Université Paris 7 Diderot Institut Charles V - UFR d'études anglophones


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.


.................2.....................TABLE OF CONTENTS … TABLE OF CONTENTS .... 17 1.......... Obama the political rhetorician ......1... 13 1................................ Analysis of the stump speech and of its evolution ..................................................................3.............. 17 1...........1............................2............ John McCain........................................ The minor use of arguments................1............... 28 1................................................................................2............2..........................................2.2........................................ Epideictic oratory in Obama‟s speeches....... The opponents .............. The flourishing rhetorical imagery and characteristic stylistic devices.................................................1..............................................2.................................................................. 3...... 11 1....................................1............ 5 1.................................................................................... Praise of America and Americans .......... Obama on Obama ...................... 17 1....1.............................................................................................................2........................... 10 1.............1..........................4. The rhetorical proofs at play in Obama‟s speeches ..........................3................ 20 1...1..................................... 27 1. 1 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS ......... 32 1........... Hillary Clinton .......1....................1.......... 11 1.... 15 1.........4...........................................3...............3................... 14 1.................................... 17 1.......... 4 INTRODUCTION ...................................................2.................................................. The height of the primary campaign ........................................................................ 35 1 ........................3.....1.. 22 1............................ From the Whistle-Stop Tour to the Inauguration ...................3.... 2....................................... Specific speeches .. Structure of Obama‟s speeches .......... 30 1..................................................................................................................................1..... Targeting anonymous groups ........................................................ The appeal to emotions ................

..............2......................3........1............... Redefining America‟s national identity ... 96 3.............. 77 3....................1... The structure and main components of the sermon ....................1............ 71 2.....................1.... 85 3............................................ 41 2....... 58 2.............1................ Shifting back and forth between “we” and “I” .......2................................................................2.................... 88 3....2.......2......................................... Obama the modern politician ...................2.....2......................3.........................1...........3..............5..................1....2.............. The tone of a preacher . The influence of black church rhetoric ...2.......... 90 3............... Use of the personal pronoun “we” (and possessive determiner “our”)...............1....................................................1................................................ The Ashley Baia story .......................................... 92 3.................................................2.................... 60 2...............................................1............................ Obama‟s rhetorical frame: where the religious meets the political ............................2........................ Opposing “we” to “they” .....................................................1..................... Forging unity through words ....... The use of repetition ......... Obama the Preacher .. 80 3.......... 40 2. 85 3.............................2..1.......................2....... 44 2...................2....................1................2.................. 51 2.....2................2..................2....... 39 2.......... Determining who “we” refers to.4..................................................1.. 104 2 .............. Call-and-response ................2.......... What the tone reveals beyond the message ...... 72 2..............................1.................1.3.......1.................................................4................1............................................................2....2.......................................... Verbal references .... Acting as a preacher .......... The functions of the toponyms ................................ 73 3.......2............... Using the motifs and stylistic devices used in sermons ..................................................1........2................................................... A clearly defined yet not-so-rigid pattern...................2..................... The nature of religious discourse in black churches..5............... “A more perfect union” ...4.......... The use of hypotyposis .......2................................2............... 96 3........1......................... The manifold parallels with Lincoln ...........................2................................... 77 3........................................1............2..........................2.. 51 2.... 76 3.............................2.......................1.................. Obama‟s personal narratives . 47 2........2...............3.....................1........................2.............. 68 2................. Prefabs based on the personal narratives of anonymous Americans .........2.......................2... 77 3...............................2........ Non-verbal references ......................... 56 2............................................. 53 2.......... 53 2.................................. 83 3..................................... Adopting the techniques of the Black Church .................................2........ Looking at the world through the prism of Black Church values .... A post-racial discourse? .................... 59 2...................4....................................1...........1.................... 55 2.......... The building-up of a crescendo in the overall structure......5.............................................2.3......................................1. References to race prior to “A more perfect union” ........ Obama the storyteller ............ 92 3................ 63 2...

......................2.........................................................................................................................................................................................1........................ 106 3..... 108 CONCLUSION ..................................... Echoing MLK ..................3........................................................................................................................................3. 112 APPENDIX ........................................... 120 BIBLIOGRAPHY . 117 TIMELINE OF KEY-SPEECHES .............3.................................................3............................................................................................................. 130 3 .... Using MLK‟s words ........................................................... 106 3........................................ Sounding like MLK?.................................... 123 INDEX ................................................................................................................

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS … Fig. Fig. p. January 3. p.99. Fig. p. p.68.11 They said 2 Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines.95.4 Ebenezer 1 – PRAAT. 2007) – PRAAT. 2008) – PRAAT.101. p. January 3. p.69.5 Ebenezer 2 – PRAAT. Fig.7 Ebenezer 4 – PRAAT.13 Prosograms: Barack Obama and Martin Luther King‟s utterances of “We cannot walk alone”. Fig.101. Fig. 4 .94.6 Ebenezer 3 – PRAAT. 2008) – PRAAT. p. 2008) – PRAAT. 2008) – PRAAT. 2008) – PRAAT.2 Presentation of Ashley Baia in “A more perfect union” (March 18. p. p.87. p.10 They said 1 Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. Fig. February 10. 2008). p. p. Fig. p.98.1 Presentation of Ashley Baia at Dr King‟s Church (January 20.8 Prosograms of how Blacks and Whites pronounce “yes we can”.110.12 They said 2 Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. January 8.102.3 Equilibrium and tricolon (Announcement Speech. Fig.9 Prosograms of four of Obama‟s utterances of “yes we can” during the New Hampshire Primary Night Speech (Nashua. Fig. Springfield. Fig.93.93. Fig. Fig. January 3.

Elvin T. like Ronald Reagan who was known as the Great Communicator. The U.2 Elvin T.INTRODUCTION … “On the shoulders of giants”1 George Washington‟s lofty rhetoric helped lend dignity to the American presidency. 2009. analyzed the steady decline of presidential rhetoric up to George W. pp. who was a bad public speaker. Interview of Allan Metcalf. 2008). Professor of English at MacMurray College and author of Presidential Voices: Speaking Styles from George Washington to George W. a then fledgling institution. It was used by Barack Obama in the speeches he delivered on January 20. The phrase was originally used by Bernard de Chartres and taken up by Isaac Newton. LIM. 2008 at Dr King‟s Church and at the NAACP Convention on July 17. It was not the case however for Thomas Jefferson. Lim.19-39. Bush (New York. Obama gained public recognition and came to symbolize a 1.org/speak/seatosea/standardamerican/presidential/voices/ 3. July 2004). 2.3 Good orators have not vanished but skillful rhetoricians have given way to skilful performers. The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. With his widely acclaimed 2004 Keynote Address at the Democratic National Convention to support John Kerry‟s run for President.S. Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University. http://www. 5 . Oxford: Oxford University Press. Bush (Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 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. Bush. Barack Obama came as a watershed after the spate of lexical gaffes of his predecessor in the White House. using the readability tests for example to show that presidential rhetoric had become simpler over the years.pbs.

6. 2008. February 26. In an article published in The Sunday Times about how Obama was regarded by poor whites. Alec MacGILLIS. “There have been many controversial aspects to this presidential election. op. then they should be your own words. March 4. The Washington Post. cit. op. Scores of articles dealing with Senator Barack Obama‟s rhetorical skills were published during the 2008 presidential campaign. Quoted in Alec MacGILLIS. “The Joshua Generation”.” Texas and Ohio Primary Night (San Antonio.” 8. “John McCain and Senator Clinton echo each other in dismissing this call for change. 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. 2008). 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. Obama counterattacked at the height of the Primary season. 2009: “As much as anything else. 7. 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. It also tells a lot about the extent to which candidates have to adapt to woo certain sections of voters.7 It was precisely because Obama had little national experience that he had to rely on his rhetorical and oratorical skills. the Democratic candidate‟s “liberal bullshit” (as one of the interviewees put it) was considered more damaging to him than his 4. on the expression of a country‟s potential and the self-expression of a complicated man who could reflect and lead that country. This somehow represented a major obstacle for Obama as his well-spoken style made him appear too remote and aloof from the less educated.clear break from the noted decline in political rhetoric. The ideas were taken up by CBS: “Obama‟s most powerful weapon: words”. His record was too slight.6 Despite those repeated accusations. poorer sections of the American society. “His Way With Words: Cadence and Credibility”. And yet. “The new Cicero”. January 20. it's change you can Xerox. November 17. His eloquence has been both an object of praise and an easy target for his opponents during the campaign. speeches and not solutions. many commentators insisted that it was precisely Obama‟s way with words that proved decisive in both the primary campaign and the national presidential election. They say it is eloquent but empty. 2008. they should know that it's a call that did not begin with my words. The New Yorker. Hillary Clinton heavily insisted on Obama‟s use of Governor Deval Patrick‟s phrases to denounce his lack of originality. The Guardian. cit. See also Henry ALLEN. “Finding Political Strength in the Power of Words”. […] Lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in.” David REMNICK. As Gerald Shuster from the University of Pittsburgh explained.” Alec MacGILLIS. The Washington Post. 2008. “If your candidacy is going to be about words. Since 2004. Barack Obama has stood out on the national stage as a man of words. 6 . February 26. His Democratic and Republican opponents were right: he ran largely on language. 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. 2008. “The only way he can convince people that he can become president is his rhetoric. CBS. 5. Obama won the presidency with words. November 26. 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.” Charlotte HIGGINS.

2008 and also in “Will Obama pass the Waitress Test?” The Nation. his closest speechwriter for the 2007-2008 campaign was Jon Favreau. Clinton and Obama scored very differently on the readability tests. The Chicago Tribune. August 3. “He talks and I type everything he says.S. Kent GARBER. however. 7 . See also Tony ALLEN-MILLS and Nina BERMAN. “To working-class. 2008. The Nation. 11. This is a much more intimate way to work. January 6. 10.” Favreau explains. Another explained that Bush had been popular among them because “he looks as dumb as we feel. 2008. Tony ALLEN-MILLS and Nina BERMAN. “she looked like them and. According to studies. often. 2008. which would appear more relevant if Obama was not working so closely with his speechwriters. he reshapes it. A lot of times. 2008. March 31. 14. which is to determine to what extent the voices of “ghostwriters” overlap that of the politician. Quoted in Richard WOLFFE. He writes. August 3. “In His Candidate‟s Voice”.”12 Political speeches are often collectively drafted. This raises the question of authorship. 13. the politician would be essentially a performer. 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. Eli Saslow commented on their special bond. it gets hacked by advisers. In the case of Barack Obama. Favreau mentions in the article that the Announcement Speech was e-mailed to him by Obama at 4 a. 12. That's how we get a finished product. sounded like them. December 18. When you see a president who looks aw-shucksy about everything. the day it was delivered. Obama. “Helping to Write History”. ESPRIT.race. Major politicians work with a team of speechwriters.”10 This sense of “artificial” belonging explains why Hillary Clinton decided to lower the level of her English. I write. Eli SASLOW. “Rhetoric and Speaking-Style Affect the Clinton-Obama Race”. did not make the same choice.newsweek. U. March 25.m. June 26. The Washington Post. It is obvious that campaign speeches are not the products of a single man. “Obama and Working-Class Women”. 9. News. As Connie Schultz pointed out. you hand it in. those folksy vowels. “How Barack Obama can win over poor whites” The Sunday Times. Clinton talks the talk”.”14 This dissertation will not focus on the question of authorship. Connie SCHULTZ. Newsweek.11 Clinton wished to sound more like the voters she was targeting and that explained the support she garnered from working-class women. I reshape it. As Favreau confided. “the two men have formed a concert so harmonized that Favreau's own voice disappears. Jim TANKERSLEY.com/id/84756/page/1. 2008 and Sylvie LAURENT. you kinda like that around here. 14 July 2008. In such a case.”13 Writing in The Washington Post. you write something. http://www. It's a great way to write speeches. it gets to the candidate and then it gets sent back to you. “Barack Obama peut-il séduire la classe laborieuse blanche ?”. 2008. October 2008. “How Barack Obama can win over poor whites” The Sunday Times. that identification with Bush “[had] less to do with the content of [his] words and more to do with his style – that Texas twang.”9 For reporter Kent Garber.

In addition to the key-speeches such as the New Hampshire speech (“Yes We Can”) or “A more perfect union”.”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. 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. 17. or political affiliation. The corpus under scrutiny is made up of a wide selection of Obama‟s speeches delivered during the campaign. Slate.co.stm. although few understand exactly why he has this effect on them. 8 .17 A second series of articles clearly departed from this approach and put forward more typically American roots. 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. it is about delivery. For both. The reader will find an annotated timeline at the end of the 15. 2009. 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). Jack SHAFER. though some have sometimes played down one aspect. They swoon and wobble. “Obama: Oratory and originality”. For a man whose key-word in the campaign was “change” and who symbolizes change by the very color of his skin.Obama‟s speeches are powerful because of the impressions that they arouse: “Barack Obama bringeth rapture to his audience. It is indeed impossible to dissociate the rhetorical skills from the oratorical talent displayed by Obama. from his Announcement Speech on February 10. cit. op.16 Well-written speeches need to be well-delivered in order to be most effective and convincing. professor of rhetoric at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy. BBC News. the question of influences proves crucial. The text alone cannot tell us why they are so powerful." Quoted in Stephanie HOLMES. posted on November 19.bbc.uk/2/hi/americas/7735014. New York: "I've been going through his speeches textually. 2007 on the steps of the Old Capitol in Springfield to his Inaugural Speech on January 20. it is worth analyzing which traditions he seeks to break with or pursue and what makes him such an acclaimed orator. regardless of race. “How Obama Does That Thing He Does”. http://news. Charlotte HIGGINS. Says Ms Ekaterina Haskins. gender. 16. 2008. A first series of articles like Charlotte Higgins‟s widely publicized analysis depicting Obama as a “new Cicero” focused on Greek and Roman influences to account for Obama‟s rhetorical skills. posted on 14 February 2008.

During a campaign. and can even suggest a lie. storytelling consists in the use of narratives as a political tool.” Evan CORNOG. op. gauging the extent of the various traditions that influence and inspire Obama. This analysis of Obama‟s campaign speeches also focuses on the stump speech.dissertation18 indicating all the major speeches of the campaign. 19. 2004). p. This dissertation will be divided into three parts.120-2. 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. cit. The second part will concentrate on Obama as a modern American politician as he often resorts to storytelling. Alec MacGILLIS.68. The first part will focus on Obama as a political orator to determine the extent of classical influences. to factual narratives and fictitious ones. Mythocratie: Storytelling et imaginaire de gauche (Paris: Editions Amsterdam. about themselves” to persuade “those who have the power to elect them. its difficulty. It has mostly been used to illustrate Conservative values. See Yves CITTON. Developed by Ronald Reagan.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. 2010).2. components and style. and. in the back cover. most of all. Bush (New York: Penguin. 20. […] The word „story‟ can refer to the course of a person‟s entire life or a single moment in that life. p. all aimed at characterizing Obama‟s speeches in terms of rhetoric and oratory. See pp. 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. The Power and the Story: How the Crafted Presidential Narrative Has Determined Political Success from George Washington to George W. politicians use stories “about the nation. as much in terms of structure. 18. audio and video files) is provided at the end of the dissertation. 9 . […] They connect a politician with both the issues of his time and with the hearts and minds of the voters.20 a now characteristic feature of American political discourse.

it will concentrate on the use of epideictic oratory and the rhetorical proofs (logos. see Olivier REBOUL. This part will focus on analyzing the structures of Obama‟s speeches. Then. The structure of speeches was codified. for instance what part should emotional appeal play. For a clear yet detailed introduction to Ancient Rhetoric. this section will be devoted to the stylistic devices that characterize Obama‟s rhetorical style. Some of those elements have hardly changed (stylistic devices). 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. 10 . the plethora of stylistic devices listed. political. 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 was a technique before becoming an art. Introduction à la rhétorique (Paris: PUF. Speeches were categorized according to the functions they performed: ceremonial. ethos and pathos) privileged by Obama. 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. 2001. 4th edn). judicial.1. 21. Finally.

” and finally an invocation. just a week short of a year.” (Barack Obama. the city where I served for many years before I went to the United States Senate. a list of the things he would do as president “if you are ready for change. 1. 22 The argument used against Hillary Clinton is not really a distinct part in fact. Structure of Obama’s speeches I will mostly focus on the structure of the speeches. “Finding Political Strength in the Power of Words”.1.1.1. February 26. not on the designational paradigms that characterize each basic part. 2008) . The basic structure of Obama's speech has remained more or less the same: a statement of why he is running now. February 26. I will also insist on the major variation and adaptations adopted at different moments of the campaign. and rejection. Alec MacGILLIS. .The case for change: List of problems (replaced as of December 27. Analysis of the stump speech and of its evolution The stump speech is the standard speech delivered by a candidate during a campaign. The Washington Post. The Washington Post. Boise.1. “Anatomy of a Stump Speech”. 23. February 2. since I stood on the steps of the old state Capitol in Springfield. the place where Abraham Lincoln served for many years before he went to Washington. 11 . The structure of the stump speech has been delineated in The Washington Post by Alec MacGillis. 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. Illinois. Patterson CLARK and Larry NIST.Introducing the beginning of his journey and establishing his credibility:23 “It has now been almost a year. of the arguments against his candidacy. Here are the five basic parts that structure most of Obama‟s stump speeches. 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. 2007 by a list of narratives representing the major problems America is facing): 22. and announced that I was embarking on this unlikely journey. 2008. a subtle argument for why voters should not “settle” for Clinton. 2008. an account of the movement the campaign is building.

