at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.1 The building-up of a crescendo in the overall structure p. 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). See also Michael Eric DYSON. January 18. January 19. that is to say starting to do what he just said he would not. 2009.
and descriptions of a sermon‟s climax.oratorical specificities.2. I got the word in me and I can sing it.. p.1.1. (v) closure is absent.1. “Amen and Hallelujah Preaching: Discourse Functions in African American Sermons”. p. The structure and main components of the sermon 3.206.1. 273. Synthesized by Cheryl WHARRY. followed by a Bible quotation. op. on the contrary. pp. Language in Society. Vol. 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. 1987). cit. distinguished five components precisely ordered: (i) Preacher tells the congregation that the sermon was provided by God. see Cheryl WHARRY. (iv) each unit of the sermon contains a secular-versus-sacred conflict and moves between concrete and abstract.. In his work. 3.271 Henry Mitchell considered that it was impossible to define a typical sermon outline. 272. Interestingly. Cheryl WHARRY. today‟s various American websites about sermon writing reflect those contrastive approaches. 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. reasons for use of Black English in sermons. 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. Instead. For more on the different and contrastive approaches of Mitchell and Davis. (ii) preacher identifies the theme. No.32. define the point. partially contradictory views. and the sermon is left open-ended. 1970) and Gerald DAVIS.1. you know (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. April 2003.1. The influence of black church rhetoric 3.”272 Gerald Davis.205. Black Preaching (Philadelphia: Lippincott Publishers.205-6. Wharry‟s analysis is based on Henry MITCHELL. op. 271. 77 . cit. he focused on “describing such aspects as cultural context. (iii) preacher interprets the scripture literally and then broadly . what exactly Obama took up from that pastoral tradition and also gauge the extent of Martin Luther King‟s influence. as sermons heavily depended on the preacher‟s individual imagination and spontaneity.273 For Baptist preacher Sherman Haywood Cox II.
2008).. 2008) and the Acceptance Speech (Denver.C.277 which was mostly used in February and March 2008 when the race for the primaries was very tight. what characterizes it is its topical unity275 as all the points are used to evoke an overall idea which has a transformative purpose. at Dr King‟s Church (Atlanta. episodes of history. 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].com/politicalpunch/2008/03/clinton-says-ob.asp and especially http://www. apply the point to show how they can be applied in people‟s daily lives. July 8. 2008). 2008). apart from the oft-repeated “we are our brother's keeper. illustrate the point with an extract from the Scriptures and/or other possible sources (hymns. Henry H. current events or mundane life). 275.soulpreaching. MITCHELL. in the Texas Primary Night Speech (San Antonio. 51. Mitchell explained. See http://sermonideas. In most cases. 1997. As Henry H.. 78 . Thirdly. Interpretation. Obama‟s stump speech encompasses a variety of political topics as he needed to answer criticisms and state his ideas.com/begin. not meter. 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. Vol. See also Cheryl WHARRY.html . the sentence was actually often reproduced out of context when taken up and spread in the media. in the speech “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. p. See http://blogs..380ff. in the Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison.”278 274. Though the sermon is divided into a number of points. African American history in particular. is what primarily provides cohesion in African American sermons.]. 2008).. No. we are our sister's keeper”. Finally. 2008). 278. February 12. p. the Speech at the LULAC Convention (Washington D. “The preacher is used by the Holy Spirit to achieve the transformation of the hearer in […] the behavioral purpose of the sermon.274 Sherman Haywood Cox II insists that all subpoints are not always necessary and can be re-ordered and/or mixed.” 276. March 18.com/expand-a-sermonoutline-into-a-sermon. “African-American Preaching”. “A more perfect union” (Philadelphia. August 28. Such rumors were spread in November 2007 and then again in early March 2008. op.Then. it clearly appears that an effective sermon consists in constantly interconnecting the Bible. connect the point to Scriptures to give it religious legitimacy. cit. 2007).”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. In any case. November 7.abcnews. 277.206: “Theme [. January 20. Hillary Clinton actually goes on saying. 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.4. Obama never quoted from scripture. gospel songs. March 4.
For more on the call-and-response technique.2. hence connecting the Civil Rights Era to the present day. you know. the third time being a slight variation replacing “the” with “this”.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”.280 Yet. 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. stressing how individual and collective change is possible. using once again the example of MLK who “could love his jailor”. In the period stretching from January 2008 to the end of the Primaries. Let us now focus on the nature of black church discourse and the analogy between church values and Obama‟s rhetorical frame. “a broadening of their spirits.104.” This inclusion of behavioral transformation into the speech reinforces its sermon-like style. 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. Unity requires and involves a change of attitude and mindset. All the points are developed by interconnecting the Bible. The sentence itself is repeated three times. Obama recalls the episodes of the Civil War Era and MLK‟s urge to unite.” The speech delivered at the Ebenezer Church is wholly devoted to that particular and key-idea. a relevant story with an obvious political reinterpretation.” 279. To illustrate his point further. “having been the target of so many ridiculous rumors. I have a great deal of sympathy for anybody who gets. This financial metaphor echoes Martin Luther King‟s check yet to cash in “I Have a Dream”. The political candidate then lists all the kinds of deficits that plague America. The second point developed by Barack Obama is how to achieve unity. see 3.. including the forceful reference to scripture. it is not really the structure of Obama‟s speeches that recalls sermons. “Scripture tells us that when Joshua and the Israelites arrived at the gates of Jericho.” The overall point is later explicitly defined: unity thanks to God can make everything possible and tear down barriers. 79 .2. they could not enter. Call-and-response p. On but one occasion does the overall structure of one of Obama‟s campaign speeches strongly reflect that of a sermon. African American history with today‟s situation and people‟s own responsibility in it..2. 280. “Unity is the great need of the hour. smeared with the kind of rumors that go on all the time.It is however significantly different with the speech Obama delivered at Dr King‟s Church which starts with a direct reference to the Bible.
This is a pattern frequently used by Obama when 281. […] I know that hope has been the guiding force behind the most improbable changes this country has ever made. dynamic and essence of progress in American history. and to fight for it. a mother from Kansas. that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it. Obama often adds a list of examples to illustrate it. Here are the two relevant extracts from those speeches: In the end. 283. The full title is: The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (New York: Crown Publishers. 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.1.2.. After finally giving his definition. the theme of the campaign is however directly framed by Christian values.1.”281 As for change. and a story that could only happen in the United States of America.] Hope is not blind optimism. 282. The two words used to define the spirit and sense of his campaign are “hope” and change”. “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. the argument we are having between the candidates in the last seven days is not just about the meaning of change. 2007). it is the possibility of effective behavioral change that is at stake in each sermon as was seen in 3.1. Obama uses contrast and starts giving negative definitions of what it is not. 80 . before developing what hope means for him. [. and then work for. 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. 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. Hope is one the three theological virtues in Christian religion along with faith and charity. 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. what had seemed impossible before.1. and to work for it.1. Also the title given by Obama to the book in which he stated his political views.. It's about the meaning of hope. Iowa Caucus Night (Des Moines. 2008).283 The notion is reinterpreted as being the catalyst. Obama’s rhetorical frame: where the religious meets the political The direct references to Scripture may be few and occasional. 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. what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation. That's the change we seek.282 [Our emphasis] Hope is that thing inside us that insists. A clearly defined yet not-so-rigid pattern. despite all evidence to the contrary. who still goes to bed each night praying for his safe return. Hope is what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire. And that's the change you can stand for in seven days. a young woman who still believes that this country will give her the chance to live out her dreams.to imagine. January 3. […] That's the power of hope . Hope-hope-is what led me here today .3.with a father from Kenya. December 27. Yet. 2006). which soon came to sum up what his candidacy stood for.
The number peaks however just before the primaries started with twenty-four occurrences in the speech delivered on December 27.he needs to (re)define a notion. hope was an active force which spurned them into action. hope can characterize both individual and collective entities. mixing examples of what hope achieved in the past for him and for Americans with the present stories of unprivileged people. 81 . As for the two women mentioned. It consists in relying on the state to help them solve their problems. anaphoric definition: “That‟s what hope is. October 27. It is the case for example with individual responsibility for underachieving communities. 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. February 19.”284 The section is given a somewhat circular structural as it opens and ends with the two same words: “Hope is. 2008) and his Last Week Speech (Canton. 2007 and it 284. The religious word is redefined in a political and historical context. It is also religious in the sense that the aim of sermons was transformative and required people to change mindset and attitude. They also add an element of suspense by delaying the time when the expected information is finally given. introducing a cataphoric definition of hope. it is a crucial word in the mouth of the challenger in a political contest. For the rebellious colonists and segregated Americans. 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. It is subtly formulated by Obama because it transforms a negative criticism into a call for more self-confidence. For Obama. 2008). Though Obama insists that hope is derided by his rivals as being “blind optimism”. the State here replacing God as a somewhat deus ex machina. The word may not be used as often as in politics. It is the case for example in the speech delivered at Dr King‟s Church (Atlanta. The negative definitions enable him to respond to his critics. January 20. hope is passive and only appears as a spiritual solace. As for change. Obama closes the section on hope with a final. by questioning legitimate authority and even disobeying laws when necessary. On occasions.” This frame helps signal the end of the section to the audience and adds additional emphasis on the definition. 2008). his own multiple definitions of hope actually vary according to the examples given. 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…”. in the Wisconsin Primary Night Speech (Houston. but change is implicitly at the core of all sermons.
