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Marisa Borusiewicz
Professor Sarah RudeWalker
English 137H
15 October 2013
The Death of a Villain to Restore a Nation
Shocked, confused, filled with sorrow, questioning their security, and losing faith in a
government that had promised to protect them from this kind of tragedy, the citizens of the
United States were struck with an overwhelming sense of defeat on the disastrous day of
September 11, 2001. In their state of shock, the people looked to the government as a means to
bring an end to the terrorist activities which had taken the lives of their fellow Americans. Yet, in
terms of fighting terrorism, there was little the government could do to bring relief to the
horrorstruck citizens.
Waiting in suspense for a decade, the American people did not see justice until May 2,
2011. Upon a successful military raid on Al-Qaeda, Obama held a press conference to reaffirm
the avenging of the thousands of American lives that had been lost. Stepping forward, he
announced the demise of a villain. This man was a murderer of thousands and the leader of
arguably the most hated group in American history: Osama bin Laden. The vital success of the
counterterrorism department after nearly ten years of failure shook the American public to its
core. This momentous occasion is viewed as a mark of the valorous patriotism and community
effort present in this nation, but only due to Obama’s ability to impart his viewpoint on to his
audience. Misconstrued, this event could have exposed the United States as a feeble entity that
took a decade to capture a public terrorist. In order to maintain his dignity, the regard of the
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antiterrorism movement, and the esteem of the nation, it was essential that President Obama
appeal to the sentiments of his people in this moment.
Opening with an immediate recall of the events of and following the attacks on the Twin
Towers, Obama’s nearly poetic imagery draws upon the audience’s sense of loss and sorrow. He
relives the “hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers
collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight
93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak
and destruction” (Obama n.p.). The short and broken phrases contrast the flowing, mournful
diction, communicating the feeling of a series unyielding ghastly events. This very same
helpless sentiment carried by the nation on September 11
. Obama’s recollection of this
emotional state conjoined with his imagery and loaded language place the audience in the same
state as when watched the events unfold a decade earlier. And yet, he presses the audience’s
emotions further by saying “We know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the
world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their
mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child's embrace.
Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts” (Obama n.p.). The
repercussion of the violent events flood Obama’s words. The average citizen is forced to
consider the devastation the victims’ families faced and recognize the ease with which one of
their family members could have been a victim. Adding “our hearts” continues to establish the
common ground for the pain endured by all American citizens.
Such reflective imagery and commanding appeal to pathos is usually used by a speaker
near the end of a speech to rally people into a togetherness that can be used to set forth action.
Yet, breaking from this traditional mold, Obama employs this appeal to pathos at an early point.
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While he takes the risk of overshadowing his key theme with such a passionate introduction, the
appeal surmounts any disconnect may have developed in the previous decade and yields a readily
moldable audience. Giving way to a speech structured that builds from an emotional desolation,
Obama’s address mirrors the unforeseen desolation of the Twin Towers and the reconstruction of
the nation after this event. This appeal to pathos offers the feeling that the nation, and the world,
suffered as one. By tapping into the audience’s sympathy and sorrow, the citizens can unite
under again feeling insecure and vulnerable. In reference to this low, Obama is able to make
stark contrasts between the depressed state following the September 11
attacks and the actions
with which the United States government in response. Thus, the sturdier his argument in the
introduction, the greater the disparity and the stronger the United States’ forces appear.
Midway through the speech, in an attempt to reaffirm the people’s confidence in the
government, the President’s plea to pathos shifts from creating a sense of community to creating
a sense of security. His emulating of the emotions surrounding the horrendous events gives him
the capacity to continue imparting emotions on to the audience. In creating a sense of
community, the President draws heavily on the preconditioned emotions of the public. When he
moves to his description of his own action taken, he is drawing on the sense of vulnerability he
produced in the introduction. Obama shifts from a repetition of the collective “we” to the
repetition of a singular “I.” The noticeable difference in his pronoun choice allows Obama to
take responsibility for the capturing and killing of Osama bin Laden without arrogance. In this
regard, the development of his ethos contributes to the pathos appeal. Reinforcing the American
people’s perception of his authority by emphasizing his ability to make tough decisions
engenders the understanding of his capability as the most prevailing leader of the free world. By
delivering this description in conjunction with his repeated thanks to his Cabinet, Obama can
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come across as both humble and powerful and reassure his authority in the eyes of the nation and
the world.
His use of words that imply a time frame, such as “shortly after taking office,”
“repeatedly,” “finally, last week,” and “Today,” all create a sense of urgency, hinting at the fact
that the administration was constantly working to its maximum ability (Obama n.p.). His
purposeful emission of a phrase flatly stating urgency allows the President to convey the
determination of the effort while sidestepping any mention of the extended length of time of the
undertaking. Collectively, these small components create a feeling of security in the persistence
of the government as rather than an uncertainty of its competence. The audience receives a
greater sense of sanctuary knowing they are in the hands of diligent workers, but it is less
recognizable that this effort far exceeded the anticipated timeline.
At this point, Obama has left the audience with a sense of loss for the nation but regained
their confidence in the security and capability of the United States to fight terrorism. Yet, he
continues to widen the resolution of his speech beyond the simple announcement of the death of
a villain: he pronounces that this event, however unspeakable, has provided the nation with an
example of what occurs when the nation is unified and how it has provided a source of unity
from which the nation has grown. This point is armored by his tremendous appeal to
nationalism. He appeals to the American ideal of justice. Americans’ fundamental belief in
justice can be seen in the pride that is placed in the judicial courts and the heavy emphasis on
fairness in the constitution. Obama plays up to this ideal of justice by ending subsequent
paragraphs with “Justice has been done,” and the actions of heroic citizens were in the “pursuit
of justice” (Obama n.p.).
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This appeal culminates and is optimized by his flawlessly integrated quotation of the
pledge of allegiance. “Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or
power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for
all” (Obama n.p.). This is a final appeal to the feeling of unity and the possibility for change.
The audience is reminded that even though they are part of the wealthiest nation in the world and
the government can provide power, true strength of a nation is in the unity of its people. This
idea is reflected in Obama’s intention for the speech as a whole. He is attempting to emotionally
stir the audience into using this event, the murder of a terrorist, as a point at which the nation can
share a common source of history and drive. The pride of the audience swells as he recites the
pledge, a pledge that each citizen can recite with him. This pride leaves no room for doubt in the
mind of the audience that the United States is still the most powerful nation in the world, a nation
resilient to attack, strong in leadership, and true to its ideals.
When Osama bin Laden was captured and killed, the nation was relieved yet still faced
the possibility of being viewed as weak for the length of time that the mission took to carry out.
Yet, Obama’s appeal the pathos of the nation and the world in his address of the event reassured
the security of the United States of America.

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Works Cited
Obama, Barack. “Remarks by the President on Osama Bin Laden.” East Room, White House,
Washington D.C. 2 May 2011. Press Conference. Phillips, Macon. The White House.
N.p., Web. 15 Oct. 2013.