January 8. schools where too many children aren't learning. my opponent will not be able to say that I voted for the war in Iraq.” (Iowa Caucus Night Speech. Political agenda and ideas and argument against Hillary Clinton: “I believe that Americans want to come together again behind a common purpose. November 27.Yes.Rallying cry to fight together. as we take this campaign South and West. Obama‟s case for a new politics recalls the New Coalition formed by Roosevelt in 1932. The speech itself represents a journey through time.” (New Hampshire Primary Night Speech. 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. win together: the journey ahead. October 2. This introduction states the purpose of the speech and sets the 24. 12 . unless we have leadership that doesn't just tell people what they want to hear but tells everyone what they need to know. 2007). “Franklin Delano Obama?”. . 2008) The stump speech is basically constructed in a cyclical way with references to a journey to open and close the speech. op-ed.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. The speeches sometimes end with a very long sentence that also encompasses the main ideas developed during the speech. Can.a war with no end.” (Announcement Speech. January 3. a dependence on oil that threatens our future. from sea to shining sea . But my own American story tells me that this country moves forward when we cast off our doubts and seek new beginnings. For parallels between the economic and political situations between the early 2000s and the 1930s. . Des Moines. and together. or that I supported Bush-Cheney policies of not talking to leaders that we don‟t like. unless we stand up to the corporate lobbyists that have stood in the way of progress. including historical references while the closing sentences evoke the path ahead (use of the modal “will” or “would” in hypothetical contexts). 2008) . that we are not as divided as our politics suggests. Nashua. we will remember that there is something happening in America. The introduction is about the past journey accomplished so far. We. […] When I am this party‟s nominee.” (Reclaiming the American Dream. Springfield. and families struggling paycheck to paycheck despite working as hard as they can.“All of us know what those challenges are today .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.” (A New Beginning. 2007). November 10. Bettendorf. Chicago. that we are one people. 2008. “And so tomorrow. see Paul KRUGMAN. we will begin the next great chapter in America's story with three words that will ring from coast to coast. February 10. […] I believe that Americans want to come together again behind a common purpose. 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. we are one nation. 2007). or that I gave George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran. The New York Times.

The epilogue urges the audience to mobilize and fight for him. the structure of Obama‟s speeches remained fairly the same. 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 height of the primary campaign On the whole. insisting on the nature of the challenges and problems to face. 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. 1.public. 27. 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. As the Primaries unfolded. In judicial speeches. Institutes of Oratory. also insisted on the necessary use of pathos in the concluding lines of a speech. QUINTILIAN. however. the narratio in which Obama presents an assessment of the situation. Hillary Clinton generally concluded her speeches by thanking people. it is fundamental that it ends with electrifying emotion and a powerful dynamic rather than arguments on which people have to ponder. the Roman rhetorician. “In the peroratio.campaign into perspective. Aristotle defined the excitement of emotion as one of the key-part of the epilogue.1. we may give full scope to the pathetic. It also contained arguments to counter those of the other side. Book IV.”27 As the epilogue provides the lasting impression made on the audience. the outline of Obama‟s campaign speeches is very close to the classical structure of the judicial speech. however. Hence. 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. Chapter 1. the argument against Clinton related to her initial support of the war in Iraq was removed from the speeches and from early February.iastate.2. It usually constituted a fairly large section. 26. an 25.edu/~honeyl/quintilian/contents. Obama also replaced the factual list of problems by a list of individual narratives to illustrate the problems America was facing. When the primaries really started in January 2008. http://www.26 Quintilian.pdf 13 . that part was devoted to the arguments developed to prove the guilt or innocence of the accused. which corresponds to the look backward that characterized his earlier speeches of the campaign. by specifying for how long he has been campaigning. A few variations can be noted.

came very late in the campaign. Those speeches. Quoting Mario Cuomo. Specific speeches Some of these speeches were delivered in the first months of the campaign. 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. That delay can explain Clinton‟s criticisms of his relying on nice words for most of the primary campaign. education) or as regards a specific audience (working women.31 foreign policy. Hillary Clinton declared on January 6. personal experience). which gave voters a precise and detailed idea of what he intended to do.3. 14 . They discuss current legislation and suggest reformed or new legislation.important section was added as to why McCain should be opposed. his criticism of the current legislation or situation and of his Republican opponent‟s position and past record on the issue. Those speeches are often more technical. The pattern thus remains globally unchanged even if the main rival changes. A first speech on energy was delivered very early in the campaign on May 7. A first speech on healthcare was delivered on May 29. Obama added a definition of hope and the “Yes We Can” gimmick. Obama still ended his speeches with a rallying cry and the urge to move forward but from January 8. 2007. just before the New Hampshire Primary that “You campaign in poetry. unionists). 2007.S. 29 health care. a former Governor of New York. Obama described various situations to show the many facets of the issue. The War in Iraq was already specifically dealt with on October 2.28 Those speeches were generally repeated several times and delineated in detail what Obama proposed to do on a given issue (the war in Iraq.” 29. 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. 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. 28.1. African Americans. you govern in prose.30 the economy. when Obama was directly and solely confronted to his Republican opponent. veterans. 30. but most of them were given after the Primaries were over. Based on individual and/or personal examples and hence once more resorting to storytelling. energy. He then moved on to promise what he would do instead. 1. 2007. Senate. 2008 and his defeat in the New Hampshire primary. 31. Latinos. including many figures to sound more convincing. 2008.

C. 2009. 33. The speeches addressing one particular issue were carefully staged as regards place and/or time. 2008). The three speeches delivered along the journey were more or less the same. Speech at the LULAC Convention (Washington D.32 When addressing ethnic communities. Capitalizing on his worldwide popularity.” The Philadelphia and Baltimore speeches were devoted to the beginning of the American journey and experiment and focused on American core values. he can appear as a potential statesman whose popularity benefits America and therefore helps restore Americans‟ esteem in the world.When Obama addresses specific audiences. To set out his views on foreign policy. It was disparaging at the time and used by Americans to define the “new Americans” coming from Europe: Irish Americans. From the Whistle-Stop Tour to the Inauguration Shortly before the Inauguration. 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. not “hyphenated Americans”33. Obama presents himself as a “global man”. during the third mass immigration wave to America. proving that barriers can tumble down. Today. The Speech on Education was given the day after school resumed after the summer holidays. LULAC for Latinos. that is to say on the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the war. not just Americans. Italian Americans. this kind of expression is sometimes used by a community to stress the richness of its cultural roots. 1. Focusing on his mixed origins.4. he does so in events staged by legitimate organizations representing the specific audience (NAACP for African Americans. 2008. The expression dates back to the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Obama undertook a journey by rail to Washington in a vintage railcar. This is the case of African Americans. “The Cost of War” was delivered on March 18. hence addressing the citizens of the world. AFL-CIO for workers). In these speeches. imitating Lincoln‟s “Whistle-Stop Tour”. July 8. 15 . The Speeches on Energy were delivered in Michigan and a large section was devoted to the car industry based in Detroit. Obama delivered a speech from Berlin. The theme of the journey was in keeping with the staging: “A new declaration of independence. Obama insisted on their being Americans. the Philadelphia and Baltimore speeches were almost identical word by word.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. Then Obama told the stories of 32. German Americans. stressing his leitmotif of national unity. See for example the drop-out rates for Latinos. The symbolical journey was made on January 17..

and endure what storms may come. On the whole. which can be found p. Potomac Primary Night (February 12. There is a relative stability of structure in Obama‟s speeches throughout the campaign. South Carolina Primary Night Speech (Columbia. The speeches ended with a call to perfect the union and keep the American spirit of the early patriots alive. It evokes the future as a projected past. we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations. with hope and virtue. January 3. The present is seen as a moment that will go down in history. who boarded the train with his family there. being remembered by the posterity. Virginia Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Richmond. and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us. 2008). insisting on “the same message we had when we were up and when we were down. that we did not turn back nor did we falter. 2008).three ordinary Americans to illustrate the everyday problems Americans were facing. Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. The stories were different in each speech and the Americans mentioned were each time named. in this winter of our hardship. This epilogue echoes that of the Final Primary Speech. except for the sections devoted to his rivals. 2008). let us remember these timeless words. 16 . February 9. The speech delivered in Wilmington was more particularly focused on Joe Biden. the structure remained the same as during the speeches.34 This stability of the structure also reflects the stability in the ideas put forward.” The end is a projected glimpse forward: America.”35 34. 2008). 35. let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end. 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. January 26. let us brave once more the icy currents.107. in the face of our common dangers. where he lived.

2007). also called praise-and-blame rhetoric. “the cynics” are characterized by a name which is already a criticism and therefore to respond to it would be to endorse the criticism.36 Apart from “the lobbyists” and “special interests” which can be more or less identified. 1. Despite his early statements that he rejected the divisive Washington way of making politics. 17 . Hillary Clinton As for his direct opponents.1. yet.2. is to be expected in the campaigns speeches of political candidates to emphasize one‟s own assets and the opponents‟ shortcomings and flaws.1. 37.37 he had to respond to the attacks leveled at him by Hillary Clinton as regards his lack of experience.1. the references to Clinton were rarely direct. Targeting anonymous groups In Obama‟s speeches. The reference to the scoring-point game is made repeatedly in the course of the campaign.2. “the lobbyists” and “the special interests” in Washington. “The cynics” and/or cynicism are mentioned in most of Obama‟s campaign speeches. “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. 2007). 2.” “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. 1. He used counterarguments without ever mentioning his target by name. “the skeptics”. “the pundits”.2. The opponents 1. The cynics and the “skeptics” are by far his most frequent collective targets. Epideictic oratory in Obama’s speeches Epideixis.2. what people 36. Obama opted for two different discursive strategies. December 27. that's about tearing your opponents down instead of lifting this country up.1.1. 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. “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines.” 38 Yet. December 27. overt and harsh criticism is mainly limited to anonymous groups of people whose precise identity is never defined: “the cynics”. 38. These collective targets are characterized by their generic representation and the quite systematic use of THE + plural NP.

hence attacking not the person but the behavior. 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 issue was in fact less and less developed as the campaign unfolded.msnbc.com/id/22771568/ns/politics-the_debates/ (04/11). In fact. and voting like George Bush Republicans. November 7. Debate”. as the race of the Primaries still remained very close and embittered.that voted to give the President the open-ended authority to wage war that he uses to this day. Obama delivers in that speech a fierce diatribe against the decision made by Congress to support the executive.should really have heard was the pronoun “she”. 18 . 2007). it was often limited to an illustration through an individual narrative and was then replaced by the economic issue which had become the voters‟ main concern. “Clinton. So let's be clear: without that vote. and acting. October 2. The speech dealt exclusively with the war in Iraq and its various consequences. 2008).” 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. Senator Clinton attacked John McCain for supporting the policies that have led to our enormous war costs. Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines. http://www. 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. For more on the feud opposing Clinton and Obama. 2007).” 40. Obama explains that Americans were failed not only by the president but also by “the majority of a Congress . He transformed a direct attack into a general rule of adequate political behavior. 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. “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. see Andrea MITCHELL. “A New Beginning” (Chicago. January 22. She was only directly attacked with some sarcasm when she was likened to John McCain in March. 2008. Clinton‟s error of judgment as regards the issue was the chief argument used by Obama against her. 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.41 Now.a coequal branch of government . there would be no war. Obama Clash at S. “The Cost of War” (Charleston. 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. 42 39. March 20.msn.C. 42. Obama substituted a collective entity of Democrats who had acted like Bush‟s Republicans for his main rival. 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”. 41. In other cases. at that debate in Texas several weeks ago.

The use of the past conditional is used to undermine her own authority to attack McCain on the issue. when the other Republican candidates had been left lagging much behind. In that speech. Obama performed a pool trick shot as it enabled him to target both Clinton and McCain.” 45. 2008. “And no matter how this primary ends. including for his daughters. which is only rhetorical precaution. Clinton was praised for being a relentless fighter (the noun “fight” is often repeated) and a pioneer for other women in politics (“made history”. what led her to the United States 43. 2008. all the more so as Obama‟s main focus that day was working women. 2008. “barrier-breaking). commitment and career were described as sources of inspiration. June 3. Her personality.43 Praise of Hillary Clinton evolved in nature and length by becoming longer and by shifting focus. 47. Senator Clinton has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and your daughters will come of age. 2008 when she was presented as “an inspiration for my daughters and yours. 44. in the Final Primary Night Speech on June 3. “more compelling”. in Unity on June 27. and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight. I can tell you that what gets Hillary Clinton up in the morning – even in the face of tough odds – is exactly what sent her and Bill Clinton to sign up for their first campaign in Texas all those years ago. in Unity to symbolize the unity of the party on June 27. her courage.1. 19 . Hillary Clinton was praised in five main speeches: the Kentucky and Oregon Night Speech on May 20. after Super Tuesday.” It was exclusively the case in New York City during a joint meeting organized on July 10. 2008. 2008 and in the Acceptance Speech on August 28. a few weeks later. 2008. during the transition period as the primary campaign ended and the campaign against the Republicans was really going to start. but because she's a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength. what sent her to work at the Children's Defense Fund and made her fight for health care as First Lady. See 1. Hillary Clinton was praised at length for who she was and what she represented. 2008). But as someone who's shared a stage with her many times. in the Final Primary Night Speech delivered in St Paul on June 3. Ironically enough. in a joint meeting held in New York City on July 10. 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). Attacks on McCain started as of early February 2008. presented as a symbol for women.47 When Obama summarized her political career. and then briefly in the Acceptance Speech. The speech is one of Obama‟s specific speeches.3.46 This was combined with a fairly long account of her professional career and various commitments. 200845.14. Yet. Final Primary Night (St Paul. and for that we are grateful to her.” 46. 2008. 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. praise of Hillary Clinton was limited to. In addition. She was in fact often reduced to that simplistic approach. Specific speeches p. Obama implied that the argument was fallacious by focusing on “her point”. not on her directly and he used a comparative form.44 as was briefly the case in the Kentucky-Oregon Primary Night Speech on May 20. Obama generally praises bipartisan consensus but in the case of Clinton and McCain siding together.

consists in turning around endlessly as the structures do not contain antecedents. “what gets Hilary Clinton up in the morning”. John McCain. 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. graphically represented by a dash. Praise of McCain was brief and was immediately. Sicko (Dog Eat Dog Films. on the contrary. The three stages of her career that Obama mentioned are the ones she evoked in her own speeches and decided to put forward. What makes this long sentence laudatory is the very nature of her driving-force. counterbalanced by a criticism introduced by the conjunction “but”. thus building some suspense until the answer is given after a short pause. Final Primary Night (St Paul. 49. Obama blamed her for sitting on the boards of major companies. McCain‟s campaign was articulated on the idea that he was an independent thinker and had on occasions voted against his own party. the section was reproduced in the speech delivered at their joint meeting in Unity.1. 2007). When Obama directly mentioned his Republican opponent.Senate and fueled her barrier-breaking campaign for the presidency – an unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans.49 This is not mentioned. John McCain It is a very different strategy used with his Republican opponent. 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. 1. no matter how difficult the fight may be. 20 . he referred to him by his name and surname. During a fierce debate in January. 2008). sometimes in the very same sentence. without mentioning his political title. Michael Moore‟s Sicko accused her of having HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations) fund her campaigns. John McCain. June 27. only referred to Obama as Senator Obama.2. 48 The use of anaphora enables Obama to rhythmically reproduce the unflinching commitment. Interestingly enough. 2008 but was slightly modified and defines “her motivation” and “her passion” as what led her on. which is only disclosed at the very end of the sentence. 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. Michael MOORE. Using nominal relative clauses to define another such clause. June 3.3.

April 14. 2008) 51. whose characteristic feature is surpassed. August 4. This compound adjective reinforces the use of presuppositions which convey the idea that all the Republican candidates are Bush‟s political heirs. going beyond a limit and the proper noun Bush. it can also be considered that the formerly independent McCain was more in tune with Obama. 51 As voters had become 50. 2008). It would have made more sense if the second name was the Vice-President‟s but Obama‟s aim is not only to attack the Republicans‟ record but to convince voters that McCain should be directly blamed for it. “the issue of economics is not something I‟ve understood as well as I should”. 2008). 2008). 2008) to define the policies led by the Republican Administration. The person whose name is used is reduced to their main characteristic feature and stands as a reference. 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. McCain had criticized those tax cuts because “so many of the benefits [went] to the most fortunate. Obama skillfully made an independent McCain criticize a loyal McCain. 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. Obama‟s neologism is patterned on Shakespeare‟s expression “to out-Herod Herod”. 2008). By using McCain‟s very words. In addition. 2008. Going further. 2008). 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. “more of the same” (April 22. From April 2. “the same course” (March 4.Bush‟s third term” (April 14. 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. To derail McCain‟s self-definition as an independent thinker.” (taken up in a speech by Obama on February 12. The verb suggests that the subject-agent has surpassed the reference. Obama used expressions of similarity and continuity. “four more years” (March 4. 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. deriding the Republican Primaries as a contest to determine “which candidate could out-Bush the other” (May 20. a new argument was developed by Obama after McCain admitted. The compound verb “out-Bush” is made up of the adverb “out” referring to the idea of surpassing. 2008 and October 27. 2008. 2008). Obama also coined the compound-adjective “BushMcCain” (March 20. 21 . Obama also used McCain‟s words to criticize his position regarding America‟s addiction to oil in his Speech on Energy (Lansing.

22 .”55 That is the sort of confidence that Obama sought to inspire. Mariner Books. Praise of America and Americans “There‟s no obstacle we cannot overcome.2. p.” and “It's not because John McCain doesn't care. cit. 55. 54. it's because John McCain doesn't get it. Alec MacGILLIS. McCain is not only someone whose ideas were wrong but someone who was simply not fit for and up to the job. 2008: “I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans.” 54 Obama‟s upbeat discourse echoes Reagan‟s 1980 campaign speeches.441. Arthur M. “like Franklin Roosevelt.2. Final Campaign Speech (Manassas. I just think he doesn't know.more and more preoccupied with the economy and the bail-out. The Imperial Presidency (New York. implying that McCain‟s unawareness and failure to understand are the only explanations. the prevailing feature of Obama‟s speeches throughout the campaign is the optimism and enthusiasm that characterize them.”53 The point was made again and emphasized during the Acceptance Speech delivered at the Democratic National Convention. [Reagan] radiated a reassuring confidence that all contradictions would be dissolved and all difficulties overcome. According to Arthur Schlesinger.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. 2008). revised edition. 52. op. The comprehensive program carried out by the Federal State to save banks from going bankrupt. the hero of his youth. SCHLESINGER. 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. It cost billions of dollars. 2004). 1. 53. November 3. Obama delineated his own distinctive praise of America throughout the campaign. Though elaborating along the lines of Reagan‟s “America is back”. More than blame or petty politics. 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 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”. There‟s‟ no destiny we cannot fulfill. on August 28.