288. Quoted in Luc BENOÎT À LA GUILLAUME. Johnson‟s 1965 Inaugural Address was a “perfect example of jeremiad”.1.288 It was centered on the ideas of America‟s destiny and the American covenant and ended with a quotation from the Bible. Besides. is never used directly but is implied in the motto. Unlike George W. forcefully urging people to be more self-confident. It could just as well be a change of Administration with the Democrats replacing the Republicans in the White House. In all these cases. One of Johnson‟s key-sentences was: “For we are a nation of believers. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit. Johnson‟s 1965 Inaugural Address which contained eight occurrences of believe (and believers). Obama only mentions God at the end of some of his speeches. but in the words of Scripture. to choose our better history. hence reaping the benefits of the moral and allinclusive vision without appearing as a zealot. 2.4. though the most obvious one. He is different. that noble idea. passed on from generation to generation: the God-given 285. 2003). the expressions were used to delineate paragraphs. Obama also uses the hypothetical clauses.75. using words that are both strongly connoted religiously and politically enable him to stand on the grey zone where the two areas merge. visually different. References to race prior to “A more perfect union” p.peaks again as the primaries end and a new campaign begins with sixteen occurrences in the Final Primary Speech (St Paul. August 28). 2008 and finally again just before the election. 287.” Change in having a black President as it is implied. Bush‟s frequent reliance on and appeals to God. In fact fourteen occurrences of the verb “believe” 287 can be found in that speech. That aspect. the keynote address delivered in 2004. Obama embodies change because of the color of his skin. 2007). 82 . For more on the ambiguity in Obama‟s subtle references to race.1.2.”285 Obama‟s mottoes are not exclusively Christian. 2008). The repeated use of the verb “believe” echoes Lyndon B.” He can reach out to a wider audience. June 3. the time has come to set aside childish things. 286. He was also addressing people who do not turn out to vote because they distrust politics. Bercovitch. See Obama‟s use of macrostructural anaphora in 3. Obama‟s own Inaugural Address developed the sacred origins of the American experiment: “We remain a young nation.2.” According to S. he pronounced the verb ten times: five times in the expression “John Kerry believes” and three times in the expression “I believe”. using the blessing call: “God bless America. December 27. “Change is possible in America. In Obama‟s most famous speech. The use of repetition p.85. at the DNC Convention (Denver. This is as ambiguous as “they said this day would never come.60. “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. to carry forward that precious gift. “If you believe. Le discours d’investiture des présidents américains ou les paradoxes de l’éloge (Paris : L‟Harmattan.” 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. Obama played the religious card in a way that was not divisive but inclusive.1. p.
by referring to families in his examples. that of anonymous average Americans and that of Ashley Baia.” [our emphasis] Yet. In addition.” 3. contrary to Johnson or Reagan‟s speeches. Obama usually preferred to deliver a series of very short stories which reflected a variety of issues instead of narrating vivid. one of the characteristic features of Obama‟s style was the use of stories: his own.1 Use of personal narratives of anonymous Americans. Obama however does not indulge excessively in the art of storytelling as is the case in sermon delivering. sometimes they even change into the character that they are preaching and preach a first-person story.1. As was seen in the first part. lengthy. I am my sister‟s keeper. COX II on www. Storytelling is in fact an essential characteristic of biblical style.” 289 Martin Luther King‟s famous speech. 83 .soulpreaching. “I‟ve Been to the Mountaintop” is an example of preaching in the first-person. 1990) quoted by Sherman H. the sermons heavily rely on stories. 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. Black Preaching : The Recovery of a Powerful Art (Nashville: Abingdon Press.3.1.promise that all are equal. As was stated in 2. stating what was and what should be. much-detailed 289. which is characterized by the use of many parables. Mitchell explained. not to the exclusive and religious experiment of the colonial period.1. in that case connecting his own experience with that of Jesus. and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. “African American preachers often engage in a sermon that is “story-telling”. The nature of religious discourse in black churches Apart from the injunctions to and the rationale for behavioral change. Henry H. the reference to a God-inspired destiny is marginal and limited to the universal and political ideals developed in the Constitution. 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. As Henry H. The analysis of the overall structure of sermons revealed that it was directed to achieve behavioral change.com/story-telling-and-role-playing. all are free. MITCHELL.
Interpretation. 2008). 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. have morals.1 A clearly defined. I looked outside and saw some young boys tossing stones at a boarded-up apartment building across the street. without guidance.51. and better health care. people whose attitude can and should be imitated.3.stories. And so did I. And slowly. they were invited to look at the kids and think again about their initial decision by Obama.1. Obama tells a personal story which illustrates his determination even at a time of defeat: I was a young organizer then. “African-American Preaching”.371ff. "Before you quit. being illustrations of how people can individually and/or collectively help to make things change. The nature of religious discourse p. 1997. No.” Evan CORNOG. yet not-so-rigid system. they had a didactic function290. but it was not an unexpected sight. See also Henry Mitchell who wrote. Penguin. p. but surely. See also for storytelling in sermons. intent on fighting joblessness and poverty on the South Side.1. 3. When he did tell long stories. and I still remember one of the very first meetings I put together. Yet. 84 . so did I. they wanted to quit. and better jobs. Bush (New York. Vol. And to be honest.4. Our volunteers felt so defeated. “I turned” and “I asked” and only then “they looked” and “they decided”. keep fighting for better schools. Obama‟s repeated use of the expression “so do I” suggests he felt like the volunteers. the community began to change. I want you to answer one question.1. as Obama seems to have done. 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”. Obama‟s manipulative account of the story aims to present the volunteers as role-models. As was seen in 3.83 and 3.88.1. The use of hypotyposis p. What will happen to those boys?" And the volunteers looked out that window. 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. and I asked them. The Power and the Story: How the Crafted Presidential Narrative Has Determined Political Success from George Washington to George W.2.” Henry H. in the weeks and months to come. This aspect is stressed by Evan Cornog : “Stories. without hope. and they decided that night to keep going . we discover. And I turned to the volunteers. The kids playing outside seem to work as an epiphany for the volunteers. lessons that we can incorporate into our understanding of life. the sermon has a transformational purpose and so do Obama‟s stories by offering illustrative rolemodels.2. “Stories teach more effectively than abstractions.1. It constitutes a sentence in its own right with significant pauses before and after its delivery to give it more emphasis. p.3. But at that moment. February 5. In the following example which is taken from the Super Tuesday Speech (St Paul. 290.boys without prospects. 2004). MITCHELL. but no one showed up. They were like boys in so many cities across the country . We had worked on it for days.to keep organizing.
2. 291. the identification is suggested with the past generations which have made America progress and overcome hazardous hardships. Vol. For more on this aspect.3/4. see Keith D.292 Apart from storytelling or comments on Scripture. Macrostructural anaphora can be used at anytime throughout the sermon to make it more dynamic and create a rhythmic crescendo.2. The sentence comes as a leitmotif in Obama‟s speeches: “Turn the Page” Speech (San Diego. in Obama‟s speeches. Rhetoric Society Quarterly. 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. SNEAD “On Repetition in Black Culture”.293 The most frequent rhetorical devices are anaphora and epistrophe. MILLER. 2008). In this sacred universe.18.1: Theory. 291 In Obama‟s speeches. No.1. whatever the nature of the discourse. For James A. one locates and defines a self by consulting Biblical narrative and by expecting an eventual Biblical-style liberation either on earth or in heaven. 85 . 2007). which help sustain a particular and steady rhythm and are characteristic features of the pastoral rhetorical style. David. at the junction of music and language. February 5. The use of repetition Repetition is a necessary device in oral culture.15. It is very often used in the last lines to help impress the audience thanks to heightened rhythm. Using the motifs and stylistic devices used in sermons 3. it is the American dauntless and pioneering spirit that “ordinary people can do extraordinary things”. Black Textual Strategies. Jonah. 2008). “Epistemology of a Drum Major: Martin Luther King Jr. Super Tuesday Night Speech (St Paul.226. Noah. Snead. No.1.151. 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.” James A. Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. p. 292. and the Black Folk Pulpit”. it is central in black church culture. preachers often embed lyrics and Scripture in their oratory. These devices are very frequent in sermons and can be microstructural (within a sentence) or macrostructural (to shape the construction of a paragraph). What unifies and guides “this sacred universe” in sermons is God.1.The stories in sermons often merge the time present and the past. Black American Literature Forum. January 3. connecting the sacred and the profane. 293. Vol.4. Winter 1981. Vol. The process of identifying with the hardships and the eventual triumphs of Daniel. Summer-Autumn 1988. 3. “The black church must be placed at the center of the manifestations of repetition in black culture. April 28. p.
Barack Obama often uses anaphora.297 294. See 1. The following representation of the phrase “all of them with a story to tell. 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.” 86 . 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. epistrophe or even a combination of both (symploce). February 9. the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta. the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores. it takes Obama approximately the same time to utter each segment. The same conclusion was made in a previous unpublished study of the epilogue of the 2004 Keynote Address. Announcement Speech (Springfield. 295.35. Each of these Intonational Phrases has a relatively equal length. South Carolina Primary Night Speech (Columbia.296 As is shown in the two examples just given. January 26. 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. our own fears. On the contrary he speaks more quickly and as a result as there were more words in those segments. all of them seeking a seat at the table. all of them clamoring to be heard” is balanced in its delivery even if the three parts are not equally long. “all of them with a story to tell.”294. The flourishing rhetorical imagery and characteristic stylistic devices p. 2007). all of them clamoring to be heard. too. 2008). 297.”295 They are usually found at the end of sentences for additional focus (end-weight) and to prepare the audience for applause. the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him. and our own cynicism. the hope of a millworker‟s son who dares to defy the odds. 296. 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”.4. all of them seeking a seat at the table.
using verbs like SAY or KNOW which are 87 . the sections are alternately made up of very short or longer paragraphs. The definitions are often both cataphoric (“Hope is…”) and anaphoric (“That‟s what hope is. historic moment: “This was the moment when…” .3 Equilibrium and tricolon (Announcement Speech. which helps alternate the pace of delivery of each section. It is the case for the speeches delivered in early January 2008 after the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary. the expression of awareness.”) and serve to structure the paragraph. a definition of the prospective President he would be: “I‟ll be a President who…” . the focus on the crucial.” . Springfield. 2007) PRAAT Structural anaphora is more frequent and more easily noticeable by the audience. In addition. February 10. and finally the definition he gives to the word “hope”: “Hope is what…”. It is generally repeated several times and some speeches are constructed as series of paragraphs that can be delineated through the anaphora used. humility and sense of responsibility toward American citizens: “I know….Fig. 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” . Obama also alternates the syntactic structure of the elements repeated to avoid monotony.