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 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.”


Ibid. As Professor of Linguistics Ekaterina Haskins argues. as he defined America as “the last hope of true liberty on the face on the earth. and talk to your neighbors. then I promise you this – we will not just win Ohio. the promise of a new era is a recurrent topic in Presidential discourse especially in times of crisis. affirming to the world. The American Jeremiad (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press. January 3. 2007) and the Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. http://news. December 27. Luc BENOÎT À LA GUILLAUME.Jefferson: “the world‟s best hope”70 (1st Inaugural Address. and collectively toward the American city of God.75 even though it is hardly ever a real break with the past. and give me your vote. February 10.co. purpose and continuity. New Hampshire Primary Night Speech. 26 . consciously creating a sense of history. cit. 2007. 71. and in particular a world destiny. Obama sought to point the direction ahead.” (1835-36). and make some calls for me. brighter tomorrow72. 1978). 1801) Lincoln: “the last best hope of Earth” (Annual Message to Congress. January 8. quoted in Luc BENOÎT À LA GUILLAUME. December 1. “His speeches are shaded with subtle echoes of great speeches past.” Sacvan BERCOVITCH. Luc Benoît à la Guillaume speaks of “a rhetoric of the fake break” (“rhétorique de la fausse coupure”). we will change this country and we will change the world. “on (this) Earth” and “repair the world”. p.206. sharing his faith in America.”71 All these epilogues pointed to a better. 75. 2008). BBC News. February 19. Des Moines. p. 76.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7735014. and convince your friends. 2008.199. 72. The word can be found in the Announcement speech (Springfield.. Obama seemed to offer and promise a new national epic. cit. 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. Nashua.76 This was emphasized by Obama with the use of the recurrent 70. 2008 . A more complex variation can be found in James Madison‟s Notes on Nullification. you will knock on some doors for me. America‟s position in the world and as the leading force of the world was frequently asserted. Stephanie HOLMES. who wished to appear as their heir. if you will stand with me. the inviolability of the colonial cause. To reach that goal however. More than a presidential election.74 According to Luc Benoît à la Guillaume. it inverts the doctrine of vengeance into a promise of ultimate success.bbc. March 4. 74. […] The purpose of their jeremiads was to direct an imperiled people of God toward the fulfillment of their destiny. 2008). January 3. The sense of destiny was constructed through a widening of the geographical perspective and with hyperboles (use of superlatives).74. “Obama: Oratory and Originality”.. 2008). and despite the world. November 19. op. p. 2008). 73. to guide them individually toward salvation. the echoes of the great leaders of the past served to establish a connection with Obama. and fight with me. Wisconsin Primary Night Speech. Sacvan Bercovitch defined the jeremiad as the political sermon developed by American colonists: “In explicit opposition to the traditional mode. Houston. It can also be found often in the expression: “no destiny we could not fulfill” (“Our Moment is Now”. Like Martin Luther King.. but together. op.stm. This is the very end of the speech delivered in Canton (October 27. we will not just win this election. He used lyrical outbursts to transform the future into a “destiny” 73 (Iowa Caucus Night. America‟s self-improvement appeared as a prerequisite. as was clearly stated one week before the election: And if in this last week.

November 4. 2008). 83. These two notions are both congruent with John O‟Sullivan‟s concept of Manifest Destiny developed in 1845 to justify American westward expansion. 2007). Final Election Speech (Manassas. 2007). These lyrical outbursts were often hyperbolic in essence (“it all began”. Elvin T. 1. Obama made his speeches more difficult to criticize. June 3. Final Primary Night Speech (June 3. 79. LIM. December 27. Speech on the Middle-Class (St Louis.84 By praising America. 2008).”85 He deplores that today‟s presidential rhetoric is “short on logos. 27 . April 28. 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. Oxford: Oxford University Press. The rhetorical proofs at play in Obama’s speeches Aristotle defined the three proofs that were necessary in a political speech: ethos (character). Bush (New York. Announcement Speech (Springfield. He defined the essence of American identity as being rooted in the West. VP Announcement (Springfield. Frederick Jackson Douglas theorized in the late 19th century the concept of the frontier. 84. June 30. “a moment that will define a generation”79 or the projected retrospective glance “This was the moment when it all began”. Speech on Patriotism (Independence. Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. 2008). 2008). Reagan used the expression twice. October 27. 81. “We expect political leaders to prioritize logos. 85. August 23. Elvin T. 80. 2008). 2008). the turning-point.80 References to time are essential to build up on the notion of the sacred moment. May 20. November 10. Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. 78. The biblical phrase was used in 1630 by John Winthrop. Kentucky and Oregon Night Speech (Des Moines. disingenuous on ethos and long 77. Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines. January 3. “a contest that will determine the course of this nation for years. 2008). He could reach out to Democrats and Republicans alike because a section devoted to America‟s greatness is essentially and intrinsically consensual. a Puritan. February 10. The expression is used throughout the campaign: “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. 2008). Election Night Victory Speech (Chicago.expressions such as “Its time to turn the page”77. The American Promise (August 28. John F. Interestingly enough. 2007). Speech on Education (September 9. Final Primary Night Speech (St Paul. logos (argument) and pathos (emotion). Lim holds a Platonician view of what a political speech should include. November 3. 2008). to come”81).55. 3. “We are at a defining moment in our history”78. The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. p. July 7. 2008). 2008). Ronald Reagan used John Withrop‟s image of “the Citty upon a hill (sic)”83 to define his vision of America‟s destiny. 2007) and “Turn the Page” Speech (San Diego. 2008). Kennedy also used it in 1961. 2008). 2008). January 3. perhaps decades. each time in a major speech: his Acceptance Speech at the Republican National Convention in 1980 and in his Farewell Speech in 1989. Last Week Speech (Canton. 82. to express the belief that Puritans were sent to the New World by God to establish a city which the world would look at.

Presidential election. Departing from the warmongers in Washington. Obama‟s account of his experience as a community organizer echoed the rhetoric of Lyndon Johnson‟s War on Poverty.88 often associated with the present perfect or HAVE+V-en and BE + Ving to establish the experience he had gained. Obama developed and used the fighting metaphor not about Iraq but about the war on poverty and discrimination. The very place where the speech is delivered is quite significant as Springfield is the State Capital. Obama had therefore been a member of Congress for two years when he officially announced he had decided to run for the U. From the very beginning of his campaign. Obama developed a rhetoric of battle and started using the verb “fight”. ethos encompasses different notions: phronesis (practical skills and wisdom) and arété (virtue. The city is highlighted several times with the repetitions of the expression. Indeed. 89. Obama had been a state Senator in Illinois from 1997 to 2004. but at different levels.1.S. 1. On December 27.” 88.S. Senate. Obama insisted on his experience before the primaries started. 2007. especially at the national level. They are often all present in a political speech. “It was here that […].on pathos.”86 Manipulating the audience with emotion and a distorted self-portrait seems to have become the characteristic feature of political speech. “The truth is you can have the right experience and the wrong kind of experience. Interestingly enough.” 28 . p. Ibid. Mine is rooted in the real lives of the people and it will bring real results if we have the courage to change. Obama used Bill Clinton‟s very words to counter attacks on his lack of experience. Obama needed to establish his credibility and therefore a crucial section of his speeches in 2007 consisted in putting forward what experience he had. Obama on Obama For Aristotle. The major criticism leveled at Obama was his lack of political experience. Obama has often been criticized for his lack of detailed propositions in his speeches. 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. It was especially the case in his Announcement speech. Let us determine to what extent Obama actually corresponds to that now prevailing pattern. Occurrences of the noun “fight” can also be found. 87.54.87 From November 2007. when he resigned after being elected to the U.89 This indirect attack against Hillary Clinton reflects a strategy Obama would use 86.3. goodness).

In February 2008. Obama boasted himself of being right from the beginning as regards the war in Iraq. 29 . on the right decisions he made and he was therefore the most adequate candidate to end the war. “The first thing we have to do is end this war. when the primary season was over. Obama briefly mentioned his political and/or professional experience again. November 10. I've actually done it. which is a feature that characterizes his whole career. “A New Beginning” (Chicago.2. October 2. Hillary Clinton‟s error of judgment as regards the war in Iraq was clearly the kind of experience she should not boast about. In addition to his experience and stamina. 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.” 90 Obama insisted on his good judgment. 91. the war in Iraq is the key-argument developed against Clinton whereas Obama‟s lack of experience was his opponents‟ central argument against him. Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines.even more effectively against John McCain: using an opponent‟s declaration on which he agrees but which the opponent is now attacking. The image as someone determined to defend his ideas whatever the obstacles was essential to establish his credibility as a future President. I'm the only candidate in this race who hasn't just talked about taking power away from lobbyists.2.1. By elaborating on the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience.000 people and pass the first major campaign finance reform in twenty-five years. In the speech delivered at the AFL-CIO. 2007). I turned down the big money law firms to win justice for the powerless as a civil rights lawyer. Obama also insisted on his virtue by emphasizing his lack of self-interest. He did it again in his specific speeches. And the right person to end it is someone who had the judgment to oppose it from the beginning. my opponent will not be able to say that I voted for the war in Iraq. So if you want to know what kind of 90. unlike others: “When I am this party‟s nominee.”91 Barack Obama is in fact the “someone” he is talking about. Obama used the word fight fifteen times. Obama‟s self-portrait as a fighter somehow counterbalanced his commitment to seeking consensus. “Someone” does not represent here an indefinite individual. I took on the lobbyists in Illinois and brought Democrats and Republicans together to expand health care to 150. and I did the same thing in Washington when we passed the toughest lobbying reform since Watergate. As was developed in 1. at the height of the primary season. Hillary Clinton. 2007). but is reduced with the non-defining restrictive relative clause to a very precise individual and should be understood as “some one”. Obama could connect the two issues and emphasized his clear-sightedness. opposing the right experience and the wrong experience. The argument is also connected to that of experience.

Indeed. in the Announcement Speech (Springfield. with family values at the center of our discourse. Obama‟s whole career was reduced to a conflict between the powerful (“lobbies”. “special interests) and the “powerless” / “jobless” (using the –less suffix to emphasize the poor‟s deprivations) whom he stands for. Elvin T. references to families. December 27. Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison. February 12. explained how essential family values are in American discourse. motivated by superior principles and not by selfinterest. Obama had initially presented himself as the one who had made that bipartisan conciliation possible. “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. of whom Barack Obama had been a student. There is a reason why Obama and Biden spoke so much about the family. Lim defined that tendency as a characteristic of anti-intellectual presidential discourse. “Turn the Page” (San Diego. “turned down”) and the successes he managed to bring about. Goliath. He also described himself as the artisan of the legislative successes mentioned. William KAREL. 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. Professor of Linguistics at Berkeley. reenacting a modern version of David vs. Obama‟s decision to work in Chicago‟s South Side at the expense of the generous offers from Wall Street appeared in several speeches. George Lakoff. though not overabundant.2. 2008). February 8. whether anonymous average American families or his own. 92 Through this self-portrait. although he used the pronoun “we” to refer to the Democrats and Republicans who allied to pass anti-lobbying legislation. cit. 2008). are frequent in Obama‟s speeches..93 This self-portrait actually consisted in a series of actions (use of action verbs).3. which he defined as the references involving children and families. Lim observed that pathos had become predominant and there was even a tendency to resort to an extreme form of emotional appeal: bathos. 94. The appeal to emotions Analyzing the evolution of presidential discourse. April 28. unconnected to any special interests.” 1. February 19. Super Tuesday Night Speech (St Paul. Obama represented himself as a person free of all bonds. Elvin T. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. 93. 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. Our national political dialogue is fundamentally metaphorical. August 28. February 10.choices we'll make as President.94 Indeed. 2007). the nurturant 92. Le Monde selon Bush (2004). 2007). p. 2008) and very briefly in his Acceptance Speech (Denver. Wisconsin Primary Night Speech (Houston. 30 . 2007).72. November 10. 2008). op. Lim. 2007). “I […] brought Democrats and Republicans together. focusing both on the choices he did not make (“walked away”.

Texas and Ohio Primary Night Speech (San Antonio. 2008). he could focus on the motherly instinct of protection. the three individual narratives developed in the Texas and Ohio Primary Night Speech (San Antonio. 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”. posted on September 1. March 4. 31 . 97. We believe that these jobs should provide wages that can raise her family. 2007). 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”. on the streets of Chicago or the hills of Appalachia. 2008 on http://www. Obama could have used the epicene “they” but he specifically intended to develop the story of a woman here. led by a Commander-in-Chief who has the judgment to know when to send them into battle and which battlefield to fight on. it should be in a place where the rats don't outnumber the computers.family. Like the Ashley Baia story. There was an average of half a dozen occurrences during the height of the primary season. 2008).44. this one ended with a sentence in direct speech. And if that child should ever get the chance to travel the world. 96. it was surely also the result of his being 95.html.2. health care) but also the issue of sex inequality and by depicting her as a future mother. 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. with caring fathers and the family values that Obama put front and center in his Father's day speech: empathy. 98. best-equipped. and someone should ask her where she is from. often depicting families as matriarchies in his individual examples. p.com/george-lakoff/the-palin-choice-and-the_b_123012.huffingtonpost. military in the world. Obama could address the issues common to both men and women (racial discrimination. she should feel safe knowing that they are protected from the threats we face by the bravest. responsibility and aspiration. George LAKOFF. We believe that when she tucks her own children into bed.98 By telling the story of this imaginary average girl. But even when Obama spoke of children in general and used the generic expression “a child”. 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. “The Palin Choice and the Reality of the Political Mind”. We believe that when she goes to school for the first time. See 2. The Ashley Baia story. education. peaking exceptionally at forty occurrences in the speech dedicated to “A 21st Century Education” (September 9. employment. safety. Obama‟s personal narratives often focused on women and more especially mothers or young women to insist on their vulnerability. 96 The references to child/children were more frequent. Interestingly enough. health care for when she gets sick and a pension for when she retires. 2008. Louis. 2004) exclusively focus on women: a “young [female] student”. that when she applies to college. with an average of half a dozen approximately throughout the campaign. In addition to making his examples more emotional. a “mother in San Antonio” and an “elderly woman”. March 4. Obama shifted focus to domestic policies. Unlike Reagan and the Bushes who insisted on a strong America and a manly approach to leadership.1. and eighteen in “Reclaiming the American Dream” (November 7. 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.

November 7. April 28. and to cover elderly care. Peggy Noonan was Ronald Reagan‟s former speechwriter.3.” 100.you might call it America‟s understimulated organ . It's even harder to get a break. What is crucial is Obama‟s determination to act personally (frequent uses of “I‟ll”). 1. November 7. More families have two parents working. 103. See 1.is the brain.22. he developed a number of fairly precise points though he remained quite general and did not delve into detail: no figures were given.. 1998).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). it's hard to get a hand. 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. to let parents participate in school activities with their kids. And that's why I'll expand the Family Medical Leave Act to include more businesses and millions more workers.”101 Obama‟s development of arguments varied along the campaign. Peggy NOONAN. cit. p. And we'll finally put federal support behind state efforts to provide paid Family and Medical Leave.raised by a single mother and grandmother and a deliberate attempt to appeal to female voters who could feel closer to Hillary Clinton. Fathers were specifically addressed in Obama‟s speech to the NAACP on July 14.5. 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. 101.2. 102. 104. Meanwhile. The minor use of arguments “The only organ to which no appeal is made these days .3. op. p. and Clarity (New York: Regan. 2007). “Turn the Page” Speech (San Diego. Simply Speaking: How to Communicate Your Ideas with Style. 2007). Praise of America and Americans. That's why I'll double spending on quality after-school programs . 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.2. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf.so that you can know your kids are safe and secure. p. At the beginning and almost until the late December 2007. Lim. 32 .70 quoted in Elvin T. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. Substance.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.”104 Obama repeated in other speeches that teachers should be paid as they 99. You're working longer hours.

” (South Carolina Primary Night Speech. Here again. bipartisan. 107.107 Obama avoided as much as possible partisan policies and advocated a consensual. “parents”). “Instead of talking how great our teachers are. 2008). In the following example. First opposed to utilizing the Strategic Oil Reserve except in case of emergency. In both cases. Obama directly addresses the working women facing him by using the personal pronoun “you”.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. As regards the people he was talking about. the middle-class and so on in the specific speeches which were mostly given once the primary campaign was over. 2008.deserved105 but never specified how much that represented and obviously no one could disagree on such an assumption. Obama approved it a month later on August 4. Obama had to make a U-turn on the strategic oil reserve within four weeks. a detailed analysis of the situation and his precise proposals. Obama detailed what he intended to do about Family and Medical Leave. 106 Obama‟s proposals usually followed McCain‟s senatorial record on the issue. 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. January 26. he often sounded less lyrical and more down-to-earth. which sounded more inclusive. This was at the core of his Inaugural Speech: “The question we ask today is not whether our 105. Finally. For example. 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. 33 . 2008). Obama no longer referred to them directly but used the generic plural form (“workers”. In those speeches. we've got to do more to help folks at the bottom of the ladder climb into the middle class. It means standing up for paid leave – so I'll invest $1. One of the reasons Obama avoided developing precise. 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. 106. July 10. 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. Obama developed his plans on energy. Columbia. but also lets you take leave to care for your elderly parents and participate in school activities like parent-teacher conferences and assemblies. giving precise accounts of his record. pragmatic approach. Speech on working women (Fairfax. Obama shifted back and forth between the pronoun “I” and the exclusive “we” which referred to his Administration. he prevented attacks on the idea. Senator McCain has no clear plan to expand paid leave and sick leave – and that's a real difference in this election. we will reward them for their greatness. families.

the praise of America and Americans or the bipartisan approach was more consensual and therefore more difficult to oppose for his rivals.”108 Obama‟s political decisions were not motivated by ideology. “A Rhetorical Question”. Where the answer is no. see Michael NOVAK. 34 .” John McWORTHER. October 27. 110. Obama‟s focus on individual narratives. 2008). 2009.. Lim. Obama had developed the idea in his Last Week Speech (Canton. with ethos and pathos. 108. Using the comparative form and the keyword “government” three times gives the (deceiving) illusion that there is topical unity. What made him different.110 Unlike arguments. who first electrified the electorate with touching autobiography and comfort-food proclamations about hope and unity--that is. but whether it works […] Where the answer is yes. cit. September 9. We need better government. Obama‟s speeches follow the anti-intellectual trend that Lim defined and characterized. the adjective “dumb” was used four times in that speech. “Studying Obama‟s Rhetoric”. but by rational thinking. Obama followed the tendency Elvin T.government is too big or too small. For more on the shift between the November Victory Speech and the Inaugural Address. 111. Dayton.55. As John McWorther pointed out. 109. Issue 186. op. p. programs will end. apart from the special focus on praising America. October 27. 2008) and moving “beyond old arguments of left and right” (Speech on Education. First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life.45ff. Elvin T. Obama opposed the war in Iraq because it was a “dumb war” (Chicago. p. January 20. More than detailed policies.111 As far as substance is concerned. “[Hillary Clinton] has lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama. the question of efficacy is highly consensual and enables Obama to skillfully evade the question of size. 2008): “We don‟t need bigger or smaller government. 2002). ethos and pathos are “largely non falsifiable” and could not be deliberated on. promoting a politics “that favors common sense109 over ideology” (Last Week Speech. we intend to move forward. was the style he developed. Lim delineated in today‟s political discourse: he won the Democratic nomination with “ethos and pathos”. Canton.” While the question of size is highly ideological as it involves the extent of the state‟s intervention in the economy and society. what Obama mainly advocated was “a new politics” in which people and not “special interests” would have a greater say. October 2. October 2008.

December 27. The three-part list can also be found at the beginning of a sentence. one every thirty seconds. Besides. Max Atkinson. it gives a regular balance to the sentence as the three parts are usually of the same length. 113 Kentucky Oregon Night Speech (Des Moines. “So I'm asking you to march with me. 2007). “No dream is beyond our grasp if we reach for it. The use of the tricolon can be either microstructural or macrostructural in Obama‟s discourse. Charlotte Higgins deemed Obama the “new Cicero”. May 20. and believe in it” Final Primary Night Speech (St Paul. The third element makes the list unequivocal. 114. “if we have the courage to reach for it. 2008).” Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison. who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time.4.” Speech to the AFL-CIO (Philadelphia. they said this day would never come. who still questions the power of our democracy. linguist or political specialist. 116 112. April 2. When the tricolon is found at the microstructural level.1. “If we're willing to work for it and fight for it. and fight with me. too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. and to fight for it. and believe in it. They said our sights were set too high. 2008). June 3. 2008). 115. They said this country was too divided. 2008). They are usually located at the end of a sentence. Introduction to the Election Night Victory Speech (Chicago. 35 . 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. listed about thirty three-part lists in Obama‟s Inaugural Speech. a specialist in public speaking. “if you are willing to vote for me. tonight is your answer. and work with me. if you are willing to stand with me. January 3. and fight for it. Here is the introduction to the Iowa Caucus Night Speech: You know.114 except in the Final Primary Night Speech. The flourishing rhetorical imagery and characteristic stylistic devices Obama‟s special way with words has been the focus of many a journalist.115 The tricolon can also be found at the macrostructural level to structure a paragraph and can be combined with anaphora as in the previous example. and to work for it. and fight for it.”113 This example can be found with variations in a number of Obama‟s speeches. insisting on his frequent use of the tricolon. February 19. November 4. “if we are willing to work for it. 2008). and fight for it. 2008). 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.” Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. February 12.” in “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. 2008).112 one of Cicero‟s best known techniques. and work for it. if you're willing to caucus for me” Wisconsin Primary Night Speech (Houston.

“Les trois leviers rhétoriques d‟Obama”. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence.”118 Contrasts are a predominant characteristic of Obama‟s speeches. 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.119 Contrasts can be articulated with the conjunction “but” or simply with a comma (orally a pause). 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. 2008). January 10. “The Mother and the Orator”. May 2009. Newsweek. The tricolon actually gives way to another tricolon: “But on this January night . The steady rhythm is reinforced by the combination with anaphora. not against us. You have done what the state of New Hampshire can do in five days. Pierre VARROD. 121. Using contrasts allows the speaker to delay the moment before developing the idea. but for every American who's willing to work.at this defining moment in history . Pierre Varrod in “Les trois leviers rhétoriques d‟Obama”117 and Malcolm Kushner. once they know what is not. November 4. Pierre VARROD.” 117. 120. Election Night Victory Speech (Chicago. These examples are in fact not only combinations of contrasts and three-part lists. the United States of America”. You have done what America can do in this new year 2008. not hurt us. It should help us. ESPRIT.120 These techniques are given even more weight when they are combined. as was the case in the oft-repeated expression: “we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are. Pierre Varrod suggested that contrasts enable the audience to anticipate on what is. quoted in Jennie YABROFF.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. author of Public Speaking for Dummies. Varrod listed over thirty examples of contrasting opposites in the fairly short Inaugural Address. but not one penny of tax relief to more than 100 million Americans? Our government should work for us. August 28. “In Iowa he uses contrasting opposites. 118. insisted on Obama‟s use of contrasts. op. It puts the audience in a situation in which they follow the speaker‟s thought process. 2008). it generates an expectation for the audience. and always will be. 36 . that goes back to the ancient Greeks. Malcolm KUSHNER. “The American Promise” (Denver.you have done what the cynics said we couldn't do. 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. 119. they are also combined with rhetorical 116. cit.

” (Bettendorf. Everybody has a black sheep in the family. which was usually a way of sharing something with his audience. although it is not a predominant feature.”123 It is the same with paronomasis.”128 According to Max Atkinson. http://news. contrasts. The use of such device is possible because the audience can understand the reference. 126.” 127. When Obama uses antonomasis by referring to Martin Luther King as “a young preacher from Georgia”122. 123. hence telling the audience 122. “The American Promise” (Denver. When he uses polyptoton in his Acceptance Speech. 2008 against Bush. 37 . shared knowledge.stm. “I left [Harvard] with a degree and a lifetime of debt. 2007). “against” . In the Iowa Jefferson Jackson dinner. posted on July 14. 2009.126 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. April 28. was used effectively by Obama. a common experience of the debts to pay or the frustration caused by the 2000 “phony” election.questions and hyperbole (contrast between “hundreds of billions” and “not one penny”). here‟s the good news – the name George W. most of the time. “hurt”). “help” vs.bbc. The sentence was first used at the AP Luncheon on April 2. 128. November 10. “every”) and of course phonological emphasis with a contrastive stress on the pair of words that are opposed (“for” vs. 2007). August 28. "using contrasts is a real winner.co. Research shows 33% of the applause a good speech gets is when a contrast is used.or at least. threepart lists as well as a combination of both prove effective claptraps. During his 2004 Keynote Address while he was praising the American democracy. “I don‟t know about you but I am not ready to take a ten percent chance on change”124 or syllepsis. “Want to know how to handle all of these?” BBC NEWS Magazine. Obama‟s mastery of language is characterized by the huge number of stylistic devices he uses and combines. Quoted in Denise WINTERMAN. Bush will not be on the ballot. 124. “Turn the Page” Speech (San Diego. 2008). The name of my cousin Dick Cheney will not be on the ballot.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8128271. it is to criticize John McCain‟s program and what he is supposedly really driving at: “The Ownership society but what it really means is that you‟re „on your own‟. lexical contrasts (“those” vs. humor. Obama joked about being the hidden cousin of Dick Cheney: “Now. It is based on common. 125. August 28. Obama unexpectedly referred to the 2000 election after a significant pause: “and that our votes will be counted --. Obama sometimes adds a lighter tone to his speeches.”125 Obama‟s snapping remarks often made the audience laugh. each time with an effective purpose. They are indeed taken up by the media as sound bites. “The American Promise” (Denver. But establishing a direct connection with the audience was not the only purpose of the devices Obama mainly used. Max Atkinson insists on some specific rhetorical devices being used as claptraps. 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. 2008).

38 . This is also reflected by how Obama treats his direct opponents. See also Peter BULL.com/2009/01/rhetoric-and-applause-inobamas. www.html. 2009 on http://maxatkinson. 130. Breaking with the usual political practices. posted on January 21. nonetheless. he had learnt in the Illinois State Senate to “disagree without being disagreeable”. The Microanalysis of Political Communication: Claptrap and Ambiguity (New York: Routledge. Christophe DE VOOGD. by many other standards. the two are actually rereading Cicero with Obama in mind.131 What is sure. As he said in his Announcement Speech.eu/document/marcustulliusobama. They are not specific to him. The outline of Obama‟s speeches is rooted in classical tradition. “Ce n‟est pas tant Obama qui est décrypté que Cicéron qui est reconstruit. “Marcus Tullius Obama”. Yet. 2007). 131.” Philippe ROUSSELOT. 2009. 2003). 132. “Rhetoric and applause in Obama‟s Inaugural Speech as a measure of what the audience liked best”. And so it goes with the analogy with Cicero. Obama offered change in the way he thought political battles should be led. Obama wants to place his rhetoric at a higher level than political agendas. Max ATKINSON. www. rather than the other way round.fr. Charlotte Higgins who considered Obama as “the new Cicero” mentions only one stylistic parallel (the large use of the tricolon) and Christophe De Voogd who wonders in the title of one of his articles if Cicero is Obama‟s speechwriter never mentions the Roman lawyer in his article. Obama proved more in tune with some prevailing features of American modern political discourse. “Cicéron: „speechwriter‟ d‟Obama?: l‟éloquence revient à la Maison Blanche”. 129. is that Obama‟s brilliant rhetoric contrasts sharply with Bush‟s style. “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. This was Obama‟s key purpose and it never varied throughout the campaign. Obama‟s use of those effective devices shows that he is an expert in political communication. the third chapter focuses on Atkinson‟s theory of how rhetorical devices are used to call for applause.when to applaud. which had contributed to lower the function to the level of ordinary citizen.nonfiction.tulliana.pdf (01/11). President of the Société Internationale des Amis de Cicéron. February 10.129 Atkinson has been studying claptraps in British political discourse for over two decades. Obama‟s superior rhetoric restores some distance and reinvests the function of politician with a rhetorical grandeur that helps sacralize it.blogspot.130 For Philippe Rousselot. 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. posted on January 22. What makes the specificity of Obama‟s speeches cannot be reduced to his lofty rhetoric and abundant stylistic devices.

he could not escape from some of the tendencies that had become most effective to attract voters like the use of pathos and ethos. Obama the modern politician As was seen in the first part. After analyzing Obama‟s use of storytelling. Kennedy put it. Obama sought to rise above the fray as his rhetoric suggested. 39 . Yet. there was a constant movement between the particular and the generic but all tended to reflect and inspire unity. his use of personal pronouns and toponyms. this section will focus on Obama‟s discursive strategy to forge unity: his redefinition of America‟s national identity. In Obama‟s speeches. the need for unity has been all the more necessary and all the more difficult to reach. a population officially classified according to race. Because America is “a nation of immigrants” as John F. Reagan had proved what an effective tool of persuasion it could be and had inspired other American politicians to make use of stories too. which had become a characteristic of American political discourse. Another characteristic in which Obama had specialized is storytelling (which is related to pathos) as we will first see in this section. his treatment of race and the symbolical summoning up of Lincoln.2. especially as Republicans have sought to exploit tensions and divisions.

This analysis was previously developed by Matt Bai on the New York Times blog. “like all the elections that have come before it . 2008. The New York Times. A man who perfected the craft of encapsulating an entire life in 30 seconds. will be defined by the power of stories. March 16. the Ad Man”.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. a New York Times columnist. professor of journalism at Columbia University and Christian Salmon who works at the CNRS. Axelrod‟s essential insight […] is that the modern campaign really isn‟t about the policy arcana or the candidate‟s record.136 According to Bai. p. 40 . 2008.S.1. 2004).124. Obama the storyteller “When I grew up and got into politics.” Evan CORNOG. The 2004 election. Bill CLINTON. Axelrod is an advertising guy. Storytelling. “Mr. “In the Clinton-Obama Race. Knopf. presidential elections. 2007). la machine à fabriquer des histoires et à formater les esprits (Paris: La Découverte. 133. I always felt the main point of my work was to give people a chance to have better stories. more personal narrative. My Life (New York: Alfred A. p. 2004). Christian SALMON. 136. David Axelrod. “The Caucus” on March 13. 130. The personal narratives were often synthesized in one or two sentences in Obama‟s speeches and were used as leitmotifs. have analyzed the major importance taken by storytelling in political discourse. the use of personal narratives was directly related to the influence of Obama‟s main consultant. 135. 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. Bush (New York: Penguin.15.273. p. The Power and the Story: How the Crafted Presidential Narrative Has Determined Political Success from George Washington to George W.2. Matt BAI.” 133 Evan Cornog. coll. While Cornog insists on the feature as being a characteristic of every U. It‟s the Pollster vs. According to Matt Bai. Storytelling had become a predominant feature of American political discourse since Reagan in the early 1980s.“Cahiers libres”.” The strategy devised by the Obama team was to use the main tools of modern political campaigns. he has a gift for telling personal stories in ways that people can understand. These prefabricated stories punctuate the campaign and the speaker knows them by heart. it‟s about a more visceral.

2008) but as the speech is longer. 138. Hence. Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. 2008). just before the epilogue if they were used to define hope and Americans‟ dreams. Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison. 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. the special narratives from South Carolina142 (January 26. it was used to fuel the criticism against John McCain and Hillary Clinton. December 27. the series of prefabs could be found toward the beginning of the speech if they were solely used to illustrate America‟s problems. “Our Moment Is Now” (Des Moines. February 12. 139. January 26. Speech to AFL-CIO (Philadelphia. The first events organized in Iowa took place on the day he declared his candidacy. 2008) were in fact the same ones told in Iowa on December 27. when the race was still particularly close in February and March 2008. As little information as possible was given on the person portrayed: “a student”. February 19. 141.139 toward the middle when they were included in the section devoted to John McCain (and sometimes Hillary Clinton)140 and at the end. 2008. 2008 served to prepare the elections scheduled in Texas and Ohio two weeks later. June 3. 2007. the section was adapted to the global function it had. August 28. “a worker”. It was in 137. p. Delivered in Texas.141 Interestingly enough. 41 . These personal narratives have been listed in a table. 2008) and Final Primary Night Speech (St Paul. 2008). February 19. depending on the precise and specific function they were given in the speech. the day of the Caucus. 2008). 2008). April 2.117. 2007.2. 142. 2007). it can be found toward the middle of the speech.com/2008-presidential-candidates/tracker/candidates/barack-obama/ (05/10). January 3. No mention was made of race in these examples. […] 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. Wisconsin Primary Night Speech (Houston. http://projects. June 5. 2008) and Wisconsin Primary Night Speech (Houston. 2008) and Speech on Health Care (Bristol. the speech included one example located in Ohio. Texas Primary Night Speech (San Antonio. “a woman” “a mother”. Those individual narratives aimed to illustrate the problems America was facing. 140. The examples given on February 19. details were removed. 2007 and January 3. 2007 and this would subsequently become a characteristic feature of his speeches.1. The section fulfils an illustrative purpose in the Acceptance Speech (Denver. 138 Obama first introduced personal narratives of average anonymous Americans on December 27. one in Texas and the last one in Wisconsin as it was the day of the primaries in Wisconsin. 2008). As the narratives were repeated.washingtonpost.” South Carolina Primary Speech (Columbia. “Theirs are the stories and voices we carry on from South Carolina. Obama extensively campaigned there: the Washington Post listed 174 events between February 10. March 4.1. see the Appendix. Yet. February 10. 2008).

2008). the Final Primary Night Speech (St Paul. Speech on Health Care on June 5.143 Details were given on when Obama met her. but to state exactly the same things but in a later speech. 145. In the Iowa Caucus Victory Speech (Des Moines. 3 January 2008). 2008) and the Acceptance Speech (Denver. 2007). The use of the indefinite article “a” allows the extraction from the group and lends a metonymic function of representation to the example. April 2. It was first mentioned on December 27. 2007).particular the case with Obama‟s most-frequently repeated example. 2008 and Acceptance Speech on August 28. 2008). “The Cost of War” (Charleston. (1) (2) (3) (4) “a young woman in Cedar Rapids” (Des Moines.145 and finally the deictic “that” the last time he used the example in his Acceptance Speech (August 28. “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. 2008). June 5. 2008). 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. December 27. 2008) “the young woman” (Bristol. and wonders why the government isn't doing more to help her afford the education that will allow her to live out her dreams. The noun phrase was always followed by a relative clause to introduce what the problems of those persons were. the Speech on Health Care (Bristol. 2008) . “the young woman in Cedar Rapids” (Des Moines. “A student from Cedar Rapids” was soon shortened to “a student” and the person hence became emblematic: “a young student” was any student. June 3. the South Carolina Victory Speech (Columbia. 143. Gradually though. August 28. not because he has already introduced the woman in the speech and is now going to say something else about her.144 then occasionally (Final Primary Night Speech on June 3. The story was repeated a number of times afterward. January 3. Obama shifts from the indefinite article “a” to the definite article “the”. There was also an evolution as regards the determiners used to refer to that individual. 2008) . the Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison. mainly until April 2. March 20. August 28. often as the first or second example given. December 27. June 5. 2008. March 4. the Speech to the AFL-CIO (Philadelphia. reaching a universal status. the narrative was deprived of its characteristic details to ease the identification process. the Texas Primary Night Speech (San Antonio. 144. The geographical indication was removed as well as the disease of the sister. February 12 2008). becoming a prototypical example. January 26. 42 . “that young student” (Denver. 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. 2008). She spoke not with self-pity but with determination. 2007: Just two weeks ago. 2008). 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. 2008).