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. The use of hypotyposis Another stylistic characteristic of sermons is the use of hypotyposis. they acted as “a kind of handrail through the course of the sermon.. cit. June 3. pp. 2001). Henry H. orienting the listener in moving from one thing to the next. ROGERS. It is not enough to give health care to the sick.102-3. 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. 88 . it would have been possible to have only one sentence “This is our time to turn the page.followed by complement clauses while some structures are a bit more complex including a non-defining restrictive relative clause: “a President who…”.”299 3. NIEMAN and Thomas G.” and “that single moment of recognition […] is not enough to give healthcare to the sick […].103 300. that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. Preaching to Every Pew: Cross-Cultural Strategies (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress.” (“A more perfect union”. MITCHELL. Mitchell. 299. the repetitive forms help convey a certain rhythm and “build verbal reassurance..2. 2008) and in “By itself.1. pp. cit. Obama sometimes uses anadiplosis. Henry H. ROGERS.”300 Conjuring up scenes through vivid descriptions aims at arousing emotion because the 298. NIEMAN and Thomas G. or education to our children. 2008). St Paul.372-4. op. James R. March 18. Philadelphia. consisting in repeating at the beginning of a phrase (or sentence) the final words of the previous clause (or sentence). It is a deliberate way to insist on key words which do not necessarily have to be repeated in fact. James R. At the macrostructural level. p. a specialist in Black preaching.” Obama‟s frequent and various uses of repetitive devices fulfilled the same functions as in sermons. or jobs to the jobless. op.” 298 At the microstructural level. “African-American Preaching”. 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). defines the Black preachers‟ “capacity for vividness and communication from the depths” as being typical of the African-American tradition. Our time to turn the page…” (Final Primary Night Speech.2.
” in Keith D. “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”. Being incorporated in a political speech delivered in front of an audience. and so is the case with the story of the failed meeting organized by Obama while working in the South Side (Super Tuesday Speech). one gets the impression that it is not hear-say but words Obama heard directly. and liberation. Both stories are not action scenes but discussions between people who support Obama and both are centered on the sense of their commitment. To arouse more empathy. The impression comes from the details302 given by Obama in the description of people‟s position as for example. the reference is the storyteller (I/now/here) and the narrated time merges with the narration time. MILLER. See www. the listener has the impression that the scene is being revived. which reproduces the meeting form described in the stories.com/emotionnecessary.transformative purpose of the sermon has to address body and mind as Sherman Haywood Cox II explained. the durable narrative imagery clarifies many immediate examples of oppression. op. Obama arouses empathy with his stories. spiritual vexation..] For the most part people remember pictures better than they remember words. 302. By using the deictic “this”.225-236. The action is past (Ashley‟s eating sandwiches for a year to save money) or outside (kids tossing stones outside). without guidance. cit. but listening to the Ashley anecdote. As Obama never says that he heard the story from someone else.”301 As indicated in 2. “While providing overarching forms easily recognized by churchgoers. 303. H. cit. one has the impression that Obama has actually attended the scene and was present at the roundtable discussion Ashley had organized. creates a mise en abyme. 89 . The Ashley Baia story.soulpreaching. Ashley‟s story is one of the very few fairly long stories told by Obama. and almost anyone can make a hearer see it. 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..1. but instead of letting his listeners deduce the conclusions they should draw. They were like boys in so many cities across the country . he bluntly tells them. The kids are “young boys tossing stones at a boarded-up apartment building across the street.boys without prospects. op..” Henry MITCHELL. revival. Obama uses people who are vulnerable. “Emotion must be a part of real preaching if it is to affect the whole person and not just the mind. Mitchell insists on the importance of details: “The story becomes vivid when there are concrete details the hearer can envision. 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.2. without 301. What reinforces this impression that Obama attended the roundtable discussion is the use of speech verbs to introduce what people said. pp.
See Sylvie Laurent. “les hommes politiques américains sont souvent des pasteurs lorsqu‟ils sont AfricainsAméricains puisque c‟est là que s‟exprimaient les revendications politiques des Noirs.304 3.soulpreaching.fr/idees/le-style-obama-un-tonde-pasteur-matine-de-rythm-n-blues. See www.telerama.php. Yet.com/is-that-black-preaching.3. which is specific to the Black Church.hope. mâtiné de rythm‟n‟blues”. The church has always been the place where the grievances of slaves and then segregated African Americans were spoken out. The hopeless and defenseless people in his stories are particularly unprivileged. 305. http://www. It explains why religion and politics are so congruent in the black community.1. 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). He insists on the “tendency to look from the angle of the underdog and those who have their backs against the wall”. Black Church preachers are usually renowned for their stylistic skills.com/is-that-black-preaching.306 and why the point of view traditionally adopted is that of the oppressed.” Sylvie LAURENT. Journalist and historian Gary Wills insists on the religious roots of this approach: 304. 306. 90 . See www. hence overlooking other major characteristics like the specificities of the outlook expressed.35616. It also accounts for the emphasis laid on collective salvation. as well as a “tendency to see the practical rather than a theoretical angle. Baptist minister Sherman Haywood Cox II explains that Black Church tradition is often reduced to those stylistic concerns. 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.” And Ashley‟s mother had cancer and then lost her job and her health care when Ashley was nine. “Le style Obama : un ton de pasteur. Obama is addressing adults and plays on the parent‟s instinct of protection and sense of responsibility.soulpreaching.”305 This also results from the political role that the Black Church has played from its very beginning.
“Two Speeches on Race”. Garry WILLS. and even African Americans as a racial group.” 307 This leads to the privileged use of the personal pronoun “we”. lobbyists). The Democratic Party addresses the economically and socially disadvantaged. New Hampshire Primary Night Speech (Nashua..” 308.55. 310. blacks thought in terms of the whole people being saved-all of them riding on the Ark.2. op. 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. 2008). the neighborhood. January 3. There is this idea in Obama‟s speeches of defending ordinary citizens against powerful forces (special interests. Obama‟s redefinition of the American Dream308 reflects that approach of a collective enterprise. Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. Praise of America and Americans p. what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation. which is precisely the predominant pronoun in Obama‟s speeches. The New York Review of Books. p.22. 91 . on the private experience of being saved. See in 1. See also Mary PATTILLO-McCOY. Unlike the Calvinist stress on individualism. But the Democrats also defend the middle-class against HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations) and other lobbyists. Independents and Republicans”310 to make things change explains the appeal to fight for the election but also after the election.7. 2008.1. working women. cit. 309. ethnic minorities. 2008). 307. And there is also the idea in Obama‟s speeches that all Americans must move together forward. all reaching the Promised Land. 309 Obama‟s belief in the collective power of “Democrats. No. Vol. They target the underprivileged categories of people: single parents. May 1. 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.“That has always been a mark of black religion in America. January 8. factory workers and therefore seek to defend their interests and give them a voice.773: “Prayers often focus not on individual salvation but on the needs of the family.
3.1. The Washington Post. they did not necessarily start low and were more alternations of lyrical outbursts and quieter sections. strike fire and sit down. of the general movement of the speech. the overall movement is one of gradual build-up. 92 . The four sentences selected are representative.1. 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. however. It takes half of the speech for Obama to really get warmed up. Yet. all in measured tones. with shifting cadences and varied registers. he obeyed the black preacher‟s dictum: „Start low. or so we believe. go slow. the second is taken from the crescendo or warming-up part. Michael Eric DYSON. rise high.‟” In a more detailed analysis of the steady crescendo reaching final climax. Acting as a preacher 3. “On that occasion. to a climax that exploded in lines of warning to cynics who would divide the country into blue and red states. 2009. A clearly defined yet not-so-rigid pattern p. See 3. The building-up of a crescendo in the overall structure Analyzing Obama‟s 2004 keynote address. 311. which is an essential component of sermons for Henry Mitchell. as the pace quickens and then slows down alternately. The only speech that came fairly close to that steady building-up was the speech delivered at Dr King‟s Church. The first sentence selected is the opening sentence of the speech. January 18. “His Way With Words Begins At The Pulpit”. This speech does not represent a steady crescendo. applauding the aspirations of ordinary Americans and praising the virtues of democracy.1.1. Baptist preacher Michael Dyson claimed that.77. Here are a few sentences from that speech to illustrate the gradual increase of pitch and intensity.312 Yet. After telling the story of his biracial roots. 312. Dyson explained.2.311 Obama‟s speeches generally ended with a climax (lyrical outbursts). he built steadily and rhythmically.2.