147 The conservative notion of self-help was undermined because people alone could not overcome their problems no matter how hard they tried. In the Protestant work ethic as Max Weber defined it. Even when they remained the agent of the action and subject of the sentence. their ability to act was reduced to none by the use of the modal auxiliary “can” or “could” in the negative form. 2008) 43 . 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. Obama focused on the “deserving poor” as they were called in Victorian England. 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.”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”. 2008). 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. April 2. “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 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. But he always portrayed them as victims even though the passive form is not always used. who still doesn't have health insurance for himself or his wife and lives in fear that a single illness could cost them everything. Speech to the AFL-CIO (Philadelphia. 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. That additional information was not always included.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. 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. 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. 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. 147. Instead of a multiplication of narratives. 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. people who did not work were often scorned and labeled as lazy people. June 5. But the story is also related to Health Care as the student also works to help her sick sister.

2. We shall focus here on the structural and symbolical aspects of the story. 44 . Robyn (Last Week 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). By evoking “workers competing with their sons”. 150. The reference to Cooper provided a frame to the story of America over the last hundred years. 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. 2. took a picture of President Bush hugging his daughter to comfort her 148. See 3. It is the only story to deal with interracial relationship. Each problem like industrial relocation here is hence set in a wider perspective. Her father.88 for the stylistic analysis.1. Canton.151 The anecdote was taken up and repeated to close “A more perfect union” two months later. 2008) and the encounter with a woman in South Carolina who chanted “Fired up? Ready to go?” to welcome him (Final Election Speech.2. The Ashley Baia story was told by Barack Obama to close the speech he delivered at Ebenezer Church on January 20. The other fairly long stories refer to a meeting Obama had unsuccessfully organized in Chicago (Super Tuesday Speech. November 3.”148 Obama‟s individual narratives do not just show how individual Americans are affected by health care problems or the economy. to assess the progress accomplished by the black community in his Election Night Victory Speech. I am my sister‟s keeper. there had been another Ashley story. His most-often quoted reference to the Bible was “I am my brother‟s keeper. Ebenezer Church was the church where King was preaching as a minister. 2008). During the previous presidential election. Chicago. June 3. 149. suggesting that each problem is compounding others and that people are all interrelated by the consequences of a de-structured economy. The original version is fairly longer than the second one. The use of hypotyposis p. 2008). Obama refers to a 106-year-old black woman. an outspoken Republican. the story of a letter sent to him by a little girl. October 27. in which a number of details have been removed.1.2. Ann Dixon Cooper. 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. Obama could insist on the absurdity of the system and its immorality as they stood in sharp contrast with Christian principles. they show how families are affected and metaphorically how the whole social fabric is being unraveled. 2008.jobs at the local store. 151. Ashley Faulkner was a sixteen-year-old young American who lost her mother in the 9/11 attacks. which according to some had played a key-part in Bush‟s re-election. Answering Cain‟s question to God: “Am I my brother‟s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9).

salon. and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there. They all have different stories and reasons. “The TV ad that put Bush over the top”. 152 compassionate father figure. http://dir. 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. feel-good ad."154 The episode has in fact two different levels: it consists of a story embedded in another story. And he does not bring up a specific issue. 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. 154. which showed Bush as a protective. turned out to be an exception: a memorable. March 18. "Ashley's Story. Because that was the cheapest way to eat. He does not say education or the war. South Carolina. cit.”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”. Now Ashley might have made a different choice." blanketed swing states during the final weeks of the election. 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.html . The unique. Obama tells the story of Ashley Baia. 2004. It lasts approximately four minutes. "I am here because of Ashley. 2008). He does not say health care or the economy. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice. 45 . 153. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. she was let go and lost her health care. Democrats aired an ad featuring a 9/11 victim‟s next-of-kin “which appealed to voters' logic about the terrorist attacks.com/story/news/feature/2004/11/05/bush_ads/print.on May 6. or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence. a twenty-three-year-old white woman who 152. motivating. And in a campaign known for its negative tone […] the commercial. Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. Salon. Exit poll results that indicate "moral values" was a driving force among voters […] help explain the effectiveness of the ad. The photo was soon turned into a TV ad campaign in favor of Bush and was broadcast over 30. She did this for a year until her mom got better. And because she had to miss days of work. while „Ashley's Story‟ appealed to their emotions. She had been working to organize a mostly AfricanAmerican community since the beginning of this campaign. They had to file for bankruptcy. 2004. 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. She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs. And Ashley said that when she was nine years old. “A more perfect union” (Philadelphia. The Ashley Baia story is by far the longest story told by Obama during the campaign. But she didn't. At the same time. Eric BOEHLERT. November 5. Many bring up a specific issue. Here is a transcript of the second version: There is a young. 60-second commercial that Faulkner's photo spawned. Anyway. op. Eric BOEHLERT.000 times in swing states. He simply says to everyone in the room. and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom. her mother got cancer. with its heartfelt 9/11 connection.

2. saying that when she was nine. This will be discussed more at length in 3. At its very end. which corresponds to the roundtable discussion. 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. The use of hypotyposis p. hence fulfilling a symbolical function. The elderly black man never gets named. The mention of “everyone at the roundtable” helps shift back to the metadiegetic level. beginning with “And Ashley said that when she was nine years old […]. he delays its delivery again by giving details: “he simply says to everyone in the room. Ashley‟s personal story is framed by a speech verb followed by a complement clause. He could almost be any elderly black man. giving more focus to the two people he considers the most important: Ashley and the elderly black man. the war and the economy. This anonymity gives him a generic function. health care.155 Obama is rewriting the anecdote. and subsequently lost her job and health care.” Ashley‟s story is important because it helps establish who she is.2. „I am here because of Ashley. what kind of person she is. Ashley ate relish sandwiches for a year. which he had never used before while telling this story. It gives the impression that Obama is talking to his audience about something he had directly witnessed although it was not the case. 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.‟” Obama impersonates the old man by using direct speech and thus shifting voices by using the pronoun “I”. The intradiegetic level consists of the story Ashley told at the roundtable.organizes Obama‟s campaign in South Carolina. To help her mother save money. For the 155. Because of the particular construction of Obama‟s anecdote. But before stating the elderly black man‟s reason for being there.88. the story suddenly shifts from he/she/then/there to I/here/now.1. The story is then told using a number of speech verbs associated to Ashley and an elderly black attending the discussion. He stands as the anonymous representative of his community. her mother fell seriously ill (cancer). Obama uses delaying techniques and builds up suspense. Ashley and the elderly black man symbolize the beginning of a new era for Obama and they also symbolize his campaign. until her mother got better. quickening the pace before arriving at the last person: the elderly black man. Their reasons for supporting the campaign are synthesized in two brief sentences. Interestingly enough.” and closing with. “And she told everyone at the roundtable […]. 46 . that is to say a sort of ordinary heroine. And even when he announces the answer. The other people present are grouped into the personal pronoun “they” and are never singled out. the occurrences of speech verbs are fairly numerous and so are complement clauses.

47 . Professor of 156. This reversed mirror effect (white speaker to black audience vs. black speaker to white audience) raises the question of representation and disconnects it from ethnic and racial considerations. 2009. It is a crucial point for Obama who has to convince voters that he can represent them all and that he is not just the candidate of African Americans.”157 Ashley and the old black man are direct opposites as regards sex. She's been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign. Rhetoric & Public Affairs. Her physical description actually precedes her name: “There is a young. Obama had pointed at the “moral deficit”. If the elderly black man can speak for a white young girl and not to voice his own interests. 12. The anecdote is also relevant for the message it sends to white voters. Ashley is symbolically rewarded for her commitment by the elderly black man‟s gratitude and unexpected recognition. 2. implying that visual differences are superficial and not fundamental. See also 2. twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organizes for our campaign in Florence.” Speech at Dr King‟s Church (Atlanta. David A. age and race but can see themselves in the face of the other. then Obama can speak for white voters. just as white voters might be symbolically rewarded for their commitment. Obama has already managed to cross bridges. March 18 2008”. By bringing together people like Ashley and the elderly black man. 2008). January 20.C.63. twenty-three year old white woman.2. “A more perfect union” p. 159. 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. According to Evan Cornog. Obama’s personal narratives “My story is a quintessentially American story. “empathy deficit” that characterized American society and which he defined as the “inability to recognize ourselves in one another. his supporters are representatives of Obama‟s America. Vol. The only details given to portray him are his sex. Associated Press Annual Luncheon (Washington D.” 158.1. he cannot be named otherwise he would become a specific old black man.sake of the argument.” 159 Although Obama often repeated that the election was “not about [him].3.158 The underlying message conveyed is that Obama‟s campaign can bring together people who could not be more different.2. Earlier in the speech. “a young. 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. age and race. 157. 156 which stand in sharp contrast with the physical portrait made of Ashley. 2008).”160 the campaign was particularly centered on him..4. April 14. South Carolina.

op. education and professional experience and a self-portrait as the embodiment of the American Dream. 161. September 9. 2008). November 7. health care (mother with cancer): After my grandfather served in World War II. 2008). After being congratulated by a friend shortly after he delivered his first speech.. June 30. The stories of his relatives can be found in “A more perfect union” (March 18. can be seen as the matrix to most of his subsequent campaign speeches. To emphasize the contrast. 2nd edn). contrasting sharply with George Bush‟s personal story of the political dynasty. The narrative was often used during the presidential campaign but Obama also included the stories of his relatives. It was mostly the case at the end of the primaries and afterward.” But his friend urged him to continue because “it [was] just not about him. sometimes evoking his own daughters. and were able to provide my mother with a decent education. worked hard at different jobs. in the Final Primary Night Speech. 162. January 3. “I was not born into money or status. the GI Bill gave him a chance to go to college. 2008).C. 2004. 2008).” Barack OBAMA. Obama often declared that he “was not born into a lot of money”. (New York City: Three Rivers Press. See also. the Indiana Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Indianapolis. 2007. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. before at the California Democratic Convention and afterward.5. as in the Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. The expression was used in several speeches in April 28. Associated Press Luncheon (Washington D.. 2008). cit. 2008) and the “American Promise” or Acceptance Speech (Denver. “pretty words” don‟t make things change and it had just “made [him] feel important. 48 . Dreams from My Father. "Presidential life stories are the most important tools of persuasion in American political life. February 12. They moved West. 163. The references to his origins are sometimes reduced to his parents and his mixed origins. the Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison. August 28. Obama told her that he would never again make a speech because it had been pointless.” Potomac Primary Night (Madison. pp. February 19. 2008). 2008). following the generational succession: grandparents. Like the narratives of anonymous Americans. 2008) and the Speech on Education (Dayton. entitled “The Audacity of Hope”. single mothers.108-109. May 4. then parents and finally his own story. the Wisconsin Primary Night Speech (Houston.161 Obama gained public recognition with the speech he delivered to support John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. to help raise me. It was about people who needed his help. The speech. 2008).journalism at Columbia University. Obama‟s stories stood as a case for still believing in the American Dream. 160. p. “The America We Love” (Independence. February 12. and the government gave them a chance to buy a home. This expression can be found in Obama‟s autobiography. Evan CORNOG. April 28.163 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. 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. One of the key passages is devoted to Obama‟s personal story: his mixed roots.162 The narratives were often given in the same order. working women. 2007). and to save enough to retire.

which was presented as a typical.the GI Bill and the FHA loan164 for his grandfather). The Acceptance Speech (Denver. 2008). 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). 165. References to his father were rare and brief. The measure. Independence.166 Obama‟s own story was indeed used to stress America‟s exceptionalism as he declared emphatically and 164. 2008). emblematic American family.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). According to the speech in which they were included. All the stories about Obama and about his relatives focused on a sense of sacrifice. Obama was more or less concise and insisted on different details. 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. aimed at helping people buy a home. was introduced at the time of the New Deal. Like the narratives of anonymous Americans. a metonymy of the wider American community. 2007) and “The America We Love” (or Speech on Patriotism. Obama‟s personal narratives were about the past and always ended as an apology of America and indirectly the American federal government. never what they thought. June 30. Unlike the narratives of anonymous Americans which were aimed at describing the current social situation. The stories were the same but adapted to make a particular point. See “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. 49 . 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. he mentioned the color of every member of his family. The stories were basically the same but were much more detailed in the speeches devoted to praising America and American values. At the Indiana Jefferson Jackson Dinner. 166. which is a Democratic event. 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). he emphasized the part played by the federal government in helping his family make progress (“This is a country that…” repeated several times). August 28. Obama‟s personal stories revolve around his family. 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. November 7. In “A more perfect union”.

50 .. It is also a journey through time. porteurs de signes. Chicago.info/avec-obama-c-est-toute-une-amerique-qui-retrouve-ses-reperesperdus-depuis-le-11-septembre_a617. Obama constitue un événement symbolique au sens strict. 2004).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.info (www. 170.hyperbolically.169 Thanks to his journey through space and time and his biracial roots. He staged the journey of the hero: from Hawaii. 167. Washington… C‟est aussi un voyage dans le temps. hence giving more weight to his call for national unity. March 18. 2008. 2008 on www. Perhaps to counter attacks on his lack of patriotism and on his being a true American.php. Posted on June 6. Los Angeles. His relatives were depicted as everyday heroes. Precisely because Obama is a metaphor of America‟s core values and notion of progress. places. ” Christian Salmon interviewed by Marjorie PAILLON and Julien LANDFRIED. Obama rewrote the family‟s story into a typically American myth with the move westward. punctuated by references to Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King which make him part of American history. “Obama. he helped rebuild and revive America‟s fundamental beliefs. performatif.170 which explains why his personal story as well as that of his family were given such focus in his speeches. son conseiller a créé une véritable légende: celle d‟un homme global à l‟ère de la globalisation. August 28. Indeed. Chicago to Washington.ilovepolitics. 2008). “David Axelrod.fr/television/christian-salmon-obama-c-est-l-art-du-storytelling-porte-a-sonincandescence.ilovepolitics.” […] Obama incarne une nouvelle génération d'hommes politiques qui méritent d'être qualifiés de sémio-politiciens. Yet. C‟est-à-dire un événement non pas „fondateur‟ ou „historique‟ mais „séminal‟. Obama defines his relatives as being his “heroes” in his Acceptance Speech (Denver. insisting on her bias against young black men and her stereotypes.” Interview of Christian Salmon to Sophie BOURDAIS. It was the first time Obama mentioned what his grandmother thought and “uttered” instead of solely focusing on what she did. c‟est l‟art du storytelling porté à son incandescence”. jalonné par les références à Abraham Lincoln ou à Martin Luther King qui l‟inscrivent dans l‟histoire américaine.html). 2008 that his “story could only happen in the United States of America..” 168. Télérama. through Djakarta. 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.”167 Obama sought to present his story as a quintessentially American one. with the upward mobility as in Horatio Alger‟s typical rags-to-riches stories. “A more perfect union” (Philadelphia. Il a mis en scène le voyage du héros : Hawaï. vecteurs de signes. times and embody unity. the hard work and the progress made despite the odds and circumstances. Obama can bridge gaps between races.telerama. Djakarta.35081. 2008). Los Angeles. The declaration echoes one he had made in “The Audacity of Hope” (July 27. “Obama tend à une Amérique désorientée un miroir où se recomposent des éléments de sens fragmentés depuis le 11 septembre. “I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible. http://television. Obama said on January 3. 169.

2004). Obama insisted on a rhetoric of unity.”173 To establish this sense of unity.the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans. We are one people. “A New Beginning” (Chicago. all of us defending the United States of America. all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq. We worship an awesome God in the blue states. 51 . blue States for Democrats. We coach little league in the blue states and. yes. and we don't like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the red states. the adverb “together” or the quantifier “all” which abolishes all differences. The use of the BE copula is paramount in such contexts of (either positive or negative) definition and redefinition.unity was not only evoked through symbols. Obama devoted large sections of his speeches to praise America and the American spirit but he also redefined American identity. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America. The matrix for all his speeches is the keynote address he delivered at the 2004 DNC Convention. August 28. I say to them tonight.2.2. too. 173. it was the whole purpose of his campaign and the main object of his discursive strategy. we've got some gay friends in the red states. the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.1. February 12. and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. This is not who we are. 2008) and in “The American Promise”(Denver. 172. 2008). “The Audacity of Hope” (Boston. Well. “This is not America. 2007).2. 2. Forging unity through words 2. 2008). October 2. there are those who are preparing to divide us. March 18. the spin masters. there's the United States of America.172 Obama rejected the divisions as being un-American. Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison. But I've got news for them.”171 As we have seen in 1. the adjective “common”. there's the United States of America. “A more perfect union” (Philadelphia. The pundits . The sentence was first used in “The Audacity of Hope” (Boston.2 Praise of America and Americans. January 26. It was the case in particular in the Announcement Speech 171. 2004) and again in the 2008 campaign. July 27. July 27. by combining the verb “to share”. there's not a liberal America and a conservative America. 2008). It is in that speech that his definition of American identity can first be found: Now even as we speak. generally in the epilogue: South Carolina Primary Night Speech (Columbia. Redefining America’s national identity “Out of many we are truly one.

3. The New York Review of Books.” Obama‟s definition of American identity and as a corollary of American patriotism is based on core values that are moral and consensual. “Two Speeches On Race”.through our politics. 179.” Kentucky Oregon Night Speech (Des Moines.huffingtonpost.”179 This allowed Obama to include episodes of workers‟ collective action as being fundamentally American. And what binds us together. 2007).89. “It's what sent my grandfather's generation to beachheads in Normandy. The pronoun “I” here has a generic meaning and represents anyone. 181 “I am my brother‟s keeper”. George LAKOFF in David WINER. but still come together as one American family. posted on February 27. that we reaffirm that fundamental belief . a US journalist and historian. that through hard work and sacrifice each of us can pursue our individual dreams. 180. and in our daily lives. to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams. “Obama as told by George Lakoff”.” 177. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf. 2008. May 1. not partisan. According to Gary Wills. Vol. Obama insists on reciprocal responsibility with the use of the compound pronoun “each other” and the genitive used in a sentence with generic meaning. 2008) 181. 2007) in which Barack Obama declared that he would be running for President. and workers to picket lines and factory fences.” New Hampshire Speech (Nashua. 52 .”175 In the epilogue. and women to Seneca Falls.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. this reflects an approach which is typical of the Black Church. I am my sister‟s keeper. November 7. our policies. 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. The expression is used in “The American Promise” (or Acceptance Speech): “It is that promise that's always set this country apart. “It was the call of workers who organized. I am my sister's keeper . January 8. November 7. 2008 on http://www. Obama also insisted on collective responsibility as being the essence of American identity.7. “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf.html.(February 10. that dream is worth fighting for . 2007). see 3. as well. while they were seen by conservatives as socialist anti-American actions. but for each other.” 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.com/dave-winer/obama-as-told-by-george-l_b_88772. what makes us one American family. See p.1. 2008). For more on this. Obama offered a consensual definition of what bound Americans together.24 for the analysis of the contrast between “ourselves” and ”each other”. America is the sum of our dreams.55. 176. the American Dream was redefined as being not just an individual pursuit but a collective pursuit: “Because in this country. 178. which implies that “he is my keeper. 175. No.I am my brother's keeper. One of Obama‟s most 174. 2007). May 20. Looking at the world through the prism of Black Church values p. The Huffington Post.not just for ourselves. November 7.176 is that we stand up and fight for each other's dreams. Gary WILLS.180 “I” is only used and defined in its interrelation with others.

2001). Last Week Speech (Canton.S. ” Pierre BOURDIEU. [. Vol.. but what you can do for your country. 2007).66. You the people: American national identity in presidential rhetoric (College Station: Texas A&M University Press. 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. November 3.frequent sentences to define Americans was: “We are one nation.2. October 27. 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.8.”185 This “oracle effect” as Bourdieu defines it186 is given special prominence in Obama‟s speeches because of the political strategy associated to it.120. Obama delineated a definition of the nation that is closer to the French Republican definition than the traditional American one.60. “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. 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.”182 This is another way to define Americans.183 2. The idea is further developed in 2.269-270. op. all of us proud.” (Inaugural Address. U.2. presidents must find ways of breathing life into the otherwise abstract notion of American political community. References to race prior to “A more perfect union” p.2. 1961) 185. cit. Vanessa BEASLEY. As Vanessa Beasley points out.674. or even an American presidency at all. December 27. Use of the personal pronoun “we” (and possessive determiner “our”) 2. 186. 2008).” Quarterly Journal of Speech. Determining who “we” refers to “I believe in the power of the American people to be the real agents of change in this country. 183.4. This partly echoes in substance John F. 182. April 1980. Kennedy‟s address to Americans: “Don‟t ask what your country can do for you. all of us patriots.] L‟effet d‟oracle. 53 . p.. Moving beyond the question of patriotism used by the Republicans to define who is and who is not American.2. 2007) and Final Campaign Speech (Manassas. 2004). which symbolizes unity. As for Walter Fischer. January 20. pp.”184 Among the other discursive strategies to create unity through words is the use of the personal pronoun “we”. Langage et pouvoir symbolique (Paris : Seuil Essais.2.1.” Walter FISCHER. p..1. using the copula BE to equate the plural “we” to the singular “one nation”. or an American „we‟. quoted in Ryan Lee TETEN. The expression “one nation” was taken up in many other speeches. p. 184. “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. “Rhetorical Fiction and the Presidency.

January 8. 54 . 188. We must not be enemies. even in the specifically homogenous audiences mentioned. […] And when I am President. 187 In Obama‟s speeches. Obama exclusively used an all-inclusive “we”. 2007). He explicitly used the personal pronoun “you” to refer to the Southerners. who was often seen as a reference by Obama.” (March 4. Vol. 192. p. 2008). For many. 2008) and Indiana (Indianapolis. she defined herself as the solution to the crisis.12. he often associated action verbs with the pronoun “we”. I. 1861). “we” represent the solution because it depended upon the choices that the American people made. workers and businesses. I”. “Rhetoric: From Aristotle to Obama (Yes We Can)” http://motherpie. my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen. This shows that even in front of specific audiences he feels a part of. March 27. Jefferson Davis had been inaugurated President of the Confederation two weeks before Lincoln was sworn in as President of the United States. Virginia (Richmond. “In your hands. No. it was thanks to that speech that Lincoln had been elected. John M. with Obama.” The context was obviously widely different as the secession was well under way. Obama‟s inclusive “we” here clearly encompasses groups of people opposing each other. whose occurrences were more frequent than the exclusive “we”. 2008). Obama sought to reach out to all Americans. and not in mine. we” while Hillary Clinton‟s speeches focused on “I.George Lakoff noted that Obama‟s speeches were characterized by “we. Democrats and Republicans together.”189 Because Obama sees people as “the real agents of change”. “We are not enemies. February 9. but friends. they don't get to buy every chair.2. Lincoln. In his first Inaugural Address. New Hampshire Primary Speech (Nashua. November 10. we will finish the job against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. and we can tell the drug and insurance industry that while they'll get a seat at the table. we. The Government will not assail you. The use of the pronoun “we” in the speech clearly implied the existence of two opposite sides. MURPHY. embedded in history‟s journey. Rhetoric and Public Affairs. 191. “The American experiment has worked in large part because we guided the market‟s invisible hand with a higher principle.”188 While in Hillary Clinton‟s speeches. “Political Economy and Rhetorical Matter”. we will end this war in Iraq and bring our troops home. 2008 when Obama was invited to speak in Martin Luther King‟s Church.192 In fact. we will care for our veterans […]. 190.190 Except in the speeches delivered in front of Democrats. In Iowa (Des Moines. 2009. 187. 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. Obama gave that speech in Cooper Union. “Renewing the American Economy” (New York. reaching to Republicans and Independents alike. people were seen as “agents. is the momentous issue of civil war. Obama shifted between an exclusive “we” referring to African Americans or Democrats and an inclusive “we”.html. chose a different strategy to address his countrymen. where Lincoln had delivered his anti-slavery oration in 1860. 189. May 4. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors.typad.com/motherpie/2008/rhetoricfrom-a.303 ff. 2008). as in the Jefferson Jackson Dinners191 or in front of exclusively African American audiences as was the case on January 20.

2007). Alec MacGILLIS and Gerald R. Obama‟s discourse resonates with Jacksonian echoes. and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am President. It was taken up with variations during the 2008 campaign. Obama is explicitly referring to two different and opposed sections of the society. Obama uses the pronoun “we” in a special way: “We worship an awesome God in the blue states. stating that “he [was] not one of them. they will not get a job in my White House.2. It is more effective however to use the personal pronoun “we” “than the expression “some of us” as it expresses a fragmentation. Opposing “we” to “they” Obama frequently and harshly criticized the “lobbyists” and “special interests” in Washington who control America. Obama‟s discourse is anti-elitist in nature. 195. the “skeptics”. In his analysis of Obama‟s stump speech. “lobbyists” and “special interests” are seen as threats to democratic principles. 194. 2004). “The Audacity of Hope” (July 27. They are anti-democratic forces and hold real power in Washington. a form of corruption.In “The Audacity of Hope”. 194 For Obama. or at least collusion. Schuster from the University of Pittsburgh explained that it was important for Obama to “emphasize the argument for separation”. a separation with the extraction from the group. To some extent. 2. Although the word is never mentioned. SHUSTER. favoring their own interests at the expense of the public good. They have not funded my campaign. Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines.2. By using “we” in this exclusive sense. Obama can discursively (and symbolically) join both groups. Gerald R.” The identification is fairly complex. is here pointed at. 55 . 26 February 2008. “We” here could actually be replaced by “some of us”. Obama also used the personal pronoun “they” to refer to the “cynics”. It is therefore surprising that Obama used the personal pronoun “we” to refer to both groups instead of the partisan opposition between “we” (Democrats) and “they” (Republicans). defending the common man against special interests. November 10. and we don‟t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the red states. The pronoun “we” is used to represent Americans and enabled Obama to identify with both Democrats and Republicans. “Anatomy of a Stump Speech”. and “those who are preparing to divide us”195 who were never identified by name and they 193.2. The Washington Post.”193 I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists – and won.

Then. 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.were never clearly defined. 196 The racial reference is stronger for not being explicit. The most famous use of the pronoun “they” by Obama was in the opening lines of the Iowa Caucus Night Speech: You know. see n. April 27. the pronoun “they” was not even pronounced but was strongly implied when Obama used the passive form as in. 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. not the people responsible for fostering such attitude. too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. By remaining a vague. He concluded by urging his listeners to join him and win together. Anyone knows who he is referring to. Shifting back and forth between “we” and “I” As most candidates and Presidents in office. 2007). 2. or immigrants. it is open to various interpretations without pointing at anyone in particular.”197 Obama can not mention the agent because it is not necessary.63. or gay people.3. They said this country was too divided. 56 .2. and told always to point the finger at somebody else – the other party. 197. “Turn the page” speech. “They” is later specified as representing the “skeptics”. ambiguous reference. To mention the agent would have put emphasis on it (end-focus). they said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high. “We‟re divided into Red States and Blue States. those who believe that race was still a barrier in America although this is never said explicitly. it is immediately followed by an inclusive reference (country “[coming] together”) so that anyone in the audience can feel directly addressed to. Obama often shifted between “we” and “I”.215 p. The shifts correspond to the various parts of Obama‟s speeches which alternate between the personal perspective (personal story and 196. Does “our” refer to Democrats (or people) supporting him? African Americans? The Obama campaign team? Though this possessive determiner is clearly exclusive. For more on this deliberate ambiguity. Sometimes.2. (San Diego.

” 199 As was pointed out earlier. the pronoun “I” was often used in combination with the modal auxiliary “will” but hardly ever with a performative verb. for example “we know”. It was the case in Hillary Clinton‟s speeches as it had formerly been the case in Reagan‟s speeches when he was campaigning. pp. it was an inclusive “we” which she associated with state verbs. op. not just for the election. “Ask Not What J. presidential candidates use the pronoun “I” to set themselves forward. 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. Ryan Lee TETEN. and what you will do. As Ryan Lee Teten pointed out in his analysis of George W.2. op-ed. As we pointed out in 1. Though not yet elected. “You” referred to the voters who were not considered as agents of change by Clinton: 198. Obama somehow echoed Kennedy‟s famous quote in his Inaugural Address on January 20.F. 199.K. February 3. For more parallels between John Kennedy and Barack Obama. 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. With action verbs. When she did use the pronoun “we”. it's about your hopes.1. Indeed. 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.”198 The pronoun “I” enabled Obama to present what his actions as President of the United States of America would be. Bush‟s 2000 Inaugural Address. 200. see Franck RICH. “Turn the Page” Speech (San Diego.”200 Generally. Can Do for Obama”. 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. she used more generally an exclusive “we” to refer to her team or later her Administration..2. and your dreams. April 28. 57 . but what you can do for your country. praise of America and Americans). The New York Times.669. 1961: “Don‟t ask what your country can do for you. cit. it's about you. 2007). the shifts between the pronouns “we” and “I” allowed Obama to appear as “one of them” and also as their potential and prospective leader. 2008. Hillary Clinton often focused on the first personal pronoun. Because there are few obstacles that can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change.political commitment) and a larger perspective (account of the problems faced by Americans.

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 was used each time Obama explained why he had decided to run for President. 58 . especially at the beginning of the campaign and then in speeches delivered at key-moments: in the Final Primary Speech. You want this campaign to be about you because there is so much at stake for our country. Le discours d’investiture des présidents américains ou les paradoxes de l’éloge (Paris : Harmattan. In addition to focusing on the notion of unity. 203. 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). The words “President” was hence often coalesced with the expression “the United States of America. It is interesting to note that Obama never used the acronym.“We came back tonight because you spoke loudly and clearly.76. calling. that is to say the full institutional name of the country. The full name was hardly ever used by Senator McCain during his campaign. 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.2.203 It is indeed more frequent in Obama‟s speeches than “the United States”. Hillary Clinton. 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. 202. Obama‟s notion of unity was predominant and was delineated into a cohesive discursive strategy.”202 It lent more solemnity to the function. The functions of the toponyms Barack Obama used the expression “the United States of America”. New Hampshire Primary Night Speech (January 8. it was also a way to sacralize the country by not reducing it to a combination of initial letters. 2003). in the Acceptance Speech. which marked the beginning of the campaign against McCain. if not imperialistic. Obama generally used “the United States” in association with the title: “president of the United States of America”. Luc BENOÎT À LA GUILLAUME. p.”201 When she associates “you” with an action verb. 201. 2008).3. not about what will be done after the election. it is clearly with the election in mind. 2.

Through his discursive strategies. MOTS. It was also used in the speech against the war in Iraq (October 2. from Washington to Maine. the representation of the country as a divided. Obama‟s speeches sought to overcome. 2007) and in The Acceptance Speech (Denver. 2008). he sought to stand at a superior level. there's the United States of America. A post-racial discourse? There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America.” 205.When he had to mention the country.53. and John Kerry will be sworn in as president. he could represent them all. the stakes of presenting a unitary vision of the country were hence also very personal. the people will rise up in November. partisan divisions. 59 . If Obama presented America as a united country. “The Audacity of Hope” (Boston.”204 For Georgeta Cisleru. Georgeta CISLARU. 204. fragmented nation prevails even at the institutional level and has therefore a paramount influence on how Americans view their country. Obama sometimes used that metonymy: “America. Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines. such a use of a country‟s name operates as a “semantic integrator”205 which permits to represent the nation as a unitary entity. the identification was possible. it was even more delicate. July 27. March 2008. he used either “our country”. at least with words. November 10. That was also the case with racial divisions but in that case. if you feel the same energy that I do. “Le nom de pays comme outil de représentation sociale”. The metonymy was also used to introduce the epilogue of “The Audacity of Hope” in 2004: “America. from Florida to Oregon.2. For Obama. 206.206 As America is a country where official censuses classify people according to racial criteria. 2004). Apart from these imperialistic undertones. our moment is now. it was not just to defend a political vision but to convince voters that.4. tonight. It therefore helps reinforce the idea of unity. “this country” or “America”. although he belonged to a “visible” ethnic minority. The fact that it is possible to use America as a metonymy for Americans reinforces the reference to the American nation. 2. Les langages du politique. p. if you feel the same passion that I do […] then I have no doubt that all across the country. 2007). August 28. “America” can more easily refer to the nation than the institutional designation of “the United States of America” can.

they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. he emphasized his bi-racial roots and his experience as a community organizer in the South Side of Chicago.2. because in a generous America . Barack. “Barack Obama's Address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention: Trauma. The autobiographical lines sound more like the praise of a mythical America. Marc Lawrence McPHAIL.4. the sentence is one item in a list in which Obama evoked other traumatic experiences (immigrants. Unlike most blacks in the U. or "blessed. Rhetoric & Public Affairs.1. p. Obama sought to recognize the past and present hardships of all those he was addressing and 207. In the speech that gained him public recognition at the 2004 Democratic Convention.. with the trauma of slavery and segregation. even though they weren't rich. and the (Im)possibility of Racial Reconciliation”.S. 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.”207 In addition.2.” For McPhail. “Obama‟s Menexenusian Message” in David A. the mention of his skin color is strangely missing: My parents shared not only an improbable love. Winter 2005. The uses of the noun “faith” and the verbs “believe” and “imagine” are quite telling. Consilience. Obama never mentioned any direct references to color.8. “f”. Obama here “romanticizes the historical realities of black suffering and borders on the stereotypical image of the „happy darkie‟ of traditional racism. depicted as a magic land than as a realistic account of his life. without giving any special focus to the past traumas and present grievances of the African Americans and overlooking white responsibility.you don't have to be rich to achieve your potential. Even when he listed the obstacles that might have hampered his social ascension. 60 ." believing that in a tolerant America. The reference is implicit in the places he mentioned (Kenya. soldiers). They imagined me going to the best schools in the land. a particularly underprivileged African American area as well as his successful professional career. though. Vol.S. he is an African American with a direct connection with both Africa and America.583.4. No. your name is no barrier to success. They would give me an African name. By reducing slavery to a trauma among others. South Side of Chicago). FRANK and Mark Lawrence McPHAIL. 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. Compromise. The epilogue was lyrical with a rhythm heightened by the use of anaphora and the use of alliterations (“s”. common ideals and common future uniting all Americans. “r” and “g” in the sentence on slavery). Obama mainly focused on the hope and the common goals.

that wasn‟t African-American history we were celebrating.210 Obama could have a political credibility on the national level only if he rose above his community and addressed and encompassed everyone. oh. 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.e. that's an American problem. Frank.poll_1_obama-latino-voters-full-poll?_s=PM:POLITICS. cit. op.” David A.211 people tapped me on the back and said. 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. http://articles. 210. that isn't a Hispanic-American problem.com/2008-07-24/politics/pew. And I said. 1965. When twelve million people live in hiding in this country and hundreds of thousands of people cross our borders illegally each year. cit.” McPHAIL. Being identified as the candidate of the African Americans would prevent the other communities from identifying with him.. On March 7.208 It is not surprising therefore that the 2004 speech has not been received in the same way by David A. “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‟. race neutrality. July 24. and a nursing mother is torn away from her baby by an 208.582. April 28. what a wonderful celebration of African-American history that must have been. the 42nd anniversary of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. op. The aim of the attack was to prevent the marchers from reaching Montgomery. Clinton during the primaries but gradually shifted to Obama once the primaries were over. The Latinos had heavily supported H. peaceful civil rights demonstrators were violently attacked by the police. The section can be found at the end of the speech just before the lyrical outburst of the epilogue. Ed HORNICK. 211.latino.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. no.583.. in Selma. when companies hire undocumented workers instead of legal citizens to avoid paying overtime or to avoid a union.tone down the specificity of any group. This was the strategy delineated for the campaign in 2007-2008: When I came back from that celebration. that's an American problem. it was a necessary corollary for him to redefine the past (and present) as a common and shared experience. or work jobs that pay less. op... “Turn the Page” speech (San Diego. i. McPHAIL. a white scholar who considered it as a successful discursive strategy of consilience209 to achieve reconciliation and Lawrence McPhail. Because Obama insisted so much on the common future. That was American history that we were celebrating. that isn't just a HispanicAmerican problem. 61 . p. the Alabama state capital. 212. 209. When Hispanics lose their jobs faster than almost anybody else. p. and come with fewer benefits than almost anybody else. positive selfpresentation”. you don't understand.572. cit.CNN. FRANK and Mark Lawrence McPHAIL. a black scholar who considered it revealed an old vision of racelessness influenced by the whites‟ “dominant rhetorical tropes: innocence. “Poll: 'Sharp reversal' for Obama with Latino voters” . p. 2008.cnn. 213. 2007).