Fig. This rhythm is fairly slow in the middle of the sentence.Fig.4 Ebenezer 1 .65” for the longest) and the vowels are lengthened.5 Ebenezer 2 . which starts and ends at a fairly high pitch-level (slightly above 200Hz while the rest is below 175Hz).PRAAT 93 . it remains below 75dB throughout. 1. The pauses are fairly long (1” for the shortest. As for the intensity.PRAAT The first sentence uttered lasts 10”.
it uses “the tonality of African languages”.104.7”.. This is what Black preachers often do to close their sermons. The other significant difference with the opening line is that it is said with a higher pitch. MITCHELL. The pace is significantly quicker than in the opening sentence (shorter vowels.PRAAT The sentence is pronounced after 18‟57” and lasts 10”.374ff. which “has greater dramatic power and appeal. 94 .cnn.2. The sentence is almost solely made up of one-syllable words. Call-and-response p. “Black preachers who 'whoop' -. fewer and shorter pauses). It is very close to singing and according to Henry H. See Henry H.” This a very interesting section because Obama “imitates” preachers “whooping”. CNN. John BLAKE. 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). The aim is to “make people feel the sermon.”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).” For the influence of African culture. It comes after a lyrical outburst.6 Ebenezer 3 . cit.html.com/2010/LIVING/10/20/whooping/index. op. For more on whooping and audio and video examples. partly because of its function as a nostalgic ethnic marker and affirmer of identity. October 20. Fig.The second sentence selected is pronounced after 8‟11” of speech and lasts 8. http://edition. not just hear it. ending each time the sentence with “I needed some hope to get here. The sentence is taken from a section which is characterized by the use of epistrophe.minstrels or ministers?”. 2010.2. p. 313.2. Mitchell. In the two previous sentences Obama had talked about his father and then his mother. see also 3.
op. The sentence is also situated in a section based on repetitions (epistrophe). As was stated in 3. the vowels are lengthened. The intensity is mostly at the same level as in the previous example but the pitch is less high (mostly between 240 and 297Hz). 95 . Henry ALLEN. We are the change that we seek. Obama‟s speech at Dr King‟s Church was the only one of the entire campaign whose outline and rhetoric were so 314. 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”.1.PRAAT This sentence is at the end of the speech (33‟07”-37‟11”) and part of the final lyrical outburst. To insist on these key-words.7 Ebenezer 4 . The sentence sounds like a consensual slogan. A clearly defined yet not-so-rigid pattern. which can only be applauded by all.” Fig. Henry Allen insisted in The Washington Post on the parallels between Martin Luther King and Obama‟s cadenced rhythm.1.which helps quicken the pace and help produce a very regular rhythm which alternates with fairly significant pauses. The indirect appeal to people with “we cannot walk alone” prepares for their interaction.1. cit. 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. focusing on general and universal ideas.
Quoted in Frank BROWNING. 6. for it is the “the voice associated with authority” according to opera coach Rick Harrell. It is also the case thus for the tone used and the various specific characteristics (overall crescendo. “Does Obama‟s baritone give him an edge?” Salon.2.”315 Her studies illustrate the power of church culture as cultural tools for facilitating local organizing and activism among African Americans. February 28.strongly inspired by sermons. that is to stay studying how social action is constructed in AfricanAmerican communities: “Black church culture constitutes a common language that motivates social action. Vol.316 The cultural conceptions associated with the different types of voices unconsciously influence the listeners.2. Interestingly enough.” Jonathan ATLER. American Sociological Review. 316.768. between Obama and preachers. either positively (for Obama) or negatively (for 315.2. “Culture as a Strategy of Action in the Black Community”. Mary PATTILLO-McCOY. Adopting the techniques of the Black Church For Mary Pattillo-McCoy. A baritone voice is a natural asset for a leader. 3. The Promise: President Obama. Yet. p. As was the case for the general outline of the written sermon. 2008. No. 96 . a sociologist who specialized in social constructionism and African American studies. p. this one example is too marginal in Obama‟s speeches to account for the analogy frequently made between Obama‟s speeches and sermons. adopting black church culture codes is essential. this is the only example in which Obama fully fits the requirements of sermon-making. 3. whooping). whether spiritual or political. she worked in Chicago‟s South Side. as was the case of MLK. The tone of a preacher One of the main characteristics of Obama‟s speaking features is his baritone voice.2.6. Jonathan Atler explains that Obama‟s “commanding baritone” “could make his most ordinary utterances sound profound. December 1998.1. Year One (New York: Simon & Schuster. 2010).139. For politicians or local organizers working in black communities.
this doubly-assertive319 expression starts at a high level and ends high. sexist word 'shrill' and that's really code for the voice of the scold. “Obama: Oratory and Originality”.cit. who was the first Frenchwoman to become Prime Minister in 1991. Prosograms present pitch contour stylizations by simulating tonal perception of speech. “the range of his delivery. For Philip Collins. 319. the way he alters his pace. “Rhetoric and Speaking Style Affect the Clinton-Obama Race”. As regards the utterance of “yes we can”. 320. the blue one those of F0. For Philip Collins.2. the pauses and the silences. 317. The green line indicates the variations of intensity.4. News.” For the pastoral influence. U. It makes what is being said more powerful and puts Obama at an advantage against Hillary Clinton."318 As was seen in 2. posted on November 19. who was often associated to a shrilling mother. “La bonne parole d‟Obama”. the “black-cent” is characterized by a shortening of “we” and the specific. see also Sylvie LAURENT. musical black intonation: instead of falling. ESPRIT.” Quoted in Kent GARBER. which conveyed more warmth and made him sound more accessible.the intonation. The prosograms were made from John McWorther‟s oral comparison of those two ways of pronouncing the sentence. Obama can use the “black-cent” to sound “black” when he wants. March 25.co. Says Lynn Meyer.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.stm. it's religious: the way he slides down some words and hits others . What the tone reveals beyond the message. She has to find unmarked space where she is androgynous. The following prosograms320 indicate the prosodic difference between a black-cent rendition of “yes we can” and a standard American rendition.Clinton). BBC News. Analyzing Obama‟s catchphrase “yes we can”. American linguist John McWorther explains that it worked precisely because it was delivered with a “black-cent”. a former political consultant. when Hillary speaks. 97 . “Every time [Hillary Clinton] changes her register. had to suffer from similar criticisms. See also linguistic anthropologist Jennifer Jackson‟s analysis of Hillary Clinton‟s voice: “If. “His style of delivery is basically churchy.S.3. the emphasis.bbc. she starts to sound like all of the negative gender monikers associated with women. 2008 on http://news.” Quoted in Frank BROWNING. 2008. people use that awful. that‟s not good for her. Quoted in Stephanie HOLMES. op . tone and rhythm – is closer to song. December 2008.uk/2/hi/americas/7735014. Edith Cresson. 318. Absence of negative marker and presence of the adverb “yes”. It is based on an algorithm. former speechwriter of Tony Blair.
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.Fig.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. Obama was speaking in front of large audiences whose oral reaction it was important to record as well. Unlike McWorther who was interviewed by a journalist in excellent conditions.
marking pauses between each one (which was often rendered in official 99 . the verb was not mentioned before and therefore the elliptic sentence is open to interpretations. 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). 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”. The vowel of the auxiliary modal is lengthened. January 8. The successive utterances are more and more patterned on the “black-cent” rendition. This can demonstrate that. it takes some time and possibly warming-up for Obama to adopt the expected intonation. Obama sometimes pronounces the words as if they were disconnected. In addition. although some of the characteristics of the “black-cent” are present (higher pitch and higher intensity). the intonation is closer to the standard pattern.9 Prosograms of four of Obama‟s utterances of “yes we can” during the New Hampshire Primary Night Speech (Nashua. It bears contrastive emphasis because the verb is not mentioned and to stress the idea of capacity conveyed by CAN.Fig. especially for the first utterances when it is pronounced several times.
long pauses. As Philip Collins pointed out. . cit. The first utterance of the verb “said” is much shorter than the second and third utterance (almost four times as long). The three occurrences of the verb “builds” correspond to the initial three sentences of the Iowa Speech: “They said this day would never come. but you‟ll remember the feeling.I. 100 . Quoted in Stephanie HOLMES. Obama‟s rendition of the phrase is generally musical. Commenting on the exordium of the Iowa Caucus Night Speech.pattiwood. with Obama. It's about the tune.asp?PageID=5396. All these elements help convey a sense of building-up.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). “He is close to singing. 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. There are usually at least three elements but sometimes more. the intensity is also higher (from 70-75dB to approximately 80dB for the second and third utterances). The cretic foot (101) is here based on the strong form of the modal auxiliary “can”. op. The vowel is hence considerably lengthened. You might not even remember the word message after the speech.”321 No wonder that American singer and musician Will.net/program. 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.” 323. too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. 322. Except at the beginning of his enumerations. 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. 321.transcripts by using full stops between the words) and stressing all them. just as preaching is close to singing. To arouse emotion. Obama also uses repetitions (anaphora in particular) to build up a crescendo. They said our sights were set too high. not the lyrics. 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. They said this country was too divided.Am (from the “The Black Eyed Peas”) decided to make a song to support Obama based on the “Yes We Can” catchphrase. Patti Wood‟s online comment is available at www. hits the tune. The words are irrelevant. All writing is a rhythm of kinds and he brings it out.
11 They said 2 Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. January 3. January 3. 2008) Fig.Fig. 2008) 101 .10 They said 1 Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines.
See Sylvie LAURENT for the analysis of Obama‟s use of scansion. pp. largely taken up by imitators. June 30. (pause for applause) But I will not stand idly by when others question mine.php. Johnson‟s 1965 Inaugural Address. 325.” In this second example. The first one is delivered at a fairly slow pace while the second one is uttered much faster (and also more loudly).325 It is the case for example in Obama‟s Speech on Patriotism (Independence. Léon speaks of “emphasis by expressive juxtaposition” (“emphase par joncture expressive”). January 3.”326 Or in the same speech: “I think it is fitting to reflect --. --. According to Pierre Léon. 326. There is also in fact a contrast as regards the pace of delivery of those two sentences. pauses can also be used to emphasize a word. pauses perform a different function. It is interesting to listen to Lyndon B. http://www.christopherbduncan.telerama.fr/idees/le-style-obama-un-ton-de-pasteur-matine-de-rythm-nblues. This has stood out as a major characteristic feature of his spoken style.324 In that case.html) who has been imitating Obama in the Jay Leno Show on NBC since the 2008 campaign. Pauses often punctuate Obama‟s sentences. 1993). Duncan‟s website (http://www.theirs and ours. 102 . 2008): “I will never --. 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. Pierre LÉON. 2008) Patti Wood insists on the use of pauses to let the audience respond and they therefore function as an invitation to interaction. Précis de Phonostylistique (Paris : Nathan.35616. “Le style Obama: un ton de pasteur.12 They said 3 Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. mâtiné de rythm‟n‟blues”. See also Christophe B. the two pauses have different 324.Fig. His very frequent and fairly long pauses recall King‟s delivery of “I Have A Dream”.com/christopherbduncanisbarack. Obama‟s pauses are never as long.question the patriotism of others in this campaign.on the meaning of patriotism.143-4. They reflect the pastoral tone.
103 . using the most adequate preachers‟ oratorical tools. 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”. 329. the frequent pauses.327 Obama actually alters pace of delivery. most of the characteristic features were already present before: the building-up of crescendos (often combined with anaphora).asp?PageID=5396. 2008." He's embracing the pulpit. www. The long pause in the first example to let people applause also functions that way.37 for another example of this two-time construction. “[In Obama‟s speeches] the cadence and the rhythm are hypnotic. which seems to come as an afterthought. Quoted in Jennie YABROFF. 328. there's a shift in tone from being a politician in Iowa to a preacher in New Hampshire. 327. Obama often speaks with a regular rhythm. Obama‟s style combines the characteristic features of the black preacher‟s speaking style. Patti Wood‟s online comment originally broadcast on the History Channel.”328 Obama adapts his tone to the section of the speech. director of George Mason University's forensics team. but Obama suddenly centers the argument back on him (the sentence starts and closes with 1st-personal pronouns). He really does hearken back to Martin Luther King a lot. When he is not building up a crescendo. As for the second pause. is carefully orchestrated.126 p.net/program.329 Yet. Obama‟s shift from politician to preacher can be determined very precisely: With Obama.pattiwood. The paragraph seems to have reached its end. 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. comment on the Scripture or appeal to his congregants‟ emotional reaction as the sermon ends. The additional idea. The first one is used to delay the moment for Obama to say what they should reflect upon. “The Mother and the Orator”. Newsweek. He has a new religiosity in his tone when he talks about "three words that will ring. For Patti Wood. See n.functions. For Peter Prober. It lets people time to wonder what they should ponder about. He actually speaks on a beat. It‟s a model of the Baptist preacher. This function of pauses in Obama‟s spoken style is fairly frequent. January 10. but Obama unexpectedly adds a precision. it seems to mark the end of the sentence.
and remain "true to our native land.371 ff. the preacher and the congregation.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=114 where the Church presents itself as follows: “We are an African people. 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.. God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days of slavery. The Clinton team developed a counter-slogan which first appeared during her Texas and Ohio Primary Night Speech on March 4.. 1958).204. Trinity slowly adopted a more ethnic-oriented approach. 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. The most famous example of call-and-response in Obama‟s speeches is with the use of the motto “Yes we can”. more and more African Americans considered Christianity as the religion of the whites and many converted to Islam like Malcolm X. pp. op." the mother continent. Mary PATTILLO-McCOY. That the audience shall play a central role in the performance is a characteristic feature of oral cultures. the days of segregation. 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. op. “Using the call-and-response style. Trinity increasingly helped and supported the poor. Cheryl WHARRY. 333. Wright increased call-and-response and introduced gospel music (with a youth choir). 2008: “yes she will”.. 332.trinitychicago. op.2. Clinton‟s campaign revolved around her (use of the personal pronoun “she”).”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.3. HERSKOVITS. As noted before.” 336. From being a middle-class Church. which he first used in his New Hampshire (Defeat) Speech to galvanize and remobilize his supporters at the end of his speech. op. See Trinity‟s website: http://www. cit. call-and-response is rooted in the African oral tradition. it is a survival of African tradition in the United States.203-4.”331According to anthropologist Melville Herskovits. make the journey toward freedom in one body.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. 331. 330 Its function is to unite preacher and congregants and achieve communion. in musical and verbal cooperation.2. p. In the late 1960s and early 1970s.”333 From 1971. p. 335. p.770.332 Interestingly.org/index. Henry MITCHELL. Melville J. cit. which was reinforced in 1972 with the arrival of Jeremiah Wright. cit. the cradle of civilization. Trinity lost many congregants and the 1971 turningpoint (reaffirmation and enhancement of Black identity) was decided as a response to that situation.2. 104 . while Obama‟s campaign centered on Americans (use of the personal pronoun “we”). There was also an evolution in the Church‟s social approach under Wright.. and the long night of racism. quoted in Cheryl WHARRY. 334. The Myth of the Negro Past (Boston: Beacon Press. cit.
January 20. Most often. 2008.341 Obama started to deliver his stump speech mechanically. 337. “What would Obama say?”. the calls for response were mostly phonological and had to do with rhythm and intonation. “Tired Obama addresses huge Virginia crowd at final campaign rally”. 105 . 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. linguistic anthropologist. 2008).337 The sentence was used at the end (epistrophe) of each sentence of the epilogue and after the third occurrences. Texas and Ohio Primary Night Speech (San Antonio. a sociolinguist. the congregation is well attuned to the preacher‟s rhythm and can interact accordingly. the call for response came from a direct interrogative question in only one out of the 112 cases she had recorded. without the need for a direct call to say Amen”. 338. The speech was delivered late at night (approximately 11 pm) in front of a huge crowd of 100. A tired Obama used the technique in the last speech he gave before the election. In the studies led by Wharry. 2008) and the Election Night Victory Speech (Chicago. Obama called “for the „call-and-response‟ by elongating his vowels or doing a lilt in his intonation. November 4. January 26. According to Cheryl Wharry. After finishing the anecdote. the preachers in this study appeared to rely more on phonological prominence. To welcome Obama. 2008).340 This shows that Obama masters the technique and uses it very similarly to how a preacher does. The repetitions enabled Obama to build up as more and more people joined him. February 5. The gimmick was also used to conclude the South Carolina Primary Night Speech (Columbia. op. cit.” These phonological modifications worked as “interactional cues”. Ashley PARKER.338 For Jennifer Jackson. not trying to imitate but reproducing it. cit. Final Campaign Speech (Manassas.delivery. Cheryl WHARRY. 341. Super Tuesday Night Speech (Chicago. Obama ended his speech in a climax by taking up the chant and interacting with his huge audience. What reinforced the analogy with preacher was the many parallels with Martin Luther King that Obama deliberately sought to establish. 339. The New York Times. See Ewen MacASKILL. Sounding clearly exhausted. stumbling at times. the woman had started shouting “Fired up? Ready to go?” and the other supporters attending the meeting had repeated her chant. November 3.000 people. pp. op.2212. it had reached a climax and become a chant taken up by all his supporters. South Carolina. people started to take it up. The Guardian. 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. November 4. March 4.339 Cheryl Wharry. Quoted in Kent GARBER. 2008).. At the end of the speech. Yet. 2008. “This may indicate that the preacher has other strategies for „calling‟. Obama mainly echoed preachers as regards the frequent pauses and building-up of crescendos. 2008). 340. It was however what Obama used in the other example of call-and-response that can be found in his campaign.
seeking to establish a connection. The last days before the first caucus reveal a certain tension. Using MLK’s words Barack Obama often uses well-known expressions from King so as to emphasize the historical and political connection. The expression was also used in MLK‟s fierce diatribe against the Vietnam War delivered on April 4. 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. on the forty-fifth anniversary of MLK‟s “I Have A Dream” speech. Echoing MLK “He led with words. Barack Obama often referred to MLK. p. “Over 90 percent of the clergy […] believed that churches should express their views on political and social matters.”343 Martin Luther King‟s life epitomizes this close-knit interrelation between politics and religion. cit. 1967. also in Iowa. The strategy was to win the first symbolical caucus at all costs to gain legitimacy and credibility and set a momentum. and heavily relying on symbols. if not a legacy between them two. and again on December 27. 3.”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. The speech was entitled “Beyond Vietnam”.1. A minister at Ebenezer Church in Atlanta. 2007. 2008). Barack Obama about Martin Luther King. January 20. MLK was also a vigorous and unyielding political leader on the national stage. Shortly before the primary season started. Today. Obama directly quoted King by using the expression “the fierce urgency of now”. Speech at Dr King‟s Church (Atlanta. 2007.3. The Acceptance Speech was for example delivered on August 28th. Iowa is by far the state where the Obama team organized the highest number of events: 178. op. combining politics and religion is seen as a matter of fact among black ministers as Mary Pattillo-McCoy pointed out. nearly all of those 178 events were scheduled before the caucus. but he also led with deeds. 106 . 343. 345.3.345 The whole speech was actually devoted to that idea of urgency.770. both directly and indirectly. It is deeply rooted in a long-standing political struggle for liberation from oppression and a strongly-held belief in spiritual liberation.. Obama multiplied events in Iowa prior to the caucus. Mary PATTILLO-McCOY.344 The expression was used by Obama at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner organized in Iowa on November 10.3. a key-expression from the “I Have a Dream” speech. 344. for example in the speech delivered in Dr King‟s Church on January 20. That sense of urgency was also mentioned later on in the campaign. 2008 342.