The two notions are here combined and intertwined. 2008).C. and brown – must solve as one nation. 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 developed the same idea at the South Carolina Primary Night Speech on January 26. 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 idea was given more weight as it came as a leitmotiv at the end of each sentence (epistrophe). and fight together. July 8. But we are here tonight to say that this is not the America we believe in. I saw South Carolina. but the United States of America. In the speech delivered at the LULAC Convention. blacks and Latinos can't come together. 62 . he mainly focused on the issue of responsibility and in particular individual responsibility. I did not travel around this state over the last year and see a white South Carolina or a black South Carolina. then there was not a black candidate and white candidates but just American candidates. and I believe in what this country can be. I saw crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children. white. If there was not a white America and a black America. When he spoke about race. It is interesting to note that when Obama is specifically addressing the black community (Speech at Ebenezer Church and at the NAACP Convention). By using the verb “see”. and bleed together under the same proud flag. Interestingly enough. Obama was primarily defined in the media as the first major black candidate. I saw shuttered mills and homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from all walks of life. hence adopting a conservative approach. I saw what America is. The 214.immigration raid. Obama played on the perception which could be visual but also intellectual.. Obama never addressed the question of his own biracial roots directly but always indirectly. Speech at the LULAC Convention (Washington D. 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. Obama redefined American history (use of the BE copula) after denying the common assumption and representation (use of the BE copula with the negation). The section is used at the beginning of the speech to describe the problems the community is facing. whites can't support the African-American candidate. 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.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”. and men and women of every color and creed who serve together. that is a problem that all of us – black. “that‟s an American problem”).

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. “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 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 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.


In fact it isn‟t even past. The section devoted to Wright and Obama‟s grandmother ends with a declaration of patriotism. 2005 to honor Rep. quoted in David A. op. to address the past as seen by each side.583. “The past isn‟t dead and buried.229 According to Mary E.” 232. To insist on how much the past determines the present. 231. Jack SHAFER. Because Obama is at the centre of the symmetry. February 14.” But echoing Wright‟s urge to self-help.CLARK. FRANK and Mark Lawrence McPHAIL. Obama recognizes their specific difficulties but also expresses the usually secret stereotypes and 229.583. “[Obama‟s] lack of discussion of race. Mary E.” 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.Obama‟s speech. 2002). op. 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. p. 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‟. p. 66 . Lawrence McPhail blamed Obama‟s 2004 Keynote Address for failing to address the specific problems the black community was confronted to. Obama also calls on the blacks‟ own responsibility: “For the African-Americans community. 2008. cit.. to develop concrete projects to meet these goals and begin together to implement them. is troubling […]: it ignores the structural and historical conditions that gave rise to such attitudes. When he does talk about race. and on a wider scale. who is “like family” and therefore makes the reflection with his grandmother even more relevant. Clark. 230. the contradictions of America: “These people are part of me. Slate. John Lewis. Obama disarms race for white people by largely avoiding the topic.” It was in particular the case in a speech delivered on February 21. In Search Of Human Nature (London: Routledge. cit. he can embody the contradictions of the two communities. reconciliation can only be effective if it involves: “First.” The use of the deictics “this”/”these” reinforces the self-referential strategy used by Obama.”230 In “A more perfect union”. p. Obama in fact insists on his close connection with Wright. he makes sure to juxtapose the traumas experienced by nonblacks with those experienced by AfricanAmericans. And they are part of America. making him the axis (or rather centre) of the symmetry. that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming the victims of our past. “How Obama Does That Thing He Does”. second.” Lawrence McPHAIL. 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 quotes Faulkner.232 By using this polyphony. to identify common goals for the future. a former key-leader of the Civil Rights Movement and former chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (NSCC). but without ever equating the two. this country that I love. The mirror effect created by juxtaposing and confronting Wright to his own grandmother puts Obama at the centre of the symmetrical approach.. third.368. Obama had already used that mirror structure previously: “Bill Clinton disarmed race for blacks by inviting them to talk about it. Obama again uses the mirror effect to give voice to the two sides‟ grievances.

” This echoes an idea developed by King in a sermon he delivered on December 5. March 18.openleft. Vol. http://www. 236. 67 . For David A. the adverbs “all” and “together”. no matter what they do to us. 2008”.do?diaryld=4751. David A. The anecdote is the one he used to close the speech he had delivered two months before at the Ebenezer Church. optimistic tone to the speech.com/showDiary. “A more perfect union” responds to the three requirements Mary E. The anecdote which illustrates and calls for “pure empathy” 238 gives a last. 233. hence requiring unity and political solutions. George LAKOFF. “No matter how bad [white Southerners] are. ibid. Rhetoric and Public Affairs. “Much More Than Race : What Makes a Great Speech Great”. it is Ashley Baia‟s story. 2009. see David A. The story urges people to see themselves in the face of the Other.167ff. To close his speech.235 Obama considers that episodes like segregation are over while for Wright. according to David A. Obama‟s speech has a clear therapeutic purpose. FRANK. Unlike “The Audacity of Hope”. recognition in the face of the Other is mediated through the image of God.12. we must still believe that in the most recalcitrant segregationist there is the image of God. He develops once more the rhetoric of unity that he has developed since he announced his candidacy: use of the adjective “common”. FRANK. One of Lévinas‟s key-ideas: “God is found in the face of the other. FRANK. Obama uses an anecdote to illustrate his urge for Americans to “find that common stake we all have in one another”. no matter what they said about us. 235. trying to overcome and “work through”234 past trauma instead of “acting it out” as is the case in “hush harbors”. uttering prejudices against the other community they would not generally dare express in public. 238. Frank. permanent features or racial relations in the US. “The Prophetic Voice and the Face of the Other in Barack Obama‟s „a More Perfect union‟ Address. 237. 1957.2. “Hush parlors” are places like the barber shop or the Church where people from a community feel free to say exactly what they think. ibid. 234. Frank. strongly influenced by both Lévinas and by the prophetic voice of MLK.236 He never mentions the agents of the discriminations blacks have to suffer. Obama sees the problems as common political problems. p. Even the two people involved in the anecdote are connected to Obama as they are defined as supporters from South Carolina. such features of white racism against blacks are transhistoric. That story of recognition of an elderly black man in a young white woman is.anger that are only heard in “hush parlors”233 and widen mutual misunderstanding. David A. Clark had defined to make reconciliation effective.237 although for both Lévinas and King. Obama actually uses the expression in the speech. No. That reinforces the “self-referential” essence of the speech and gives credibility to what he suggests.” For a more detailed analysis. however different they are.

2008)239 .3. The tone he used this time was in keeping with the general tone of the speech: one of calmness and self-control which contrasts sharply with the turmoil he was facing.2. Fig. The variations of pitch are fairly homogeneous while there are a number of his characteristic. It is in fact fairly striking to analyze the differences between the delivery at Dr King‟s Church and at the Constitutional Center.PRAAT 239. 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. A comparison between the two presentations of Ashley Baia shows that Obama maintains a lower.4. the yellow line the variations of intensity. fairly monotonous voice when delivering “A more perfect union”. The blue line indicates the variations of pitch. sudden upward intonations along the delivery at Dr King‟s Church. What the tone reveals beyond the message Interestingly enough.1 Presentation of Ashley Baia at Dr King‟s Church (January 20.2. the pauses are less frequent and much shorter than the first time he told the story. 68 .

” The marked pauses in the speech delivered at Ebenezer Church occurred between each functional unit: between subject and verb.fr/~fulltext/895. This will be discussed in 3. http://aune. 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”.univ-aix. But the pauses are not enough to account for the longer delivery. however. 241. The tone of a preacher p. 1999.pdf. the pauses characterize the black pulpit influence.241 In the case of Barack Obama.2” to say “She‟s been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign.96.Fig. Faits de langues.58 second in “A more perfect union” (no contraction being made to quicken the pace). Vol.2 Presentation of Ashley Baia in “A more perfect union” (March 18. They were characteristic of the symbolic. hierarchical distance between those in charge and ordinary citizens. For “to organize”.” and 5. 242. showed that pauses were symbolic markers of power. 2008) .64 second in the speech given at Dr King‟s Church while it only lasts 0. Danielle Duez.lpl.242 Obama‟s 240.1. the delivery lasts 0. who studied how French politicians in power and in the opposition speak. Danielle DUEZ.240 The slower rhythm is here due to a significant lengthening of the vowels. “La fonction symbolique des pauses dans la parole de l‟homme politique”.2.7. 69 .77 second for “has been working” but only 0. 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: 0.1” for Obama to say “Ashley has been working to organize mostly black folks.PRAAT It takes 5.2.13. No.55 second in “A more perfect union”.

emotionless and in control at a time of fierce and raging controversy. March 25. listen to the discussion between Sarah Jones and linguist John McWorther: http://www.246 Using the “black-cent” and signifyin‟ when addressing black audiences conveyed a sense of belonging. The speech mostly received positive comments248 and enabled Obama to boost his campaign. Interview of John McWORTHER. 246. which had to be specifically established given his college education and white upbringing. The “black-cent” is different from Black English (or Ebonics). 2008. explained that “the story in the [Ebenezer Church] was more fitting.and on the touchiest issue in American life. “A more perfect union” was “a presidential address”. For John McWorther.delivery of the “race speech” was much less stylistically and ethnically marked: no significant variations or specific pauses.” Stephanie HOLMES. 2010. which consists in the use of words that have a different meaning for African Americans. what characterizes the “black-cent” is the contours of the vowels and aspects of the intonations. 2008. The show was based on “code-switching”. expressing understanding for the deep-seated. This. U.studio360. “Many commentators pinpoint the "A More Perfect Union" speech. News. using signifiyin‟. January 19.org/2008/oct/24/sounding-black/. For more on “code-switching”. he has been writing and giving exceptionally effective addresses. lingering resentments of each and presenting himself as the embodiment of unity. which is considered as a “dialect” with its syntactic specificities (double negatives).Obama's candidacy but his response managed to tackle the question of race in US society with delicacy. It was a speech which wrapped the experience of different races together. Michael Eric DYSON.” Kent GARBER. made in March 2008 in the aftermath of a scandal about his former pastor. these speeches have been campaign rhetoric. 245. 244.co. posted on November 19. 243. For George Lakoff. Reverend Jeremiah Wright.stm. 2008. because [Obama] was in a church with the intonation and lift.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. “Obama: Oratory and Originality” BBC News. American actress Sarah Jones wrote and performed a theatrical show entitled “Bridge and Tunnel” in which she performed several different characters. 248.bbc. “A president-preacher from anaphora to epistrophe” The Sydney Morning Herald. But almost without exception.245 Professor John Dyson insisted on the specific way Obama sometimes addressed the black community. her ability to change voice enables her to impersonate Americans from various ethnic communities. Obama effectively attained a superior position and talked like a statesman thanks to his capacity to sound calm. 70 .S. as one of Mr. “Rhetoric and Speaking Style Affect the Clinton-Obama Race”.247 By adopting a serene and controlled voice. not just “black folks” but all Americans. The Washington Post. stylistically. As it was intended as a solemn speech.uk/2/hi/americas/7735014. however. Evidence of Rev Wright's inflammatory sermons risked irrevocably damaging Mr. France Inter. “All year long. Jennifer Jackson.” Dennis BRODER. 2009. Obama had to use the language of mainstream politics when addressing virtually all Americans. http://news. a staff writer of The Washington Post. 247. was largely a presidential address . “Humeur vagabonde”. For Dennis Broder. November 17. a specialist in linguistic anthropology at the University of Toronto.Obama's finest. March 23. 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”. “The Real Value of Obama‟s Speech”.

it “transcends its immediate occasion and addresses […] the most vital of issues: what America is about.3. both were Senators representing Illinois and both were candidates at a time where the nation was deeply divided. who we are. Barack Obama about Abraham Lincoln.2. 2007) is frequently stressed in Obama‟s speeches and is directly connected to the idea that it was necessary to act very quickly. p.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. as Americans. The manifold parallels with Lincoln251 “He tells us that there is power in words. Gary WILLS. “If Lincoln is now widely seen as a great orator. http://www. 2007). It was the case in particular for Roosevelt.“A more perfect union” is a great speech because. For more parallels between Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln: Anne JOCTEUR MONROZIER “La référence Lincoln”. p.106. 71 . George LAKOFF. October 2. it was not the case at the time he delivered the Gettysburg Address. The two men were both lawyers whose oratorical skills are widely praised today253 . 252. cit. cit. 249. and are to be. which received mediocre if not downright negative reviews then.” Lois J.”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. January 13. 250. and what politics should be fundamentally about.254 According to Luc Benoît à la Guillaume. like any other great speech.. 251.openleft. See 3. France Info. February 10. 254.do?diaryld=4751. op. a frequent idea in Martin Luther King‟s speeches.65.com/showDiary. op. 1992). the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport: Greenwood Press. 253. “Announcement Speech” (Springfield.94.250 2. This awareness of the country being at a “pivotal moment” (Chicago.1 Using MLK‟s words p. EINHORN.5. “Much More Than Race : What Makes a Great Speech Great”. 2009.”252 The major political figure to which Obama kept looking to during the campaign is Abraham Lincoln. 255. Luc BENOÎT À LA GUILLAUME. Lincoln is a key source of inspiration in times of crisis. Abraham Lincoln.

260 The journey. Lincoln crossed Baltimore at night and did not deliver a speech in the city. Compared to the size of the city‟s population. 260.2. January 17. only stopping at Wilmington where Biden lived and got on the train and then Baltimore. Interestingly enough and contrary to the initial plan. 1858.gov/qfd/states/51/51683. Census Bureau. 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. 72 . Obama used symbols that do not refer to Lincoln directly but to Lincoln‟s times.census. 257. Obama announced his candidacy in Springfield. Baltimore is where many emancipated slaves came to settle. He reluctantly had to do so because of rumors of assassinations. like Lincoln. 2008.259 Obama set off in Philadelphia and then headed for Washington. It was also the place chosen by Obama to “introduce” his VP pick publicly on August 23. Among the direct non-verbal references to Lincoln is the Bible on which Obama swore on Inauguration Day and which had belonged to Lincoln. http://quickfacts. Obama chose to deliver his last speech of the campaign. The speech was delivered on June 16. which had a symbolic function (from President-elect to President). at Manassas (also known as Bull Run) in Virginia where the Civil War is considered to have started and ended.257 The date chosen by Obama. added a ritual to the official ceremonies and were popular events.S. Obama attracted and gathered a huge and impressive audience of 100. According to the U. encounters between the President-elect and his citizens. 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. hence making it the starting-point of the historic journey which led him to the White House. on the eve of the election.000 inhabitants. however. 259. in particular the Civil War.5. February 10th. Obama decided to announce his candidacy in front of Springfield‟s old State Capitol. was also symbolic as the speech was given on the eve of the 198th anniversary of Lincoln‟s birth. The announcement of Joe Biden as VP appointee was made via text messaging. 256.2.1. 258.html. and instead of departing from Springfield.256 precisely where Lincoln gave one of his most famous speeches “A House divided against itself cannot stand”. Obama‟s journey lasted only one day. 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.000 people. Sometimes. the population of Manassas City is under 37. Direct references to Lincoln actually became more frequent after the campaign was over.

See http://www. 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. No. Vol. 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”. by the people. For none of the quotes was Lincoln‟s authorship stated: the expression was sufficiently famous for people to trace the source. 1863)263 in several speeches: once at the very beginning of the campaign on October 2.Symbolic. Obama used the 261. BASLER.com/christopherb. The expression came initially from a Unitarian minister and reformer Theodore Parker.2.11. 2. 264. once going as far as making the fake Obama utter a series of plagiarisms. and then after the campaign was over on Election Night. 263. pp. by and for the people” in the speeches delivered during the Whistle-Stop Tour in Philadelphia and Baltimore. 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). for the people” from Lincoln‟s Gettysburg Address (November 19.youtube. Christopher B. non-verbal elements played a critical part in Obama‟s campaign. 1861) was delivered at a time when the civil war was no longer preventable and actually broke out the day after. hence choosing to stress people‟s individual responsibility instead of Providence.2. As was mentioned earlier on.5. references to Lincoln became again more frequent toward the end of the campaign. 2007 in a speech focused on the war in Iraq. Roy P. a close connection to Lincoln‟s law partner. May 1939.html# (clip 1): a fake Obama quoting MLK‟s “I Have A Dream”.181-182. The expression was rephrased into a condensed version “a government of. 262 These were much exaggerated performances but Obama did not always specify he was quoting. 262. Duncan was considered as the best “fauxbama” (fake Obama) according to a CNN report. Lincoln‟ first Inaugural Address (March 4. “Abraham Lincoln‟s Rhetoric”. American Literature. the original expression used was “the guardian angel of the nation” which Lincoln modified into “the better angels of our nature”. Jefferson Davis had been inaugurated President of the Confederation two weeks before. Verbal references During the campaign.com/watch?v=NlhWmCTOWOU. Christopher B.duk. In the draft Secretary of State Seward prepared for Lincoln. He quoted the expression “that government of the people. 73 .christopherbduncan. http://www. Duncan261 who impersonated Obama in Jay Leno‟s Tonight Show on NBC often insisted on Obama‟s repeated references to his political elders. The connection established exophorically provided a key to interpret Obama‟s discourse.2.