For example. I may not get there with you.” (Chicago. April 3. Obama echoed those words in his Election Night Victory Speech: “The road ahead will be long.in the speech delivered after his first defeat in the New Hampshire Primary and 346. this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal. But I want you to know tonight. In some cases. which is generally stressed) or the historic chance of taking over. 1968). 2007) for example. I have personally not found any occurrences before. 2007. 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. 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 was extremely marginal. the expression “Something is happening” which is repeated twice in the speech “I‟ve Been to the Mountaintop” (April 3. and believe in it. We may not get there in one year or even one term. the optimistic belief that people‟s victory is at hand (use of the possessive determiner “our”). The expression is actually used as a title for the speech delivered on December 27. 2007). “our moment is now”346 and this is the moment” (December 27. Hence. this quote also contains one of Obama‟s very few uses of a performative verb. Our climb will be steep. that we.347 It is also the case with expressions that were repeated several times in MLK‟s speeches through anaphora. one of MLK‟s most famous speeches. he even defines the projected upcoming victory as a past turning-point in American collective and popular history and a moment of pride. Obama‟s speech is mostly based upon those words by MLK. 347. This expression is slightly modified by Obama by using the same words but with a different syntactic pattern. which proves in any case that even if he used any before.I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.we as a people will get there. “There‟s something happening” is repeated five times . the day before he was slain). I promise you . November 4. this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last. best hope on Earth.including a false start due to overwhelming applause .but it is a recurrent topic and often appears in a number of lexical variations: “we are at a crucial moment” (October 2. from “the fierce urgency of now”. 107 . 2008). The sense of pride is developed through the use of a number of superlatives which serve to characterize both America and Americans. This confidence in ultimate victory also echoed the epilogues of Martin Luther King‟s major political speeches. the words “something” and “happening” being given special focus as they are juxtaposed and set apart. 1968. but America . “And I've seen the Promised Land. will get to the promised land!” (Martin Luther King. and fight for it. “we are at a defining moment in our history”. It is worth noticing that it comes after the final victory. Obama subtly shifts to the “fierce urgency of us”. Obama emphasizes either the assessment of the present and overwhelming difficulties (repeated use of the deictic “this”. 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. as a people. Interestingly. then I am absolutely certain that generations from now. and our highest ideals.
there are undeniable common features in the form of addressing people and the way of delivering. 2008).”349 which echoes the battle cry of the civil rights movement.85. 108 . The indefinite “something” never gets precisely defined.3. 349. “Unity is how we shall overcome. while Martin Luther King‟s rhetoric used to revolve around the fight for freedom.1. 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. it resonates with optimistic undertones (“what we‟ve accomplished”) and the awareness of a movement on the way (use of the gerund “happening”). the point is to make King‟s words resonate through the ages. Though the speech is delivered after his first defeat.2. It is not surprising that Barack Obama has willingly multiplied the references to MLK in that particular speech. it is ultimately defined as “Change is what happening in America. in particular African Americans. Speech at Dr King‟s Church (Atlanta. In addition to the macrostructure which is clearly delineated through anaphora/epistrophe. using MLK‟s very words in combination with the repetitive patterns commonly used by preachers.” It has often been said that Barack Obama recalled Martin Luther King as an orator. The words taken up are generally famous words or expressions that should be easily identified as MLK‟s words and suggest an 348. The use of repetition p. It is the same with the expression. 3. Obama hardly ever pronounces the word.2. however. but the point is elsewhere. 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. The indefinite pronoun “something” is not immediately defined. See 3. after several repetitions to build up suspense and sustain the audience‟s attention. but hardly ever afterward in the campaign. 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.was never used afterward. Yet.348 Barack Obama sought to appear as a political leader carried by MLK‟s spirit. There is clearly an attempt to revive the spirit of the civil rights movement to woo voters in the South.1. 2008). January 26. Beyond the different thematic approaches.
And even if the vowels are lengthened. Taken up by the impetus. In the struggle to heal this nation and repair this world. Obama begins the lyrical outburst by shifting to a religious semantics. In the struggle for opportunity and justice. 351. 2008). According to the final draft as prepared for delivery.351 Yet. 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 first utterance is the most dissimilar to King‟s delivery but each new utterance reveals greater similarity by gradually lengthening the vowels. He addresses his “brothers and sisters”. Interestingly enough. the utterance still remains shorter than in King‟s speech. we cannot walk alone. Obama uses it again in the epilogue of his Acceptance Speech at the Democratic National Convention (August 28. In the struggle for justice and for equality. that section represents the main and final clause of the sentence. Obama mixed up the notions. the key-word in MLK‟s speeches was freedom. the topic is different. 350. which was pronounced by Martin Luther King in “I Have a Dream”. 109 . the expressions were supposed to be “peace and justice” and then “opportunity and equality”. the expression “Let freedom ring” was indeed repeated eight times and appeared as a forceful leitmotiv in “I Have a Dream”. 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. we cannot walk alone. In Obama‟s speech. yet not as long. Brothers and sisters. The second.immediate connection between Obama and King. third and fourth utterances reveal a slow fall.350 we cannot walk alone. Obama‟s numerous repetitions develop a sense of crescendo (in intensity) and each utterance is longer than the previous one. The intonation remains high and only lowers on the final syllable. which is heavily connoted religiously. we cannot walk alone. It was indeed at the core of the struggle. instead of addressing his fellow citizens. 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 last utterance presents a significant pause between “cannot” and “walk” just as in King‟s speech.
Fig. being of relatively poor quality.353 Obama often concluded his speeches with a series of sentences or one very long sentence containing a 352.”352 Like Martin Luther King in his renowned speech on Vietnam. The seconds are indicated on the horizontal line.13 Prosograms: Barack Obama and Martin Luther King‟s utterances of “We cannot walk alone. 110 . The recording of King‟s “I Have a Dream”.8s and 1.6s. That interval should therefore be considered as a pause. the obtained prosogram is partly faulty: King does not say anything between 0. “A Time to Break Silence” delivered on April 4. the epilogue of “I Have a Dream” is characterized by clauses introduced by “when”. The epilogue of the speech on Vietnam. including the loud participation of the audience. 353. 1967.
Springfield. February 9. 2007) or falling to convey solemnity (“Turn the Page”. it was played in three different variations: “if you want”. The pattern of the protasis was generally the same. According to the speeches.series of hypothetical clauses. It is the case in fact with the epilogue of the speech that pushed Obama into the limelight at the 2004 DNC Convention. 2007). It consisted in conditioning the victory on people‟s mobilization and volition. the intonation is either rising to convey energy (“Announcement Speech”. hence involving everyone: “If we will”. “if you will” and “if you‟re willing to” which are repeated several times whereas in Martin Luther King‟s speech. San Diego.354 It was especially the case with the speeches at the beginning of the campaign. In Obama‟s epilogues. 354. the pattern as regards the apodosis evolves in the course of the campaign and “then I”. at Dr King‟s Church and at the very end of the campaign. Depending on the speeches. except for the speech delivered at Dr King‟s Church. the condition rests on an inclusive “we”. it is different. becomes “then we”. April 28. just before the election. Interestingly enough. 111 . adding further cohesion to the epilogue and maintaining the focus on people instead of shifting it to Obama alone. It is the voters who can put Obama in a position to act.
It is fitting that he used interaction (and thus polyphony) to impose that message of collective action. what supporters traditionally chant. Through the use of call-and-response. Even the self-referential anecdotes about his life function to illustrate how intrinsically American his own experience is. By adopting the tone of a preacher. not on a specific agenda.” Barack Obama (February 17. 2008) Using a sentence from Margaret Atwood‟s The Handmaid’s Tale. 112 . he naturally managed to impose the upbeat catchphrase “yes we can” that soon replaced the shouting of his name. Obama‟s powerful voice gains an even greater sense of authority. This is symbolic of the whole strategy: centering the whole discourse on America and Americans.” The various components of Obama‟s rhetorical and oratorical styles reveal multiple sources of inspiration in the form as well as in substance. it might well be said about Obama‟s style that “its genius is synthesis.CONCLUSION … “Don‟t tell me words don‟t matter. 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. Obama is not the first.
“The new Cicero”. the speech also includes a storytelling section which. March 25. cit. For Catherine Steel. Yet. depending partly on the distance Obama would seek or need to establish from the black community. It is also ironical as Hillary Clinton had accused Obama of plagiarizing the phrases of 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.358 Some ideas like “the invisible Americans” that Hillary Clinton developed as a major theme of her campaign are present in the Reconciliation Speech. Kent GARBER. 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. “Rhetoric and Speaking-Style Affect the Clinton-Obama Race”. 358. The Baptist Standard. 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. See n. which mainly had to do with his oratorical skills. February 17. 2003. 356. it was the Protestant southern sermon. op. 2008. “[George W. “George W. Professor of Classics at the University of Glasgow. News. The closer he got to an ethnic group. Charlotte HIGGINS. the measure of some specific components like the black-cent. they also fulfill another function. The trumpeted and recurrent references to Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King overshadow the tacit discursive influence of Reagan. Jennifer Jackson addresses the problem of indexing a specific group in the interview given to Kent Garber. and according to Jennifer Jackson. 113 .” Interviewed by Kent GARBER. to have used a preacher‟s tone: Lyndon Johnson did. it is Lincoln.”356 This particular and specific combination of rhetorical and oratorical elements provides us with a detailed guideline of Obama‟s idiolect and spoken style. Bush. U. The Guardian. Bush] also handled the register of the sermon. November 26. It was not the African-American sermon. Roosevelt and King. 2008. Hillary Clinton in the speech she delivered to give him her endorsement. He was using the language of a preacher.6 p. See also Deborah CALDWELL. so did also George W. Scipio Aemilianius and Cato the Elder.6. For Cicero. That simplistic approach helps conjure up a mythical America through words. the preacher‟s tone or the use of call-and-response was adapted to circumstances. Bush: Presidential Preacher”. the rhetorical characteristics of the speeches remained unchanged. audiences and venues. 357.355 Obama also used the great voices of the past to stress the historical continuity with those respected elders. but he did a warped register of the sermon. He was never quoting scripture.S. it was Licinius Crassus.however.357 Whatever the exact measure of those specific components. by focusing on her connection 355. Drawing a parallel with Cicero. the further he moved away from the others. For Obama.
361. 362. which is both 359. See n. So. sounds much as it did in her campaign speeches. Clinton criticized him without praising his military service. 2007). presenting it as the beginning of a new era. “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. it generally amounted to a rhetorical question to ask who could most surely defeat him in November. 364.35 for Obama‟s use of the expression. Unlike Obama‟s speeches which began to focus on McCain very early in the campaign.” Hillary Clinton at the Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines. 2008). after eight years under President Bush. November 7. 114 . She hardly ever mentioned him in her speeches afterward and until the end of the primary season. Clinton kept fighting the primary season as an internal Democratic contest all along. Senator McCain is simply offering four years more. just after it became clear that McCain would be the Republican nominee. 2008. restore a damaged confidence by praising the “unique” American experiment.8 and p. before the Primary season actually started. “I know he‟ll work for you.” See also the frequent use of “this” in that speech to insist on the urgency of the moment.”363 There is obviously a deliberate wish to show with and through words that Clinton is fully in tune with Obama. 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. change was hardly ever set into historical perspective but meant a change of Administration with the Democrats replacing the Republicans in the White House. the beginning of the speech echoes Obama‟s usual introductory account of the journey travelled so far. She took on Barack Obama for his lack of experience: “Change. She changed strategy as the Primaries appeared much tougher than expected. she usually just called him McCain.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.100.” . Clinton concentrated her campaign speeches on putting forward her experience and attacking the Republicans.” Interestingly. 363. “We are one America. „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. In her speeches.114 p. Here is one example among others: “We‟re standing for the mother who grabbed my hand and asked me.361 On February 9. June 27.” (Unity. she can‟t afford insurance. In fact. When she did. See p. 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. “Americans who love this country”. In Clinton‟s campaign speeches. change is just a word if you do not have the strength and experience to make it happen. he‟ll fight for you and he‟ll stand up for you every single day in the White House.362 Many key-expressions from Obama‟s speeches have sneaked into Clinton‟s Reconciliation Speech: “the country we love”. “This election is one of the most important in our nation‟s history.364 Obama‟s speeches manage to produce a feel-good effect. As was seen in the introduction and in Patti Wood‟s comments.with individual ordinary Americans. there is also a dramatization of the stakes of the 2008 election. 360.359 Yet. Clinton usually reinforces the dramatic effect produced by using direct speech as she did in the Reconciliation Speech. Clinton refers to John McCain here as Senator McCain as Obama usually did.
369. The Washington Post. George PACKER. 366.366 This inspirational force helped cast Obama as a presidential figure and a would-be rhetorical president.inspirational and therapeutic. the more you realized that his magic lay in his effect on others rather than in any specific policies. “Inside Obama‟s Rhetoric”. Posted on June 6. “Within minutes. 368. New Yorker journalist George Packer evokes how he personally felt after attending one of Obama‟s rallies. 368 For Elvin T. Packer quoted in this article former Secretary of Labor Robert B. “Obama is to me very analogous to Robert Kennedy. January 28. I couldn‟t recall a single thing that he had said. few presidents other than Ronald Reagan have been able to lead the nation by the power of their words. the magic did not last long.” For some. Lim who promotes the necessary rehabilitation of presidential rhetoric.ilovepolitics. 2009 to present and defend his plan.html). It would in fact be fairly relevant to prolong this research and extend it to Obama‟s presidential speeches. which stayed with me for days. Oxford: Oxford University Press. The closer you got to him. to see how his style has evolved and how the visionary rhetoric has adapted to political responsibility and accountability. The New York Sun.ilovepolitics. “The Choice”. “In recent decades. Bush (New York. Jeffrey K. 2008). 367.” David BRODER. February 20. his mastery of communication and his power of conviction.367 That rhetorical aspect of the presidential function has now become intrinsic to it. 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. David Broder made an analogy between Obama and Reagan. After “A more perfect union”. 1988). The Rhetorical President (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 115 . Reich who found Obama particularly inspiring. however. The concept of “rhetorical president” was developed by Jeffrey K. and the speech dissolved into pure feeling. pp.” Christian Salmon interviewed by Marjorie PAILLON and Julien LANDFRIED. See in particular Bill Clinton‟s showdown with the Republican Congress in 1995-6. The Inaugural 365. TULIS. His speeches were not only about building a new future. The New Yorker. 2008 on www. Elvin T. March 23. the president should have pedagogical leadership. The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W.info/avec-obama-c-est-toute-une-amerique-qui-retrouve-sesreperes-perdus-depuis-le-11-septembre_a617. Non-essential services were suspended for over two months (November 1995-January 1996). Obama also managed to reconstruct a nation whose self-confidence had seriously faltered after 9/11 and the stalemates in Afghanistan and Iraq. 2008. they also provided an immediate positive effect. 2008.” 365 By praising America and Americans. Clinton managed to have the Republicans (and Congress) blamed for the crisis.info (www.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. What Obama showed in Philadelphia [with the race speech] is the potential similarly to inform. Tulis and is directly associated to President Reagan. Lim insists on the difference between great communicator and great teacher. LIM.119-120. see Robert SAMULESON. 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. educate and inspire people. “The Real Value of Obama‟s Speech”. 2008.
leaving a gaping hole in our hearts. His major campaign achievement was precisely to convince voters to look at him and see an American. November 17. 12. The empty seat at the dinner table. Come 2012. Obama might well need to rely on the same rhetorical tools he used in 2008 to capitalize on his record. Obama‟s 2008 victory will remain historic for its symbolical meaning. 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. Ann Dixon Cooper. 2011 provides many echoes with the campaign speeches that this dissertation sought to analyze and characterize.2. he presented himself as the metaphor of the American unity he had always been promoting. Someone who could represent them all. When forced to address it. Obama revives the rhetoric of unity and sounds very much as the presidential hopeful used to sound. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child‟s embrace. After taking on the cluster of Republican hopeful candidates at the 2011 Annual White House Correspondents‟ Dinner. 370. 2009. Hailed by some as a “new black Moses”371 or as the prophesied. 372.” Whatever happens at the 2012 presidential election. “The Joshua Generation”. Collin Craig. “The Prophetic Voice and the Face of the Other in Barack Obama's „A More Perfect Union‟ Address.372 Obama sought however to deliberately evade the issue of race throughout the campaign. “I can tell you who can definitely beat you in 2012: 2008 Barack Obama. Rhetoric & Public Affairs. provided the economic situation improves. When the situation requires though. David REMNICK. in his Election Night Victory Speech. No. FRANK. quoted in David A. 2008. 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”. 116 .Speech provided a first glimpse at the solemn tone President Obama would use. Nearly 3.” 371. Obama included in that announcement pathos and storytelling370. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. “We know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world.000 citizens taken from us. Obama helped measure how much progress had been made by African Americans since the Jim Crow era. Vol. March 18 2008”. The New Yorker. it echoed the tone he had used to deliver “A more perfect union”. comedian Seth Meyer addressed President Obama and told him.
students‟ standard of living Veterans. 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. the mothers weeping in my arms over the memories of their sons.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. The elderly. who still goes to bed each night praying for his safe return. low wages Teachers. education Health care. 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. 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. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq Iowa Caucus Health care. January 3. Night Speech students‟ standard of living (Des Moines. 2007). who now compete with their teenagers for $7-an-hour jobs at Wal-Mart. but who nevertheless think of those they've left behind and question the wisdom of our mission in Iraq. She spoke not with self-pity but with determination. low wages. 2008). 117 . Industrial relocation. and from those who still can't afford their prescriptions because Congress refused to negotiate with the drug companies for the cheapest available price. health care I've heard from seniors who were betrayed by CEOs who dumped their pensions while pocketing bonuses. the disabled or homeless vets who wonder why their service has been forgotten. who are still digging into their own pockets to pay for school supplies. Just two weeks ago. I've spoken with teachers who are working at donut shops after school just to make ends meet. a young woman who still believes that this country will give her the chance to live out her dreams. I've met Maytag workers who labored all their lives only to see their jobs shipped overseas. December 27.[…] I've spoken to veterans who talk with pride about what they've accomplished in Afghanistan and Iraq.
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. […] 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. There's nothing empty about the call for change that The elderly. who've worked in factories -. who gave me this bracelet that I'm wearing. but he gave all. industrial bankruptcies Wisconsin Industrial Primary relocation/unemploy Night Speech ment (Houston. Inscribed on it is the name of her son. International trade agreements Bankruptcy. […] We're here because of the mother that I met in Green Bay. just this afternoon. Ohio students‟ standard of Primary living Night Speech (Houston. Ohio. housing War in Iraq Texas and Health care. who've watched job after job after job disappear because of bad trade deals like NAFTA. March 4. […] It's the dream of the teacher who works at Dunkin Donuts after school just to make ends meet. She told me she was on the verge of packing and didn't know where her family would go next. it says. and then one day they come in and literally see the equipment unbolted from the floor and sent to China. February 19. She's got 2year-old twins who are legally blind. Health care. 2008) Bankrupty / Housing The elderly 118 . […] We're here because of the mother in San Antonio that I met just today. "All gave some. 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. […] We're here because there are workers in Youngstown. Wisconsin." 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. He was 20 when he was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. 2008).who've worked in factories for 20 years. February 12. 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. […] It's the dream of the senior I met who lost his pension when the company he gave his life to went bankrupt. And next to his name.Potomac Low wages Primary Night Speech (Madison. Ryan.
I think about my mom. 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. 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. 2008) Final Primary Night Speech (St Paul.when I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down. despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. The Acceptance Speech (Denver. April 22. Health care. August 28.Speech to AFL-CIO (Philadelphia. And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business or making her way in the world. I think about my grandmother. June 3. When I -. June almost lost his home because he has three children with 5.I. who once turned to food stamps. in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Health Care. marched in Patton's army.01 and a simple verse of scripture tucked inside. 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. but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships. who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift. 2008) Health care. I see my grandfather. and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the G. who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management. lack of opportunities) 119 . Bill. In the face of that young student. 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. who signed up after Pearl Harbor. students‟ standard of living Speech on Health Care Health care. who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree. or the man I met who living (Bristol. housing cystic fibrosis and couldn't pay their health care bills. industrial crisis Sex discrimination (glass ceiling. 2008) Bankruptcy. students‟ standard of living Unemployment. 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. who still doesn't have health insurance for himself or his wife and lives in fear that a single illness could cost them everything. 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. 2008) Treatment of veterans Because.
“The Audacity of Hope”. For the other key-speeches. 120 . the speech that propelled Obama into the limelight. 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). “A World that Stands as One” and “The American Promise” are the official titles of these speeches.TIMELINE OF KEY-SPEECHES … Before the 2007-8 campaign July 27. During the campaign The primary campaign 373. 2004 “The Audacity of Hope”. “A More Perfect Union”.373 Boston (MA): key-address delivered at the Democratic National Convention to support the Kerry-Edwards ticket.
Obama defines the part America should play in the world. Chicago (IL): Obama still has the lead but he has not won in a decisive way yet. Obama responds to the criticisms with a speech that proves a carefully-written reflection on race in the U. January 8. 2008 Super Tuesday Night Speech. etc. March 18. Nashua (NH): Obama is defeated by Hillary Clinton in the first primary. The race with Hillary Clinton is over: Barack Obama will be the Democratic candidate against John McCain. 2008 Final Primary Night Speech. 2008 “A More Perfect Union”. January 3. St Paul (MN). 2008 “Yes We Can”: New Hampshire Primary Night Speech. energy. 2008 Iowa Caucus Night Speech. Obama delivered the following key-speeches: June 27.. 2007 The Announcement Speech. The speech he delivered that night. the economy. Springfield (IL): Obama announced he is running for President.S. Berlin (GERMANY). Des Moines (IA): Obama wins the first caucus in a mainly white state. 121 . will prove a powerful battle cry and urge to go on.February 10. February 5. 2008 Reconciliation with Hillary Clinton. 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. 2008 July 24. “A World That Stands as One”. The campaign against McCain Apart from a series of speeches to develop his views on women. ethnic minorities. June 3. his minister. Unity (New Hampshire). hence demonstrating that he is no token candidate. Obama intends to get over the past racial divisions. though.
2008 “Yes We Did”: Election Night Victory Speech. The speech is delivered on the forty-fifth anniversary of Martin Luther King‟s “I Have a Dream”.August 23. August 28. 122 . DNC Convention. 2008 “The American Promise” or Acceptance Speech. 2008 VP Announcement Speech.C. Chicago (IL). A similar tour was performed by Abraham Lincoln before being first sworn in as President in 1861. Springfield (IL). Obama delivers his first speech as President after swearing on Lincoln‟s Bible. November 4. Barack Obama is officially nominated as the Democratic Party‟s candidate for the presidency. Washington D. Denver (CO). Barack Obama delivers his first speech as President-elect. 2009 “A New Declaration of Independence”. Joe Biden is introduced as Obama‟s prospective VP. January 20. After the campaign and onto the Inauguration January 17. Philadelphia (PA): part of the Whistle-Stop Tour performed on January 17th which took Obama from Philadelphia to Washington. 2009 Inaugural Speech.
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Le monde selon Bush (Flach Film.DVDs KAREL William. http://www.cnn.html. Obama Clash at S. 2010.php TV NEWS REPORTS BLAKE John.com/2010/LIVING/10/20/whooping/index. http://edition. Sicko (Dog Eat Dog Films. CNN. WEBSITES Christopher B.msnbc. COX II: www. October 20.35081.com/ (01/11) The Washington Post‟s special campaign project: http://projects. 2008.minstrels or ministers?”. DOCUMENTARIES . DUNCAN: http://www.telerama.christopherbduncan. 2004).soulpreaching. The DVD was released by the Editions Montparnasse in 2005. “Clinton.msn.com/id/22771568/ns/politics-the_debates/ (04/11). “Black preachers who 'whoop' -.fr/television/christian-salmon-obama-c-est-l-art-du-storytellingporte-a-son-incandescence. MITCHELL Andrea.html (11/10) Sherman H.com (05/10) Patti WOOD: www. The DVD was released in France by TFM in 2008. 2007).C. January 22.washingtonpost.net/ (04/11) 129 . Debate”.com/christopherbduncanisbarack.http://television.pattiwood. MOORE Michael.
32. 105. 84. 99. 105. 62. 100. 62. 52. 90. 24. 56. 7. 121 American Dream. 85. 28. 22. 113. 113 Bush George W. 35. 18. 46. 82. 33. 112. 9. 49. 29. 22. 25. 70. 113. 83. 23. 57. 89. 34. 75. 32. 115. 23. 27. 104 Carter Jimmy. 25. 49. 103. 61. 14. 30. 17. 58. 66. 74. 22 cataphoric definition. 41. 31. 108. 55. 8. 123. 79. 124. 66. 31. 87 catchphrase. 61. 63. 62. 49. 107. 38. 90 exceptionalism. 86. 67. 58. 75. 21. 63. 34. 125. 13. 17 epistrophe. 107. 20. 47. 5. 66. 84. 70. 125. 86. 113. 34. 52. 74 B baritone. 108. 88 anaphora. 38. 20.. 114 D Duncan Christopher B. 48. 50. 129 C Call-and-response. 115. 116 Favreau Jon. 90. 19. 97. 60. 11. 69. 80. 12. 80. 24. 37. 30. 27. 127 Axelrod David. 113. 54. 60. 75 Ashley. 30. 82. 36. 53. 109. 26. 60. 44. 108. 109. 35. 45. 100. 92. 44.. 25. 125 Civil Rights. 14. 34. 122 black-cent. 40. 78. 27. 6. 83. 123. 52. 127. 40. 97. 48. 47. 12. 63. 4. 79. 89. 94. 16. 36. 23. 51. 66. 81. 20. 45. 126 130 . 25. 49. 37. 87. 6. 124. 24. 94. 99. 65. 44. 85. 125 ethos. 80. 91 Clinton Hillary. 7. 79. 40. 50. 31. 30. 9. 79. 65. 72. 5. 74. 35. 71. 76. 67. 114. 10. 48. 50. 31. 21. 19. 68. 32. 85. 73. 75. 38. 52. 79. 77. 121. 91 anadiplosis. 96. 18. 86. 24. 115. 47. 114. 81. 43. 57. 9. 59. 44. 57. 56. 113. 12. 114. 97. 95. 70. 126. 89 epideixis. 78. 26. 23. 74. 116. 7. 74. 39 exaggerations. 24. 66. 81. 102 E empathy. 64. 78. 49 F family. 27. 91. 84. 35. 17. 104 Founding Fathers. 58. 44. 87 anti-intellectual. 40. 125 anaphoric definition. 82. 51. 115. 59. 23. 83 country. 32. 15. 48. 103. 112. 71. 28. 31. 104. 82. 41. 129 Constitution. 91. 57. 6. 75. 112 Cicero.INDEX … A America. 70. 74 G George Washington. 39. 125 Bible. 64. 76.
42. 113 signifiyin‟. 107 Pitch. 54. 6. 93. 128 logos. 64. 20. 27. 46 J Johnson Lyndon. 64. 109. 94. 79. 26. 85. 93. 39. 109 Lincoln Abraham. 79. 80. 95. 67. 102. 113. 24. 54. 121 metadiegetic. 55. 28. 95. 76 passive form. 89 N narrative. 62. 62. 111. 82. 63. 69. 77. 91. 112. 68. 53. 17. 56. 39. 113. 126 L Lakoff George. 18. 77. 73. 68. 63 symploce. 10. 105 God. 75. 14. 50. 25. 99. 9. 32. 54. 21. 49. 125 performative. 37. 22. 59. 48. 43. 83. 17. 78. 95. 5. 43. 78. 76. 19. 128 leitmotiv. 83. 34. 5. 107. 51. 70. 56. 23. 4. 53. 125 pronoun. 95. 64 pathos. 70 stump speech. 74. 70. 102. 39. 122. 75. 97. 77. 115 King Martin Luther. 97. 112. 57. 8. 72. 92. 59. 26. 99 rhythm. 53. 75. 41. 19. 18. 15. 108. 33. 107. 114. 10. 39. 123. 27. 103. 57. 15. 80. 36. 105. 46. 75. 99. 60. 65. 84. 81. 27. 88. 50. 108 McCain John. 79. 85. 102. 42. 47. 105 S sacralize. 50. 111 pauses. 20. 11. 30. 85. 103. 100. 114. 59 mise en abyme. 23. 32. 89 nation. 30. 107. 104 H hero. 61. 69. 98. 105. 28. 97. 105. 67. 63. 126. 40.gimmick. 22. 57. 53. 20. 69. 82. 109 131 . 15. 85. 107. 55. 31. 104. 115 representation. 55. 25. 52. 110. 103. 71. 78. 116 pattern. 44. 29. 103. 29. 25. 114 I intertextual. 38. 51. 96. 22. 115 non-defining restrictive relative clause. 94. 22. 9. 113. 77. 62. 73. 27 lyrical outburst. 20. 39. 111 intradiegetic. 54. 92. 113 K Kennedy John Fitzgerald. 8. 58 scripture. 71. 105 symbol. 9. 31. 26. 27. 77. 60. 69. 113. 109 M macrostructure. 25. 58. 88. 104. 28. 13. 26. 13. 75. 100. 86. 91. 124. 37. 91 preacher. 19. 92. 79. 94 Praise. 24. 56. 18. 24. 35. 25. 86. 108 R Reagan Ronald. 81. 83. 24. 103. 50. 82. 33. 105. 46 metaphor. 95. 100. 44. 57. 99. 30. 70. 88 P paraleipsis. 25. 116 metonymy. 65. 24. 37. 109. 106. 83. 25. 122. 71. 109. 27. 75 intonation.
75. 39. 37. 67. 69. 58 unity. 9. 67. 65. 34. 70. 15.T tone. 96. 19. 100. 94. 86. 97. 61. 24. 63. 24. 45. 59. 50. 94. 104. 67. 112. 116 toponyms. 87. 70. 39. 51. 103. 64. 80. 63. 38. 35. 81. 104. 4. 121 W Wright Reverend Jeremiah. 113. 23. 116. 102. 58 tricolon. 90 U united. 36. 18. 121 132 . 78. 75. 58. 68. 79. 53. 66.
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