They become more frequent after Obama‟s election. The references to the Founding Fathers help reinforce that memorializing process. and generally with great success. The speech was entitled “A New Declaration of Independence”. and then again after the campaign was over. The quote ultimately chosen by Favreau were actually words written by Lincoln‟s Secretary of State. January 20.C. The expressions “first patriots”. Obama used the opening sentence of the peroration of Lincoln‟s first Inaugural Address: “We are not enemies. Abraham Lincoln. 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. 1861). 2008. Lincoln was not mentioned as the source of the original expression. “our better history”. The quote was put in by Jon Favreau who was in charge of preparing the draft of the victory speech. 266. but friends. They have conducted it through many perils. He used a variation of the expression. David Axelrod. Evan THOMAS. 74 . 267. Obama‟s Inaugural Address partly echoed Lincoln‟s first Inaugural Address as the following two excerpts suggest: It is seventy-two years since the first inauguration of a President under our National Constitution.expression “our better angels” in the Last Week Speech he delivered in Canton on October 27.”265 This use of intertextuality was a characteristic feature of Obama‟s speeches. first Inaugural Address (March 4. “Obama‟s Lincoln”. January 20. hence focusing on the continuity and past stability of the country precisely at a time when the country was anything but stable. 2008. November 15. Lincoln was only once openly quoted in Election Night Victory Speech.. Newsweek. Barack Obama‟s Inaugural Address (Washington D. Obama used the expression in contrast with the expressions “worst instincts” and “easy instincts”. every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. 2009). 2009. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. It reinforced the identification of Obama to figures such as Lincoln and to what they symbolize in Americans‟ collective memory. in the Last Week Speech and his Inaugural speech. during the Whistle-Stop Tour.266 Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. Such references can be found both in Lincoln‟s speeches and in Obama‟s. After Obama read the first draft. During that period fifteen different and greatly distinguished citizens have in succession administered the executive branch of the Government. “our American journey” and the date “1776” can be found in the speech delivered in Philadelphia and Baltimore on January 17. William Seward. advised Favreau to “figure out a good Lincoln quote to bring it all together. which is a way to stress continuity with the founding era and therefore legitimacy but in an updated form 265. 2009).” (Inaugural Address. Yet. 267 A similar historic perspective is adopted in both speeches. Obama‟s chief strategist." and suggested looking at the end of Lincoln's first Inaugural Address.

Intertextual references to Lincoln‟s rhetoric reinforced that sense of the sacred: superior purpose. They serve to praise American values. References to “our founding fathers” and “our founding documents” can be found in the Inaugural Speech.to adapt to the present circumstances. What is specific about Obama is that he manages to combine old traditions with modern trends effectively. inspired by the Constitution and the Bible. however huge. Obama developed a rhetoric of unity which was rooted in his political and historical references and also in his Christian legacy. which was reinforced by the stories he told as they mostly focused on women. 75 . Obama‟s brilliant rhetoric restored the stylistic grandeur of America‟s greatest presidential figure in collective memory. 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). 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. Partly breaking with the anti-intellectual tendencies at play. The metaphor of the American family developed by Obama somehow made him appear as a patriarch. Rising over divisions. by the figures of Lincoln and Martin Luther King. sophisticated language. it has to face. With the ceremonial of Whistle-Stop Tour. Obama sought to achieve national unity. 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). which he viewed as the key to overcoming the challenges to meet. the references to Lincoln who was seen as a father figure for the rebirth of the nation but also by the preacher‟s tone. The many historical references make Obama‟s key-speeches rise above and transcend partisan politics. To do so.

Her rebellious act sparked a protest (including boycotts and peaceful marches) that led to the end of segregation in America. See also Michael Eric DYSON. The Washington Post. Obama the Preacher “Let me not try to preach today.3. Obama‟s rhetorical and oratorical styles are deeply influenced by the Black pulpit tradition as Michael Eric Dyson. the influence was already patent in the keynote address he delivered at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Michael Eric DYSON. 76 . But I do wanna read a passage from Scripture. According to Dyson.” That is how Barak Obama. Michael Eric DYSON. 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).92. 2008. 269.2. 2005 in Detroit. “His Way With Words Begins At The Pulpit”. Professor of Theology at Duke University and an ordained Baptist minister.270 It is therefore relevant to define what the Black preaching tradition actually consists in in terms of rhetorical style and 268. “His Way With Words Begins At The Pulpit”. 2009. who was Senator at the time. 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. pointed out when writing that Obama‟s rhetoric was firmly rooted in black soil. The statement is both an acknowledgement of Obama‟s self-conscious preaching style and a paraleipsis. The Sydney Morning Herald. The Washington Post. January 18. 2009.1 The building-up of a crescendo in the overall structure p. 270. that is to say starting to do what he just said he would not. January 19. opened his eulogy of Rosa Parks268 at the memorial service held on November 2. January 18. “A President-Preacher from anaphora to epistrophe”.

Wharry‟s analysis is based on Henry MITCHELL.271 Henry Mitchell considered that it was impossible to define a typical sermon outline. 77 . I got the word in me and I can sing it. today‟s various American websites about sermon writing reflect those contrastive approaches. Synthesized by Cheryl WHARRY.”272 Gerald Davis. (v) closure is absent. partially contradictory views.1.2. on the contrary. followed by a Bible quotation. Instead.206.oratorical specificities. p.. April 2003. Language in Society. The structure and main components of the sermon 3. distinguished five components precisely ordered: (i) Preacher tells the congregation that the sermon was provided by God. you know (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Cheryl WHARRY. 1987). he focused on “describing such aspects as cultural context. pp. and descriptions of a sermon‟s climax. In his work. 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.205-6. 272. p. Interestingly. reasons for use of Black English in sermons.32. The influence of black church rhetoric 3. 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. “Amen and Hallelujah Preaching: Discourse Functions in African American Sermons”. op. and the sermon is left open-ended. cit. (iii) preacher interprets the scripture literally and then broadly .1.205.1. as sermons heavily depended on the preacher‟s individual imagination and spontaneity. 271. op. For more on the different and contrastive approaches of Mitchell and Davis..1. Black Preaching (Philadelphia: Lippincott Publishers. see Cheryl WHARRY. define the point. what exactly Obama took up from that pastoral tradition and also gauge the extent of Martin Luther King‟s influence. 1970) and Gerald DAVIS.273 For Baptist preacher Sherman Haywood Cox II. 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. Vol.1. cit. No. (iv) each unit of the sermon contains a secular-versus-sacred conflict and moves between concrete and abstract. 3. 273. (ii) preacher identifies the theme.1.

The sentence was not mentioned in the stump speech but in more important speeches: in the 2004 Keynote Address. the sentence was actually often reproduced out of context when taken up and spread in the media. 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. March 4. cit. August 28. Such rumors were spread in November 2007 and then again in early March 2008. No. See http://sermonideas. it clearly appears that an effective sermon consists in constantly interconnecting the Bible. 78 .. apart from the oft-repeated “we are our brother's keeper. connect the point to Scriptures to give it religious legitimacy. gospel songs. at Dr King‟s Church (Atlanta.soulpreaching. Mitchell explained.206: “Theme [. p.4. November 7.asp and especially http://www. Obama never quoted from scripture.com/expand-a-sermonoutline-into-a-sermon. See http://blogs. March 18. p. Though the sermon is divided into a number of points. In most cases.C.274 Sherman Haywood Cox II insists that all subpoints are not always necessary and can be re-ordered and/or mixed. July 8.html . apply the point to show how they can be applied in people‟s daily lives. we are our sister's keeper”. 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. illustrate the point with an extract from the Scriptures and/or other possible sources (hymns. 275.]. “A more perfect union” (Philadelphia. Finally.”276 The whole sermon is constructed to make people change behavior.. 2008). 51. Interpretation. Hillary Clinton actually goes on saying.”278 274. in the Texas Primary Night Speech (San Antonio. 1997. in the speech “Reclaiming the American Dream” (Bettendorf.com/begin.. the Speech at the LULAC Convention (Washington D. See also Cheryl WHARRY.com/politicalpunch/2008/03/clinton-says-ob. 2008).Then. episodes of history. January 20. 2008). February 12. African American history in particular. In any case. MITCHELL. in the Potomac Primary Night Speech (Madison. not meter. 2008). 2008) and the Acceptance Speech (Denver.. “The preacher is used by the Holy Spirit to achieve the transformation of the hearer in […] the behavioral purpose of the sermon. what characterizes it is its topical unity275 as all the points are used to evoke an overall idea which has a transformative purpose. 2008). is what primarily provides cohesion in African American sermons. Obama‟s stump speech encompasses a variety of political topics as he needed to answer criticisms and state his ideas. 277. 2007). Thirdly.abcnews. 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]. As Henry H. Vol.277 which was mostly used in February and March 2008 when the race for the primaries was very tight.” 276.380ff. Henry H. op. current events or mundane life). “African-American Preaching”. 278.

280 Yet. Unity requires and involves a change of attitude and mindset. 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. “Unity is the great need of the hour. African American history with today‟s situation and people‟s own responsibility in it. On but one occasion does the overall structure of one of Obama‟s campaign speeches strongly reflect that of a sermon. 280. The political candidate then lists all the kinds of deficits that plague America. This financial metaphor echoes Martin Luther King‟s check yet to cash in “I Have a Dream”.2. I have a great deal of sympathy for anybody who gets.. To illustrate his point further. All the points are developed by interconnecting the Bible. you know. 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. Obama recalls the episodes of the Civil War Era and MLK‟s urge to unite. including the forceful reference to scripture. The second point developed by Barack Obama is how to achieve unity.” This inclusion of behavioral transformation into the speech reinforces its sermon-like style. Let us now focus on the nature of black church discourse and the analogy between church values and Obama‟s rhetorical frame. a relevant story with an obvious political reinterpretation. “having been the target of so many ridiculous rumors. it is not really the structure of Obama‟s speeches that recalls sermons. they could not enter. see 3.” 279. 79 . hence connecting the Civil Rights Era to the present day.104. “a broadening of their spirits. 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”.” The speech delivered at the Ebenezer Church is wholly devoted to that particular and key-idea. the third time being a slight variation replacing “the” with “this”. 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. stressing how individual and collective change is possible.279 It is extremely relevant to use the example of Dr King‟s own battle for freedom in the church in which he had been a pastor for years because it lends symbolical emphasis to the point.2.” The overall point is later explicitly defined: unity thanks to God can make everything possible and tear down barriers.. using once again the example of MLK who “could love his jailor”. “Scripture tells us that when Joshua and the Israelites arrived at the gates of Jericho. For more on the call-and-response technique. Call-and-response p. The sentence itself is repeated three times.2. In the period stretching from January 2008 to the end of the Primaries.

A clearly defined yet not-so-rigid pattern.1. a mother from Kansas. That's the change we seek. January 3.1. Obama often adds a list of examples to illustrate it.1. 80 . Obama’s rhetorical frame: where the religious meets the political The direct references to Scripture may be few and occasional. 2007). December 27. Iowa Caucus Night (Des Moines. Yet. The two words used to define the spirit and sense of his campaign are “hope” and change”. And that's the change you can stand for in seven days. 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. Hope is one the three theological virtues in Christian religion along with faith and charity.] Hope is not blind optimism. It's about the meaning of hope. 2008).282 [Our emphasis] Hope is that thing inside us that insists. Hope-hope-is what led me here today . who still goes to bed each night praying for his safe return. Here are the two relevant extracts from those speeches: In the end.”281 As for change. 282.283 The notion is reinterpreted as being the catalyst. despite all evidence to the contrary. what had seemed impossible before. and to fight for it. “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. This is a pattern frequently used by Obama when 281. 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. Also the title given by Obama to the book in which he stated his political views. the theme of the campaign is however directly framed by Christian values. Obama uses contrast and starts giving negative definitions of what it is not.1.3. dynamic and essence of progress in American history. Hope is what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire. After finally giving his definition.to imagine.1. 283. before developing what hope means for him. that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it. it is the possibility of effective behavioral change that is at stake in each sermon as was seen in 3. and to work for it. 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. a young woman who still believes that this country will give her the chance to live out her dreams..2. […] I know that hope has been the guiding force behind the most improbable changes this country has ever made.. 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. 2006). [. and a story that could only happen in the United States of America.with a father from Kenya. what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation. […] That's the power of hope . the argument we are having between the candidates in the last seven days is not just about the meaning of change. 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. which soon came to sum up what his candidacy stood for. and then work for. The full title is: The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (New York: Crown Publishers.

hope is passive and only appears as a spiritual solace. It is subtly formulated by Obama because it transforms a negative criticism into a call for more self-confidence. in the Wisconsin Primary Night Speech (Houston. 2007 and it 284. introducing a cataphoric definition of hope. For the rebellious colonists and segregated Americans. 2008) and his Last Week Speech (Canton.” This frame helps signal the end of the section to the audience and adds additional emphasis on the definition. 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…”. It is also religious in the sense that the aim of sermons was transformative and required people to change mindset and attitude. but change is implicitly at the core of all sermons. hope can characterize both individual and collective entities. It consists in relying on the state to help them solve their problems. by questioning legitimate authority and even disobeying laws when necessary. 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. On occasions. As for the two women mentioned. They also add an element of suspense by delaying the time when the expected information is finally given. his own multiple definitions of hope actually vary according to the examples given. For Obama. February 19. hope was an active force which spurned them into action.he needs to (re)define a notion. anaphoric definition: “That‟s what hope is. mixing examples of what hope achieved in the past for him and for Americans with the present stories of unprivileged people. 2008).”284 The section is given a somewhat circular structural as it opens and ends with the two same words: “Hope is. the State here replacing God as a somewhat deus ex machina. It is the case for example in the speech delivered at Dr King‟s Church (Atlanta. it is a crucial word in the mouth of the challenger in a political contest. The religious word is redefined in a political and historical context. It is the case for example with individual responsibility for underachieving communities. 81 . October 27. Obama closes the section on hope with a final. The number peaks however just before the primaries started with twenty-four occurrences in the speech delivered on December 27. As for change. January 20. Though Obama insists that hope is derided by his rivals as being “blind optimism”. The word may not be used as often as in politics. 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. The negative definitions enable him to respond to his critics. 2008).

” Change in having a black President as it is implied. June 3. 2003). 82 . 288. See Obama‟s use of macrostructural anaphora in 3.1. Obama embodies change because of the color of his skin. Obama only mentions God at the end of some of his speeches.4. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit. For more on the ambiguity in Obama‟s subtle references to race. forcefully urging people to be more self-confident. at the DNC Convention (Denver.2. that noble idea. Johnson‟s 1965 Inaugural Address was a “perfect example of jeremiad”.75.1. “Change is possible in America. 286.peaks again as the primaries end and a new campaign begins with sixteen occurrences in the Final Primary Speech (St Paul. In all these cases. “If you believe.” He can reach out to a wider audience. Obama‟s own Inaugural Address developed the sacred origins of the American experiment: “We remain a young nation. Unlike George W. the expressions were used to delineate paragraphs. Obama played the religious card in a way that was not divisive but inclusive.1. 287. In Obama‟s most famous speech. Besides. December 27.60.2. Le discours d’investiture des présidents américains ou les paradoxes de l’éloge (Paris : L‟Harmattan. “Our Moment is Now” (Des Moines. hence reaping the benefits of the moral and allinclusive vision without appearing as a zealot. visually different. 2. This is as ambiguous as “they said this day would never come. using words that are both strongly connoted religiously and politically enable him to stand on the grey zone where the two areas merge. He is different. It could just as well be a change of Administration with the Democrats replacing the Republicans in the White House. In fact fourteen occurrences of the verb “believe” 287 can be found in that speech. The use of repetition p. Bush‟s frequent reliance on and appeals to God. to choose our better history. That aspect. p. the keynote address delivered in 2004. to carry forward that precious gift.” 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.”285 Obama‟s mottoes are not exclusively Christian. The repeated use of the verb “believe” echoes Lyndon B. 2008 and finally again just before the election. he pronounced the verb ten times: five times in the expression “John Kerry believes” and three times in the expression “I believe”. One of Johnson‟s key-sentences was: “For we are a nation of believers. but in the words of Scripture. passed on from generation to generation: the God-given 285. the time has come to set aside childish things. 2007). Obama also uses the hypothetical clauses. August 28). using the blessing call: “God bless America. Bercovitch. is never used directly but is implied in the motto. Johnson‟s 1965 Inaugural Address which contained eight occurrences of believe (and believers). He was also addressing people who do not turn out to vote because they distrust politics. though the most obvious one.288 It was centered on the ideas of America‟s destiny and the American covenant and ended with a quotation from the Bible. 2008).85. Quoted in Luc BENOÎT À LA GUILLAUME.” According to S. References to race prior to “A more perfect union” p.

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. sometimes they even change into the character that they are preaching and preach a first-person story. COX II on www. As Henry H. Storytelling is in fact an essential characteristic of biblical style. Mitchell explained. that of anonymous average Americans and that of Ashley Baia.1. 83 . the reference to a God-inspired destiny is marginal and limited to the universal and political ideals developed in the Constitution. “African American preachers often engage in a sermon that is “story-telling”. not to the exclusive and religious experiment of the colonial period.3. 1990) quoted by Sherman H. “I‟ve Been to the Mountaintop” is an example of preaching in the first-person. by referring to families in his examples. Henry H. As was seen in the first part. Obama usually preferred to deliver a series of very short stories which reflected a variety of issues instead of narrating vivid. 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. The analysis of the overall structure of sermons revealed that it was directed to achieve behavioral change.promise that all are equal. contrary to Johnson or Reagan‟s speeches. all are free. which is characterized by the use of many parables. As was stated in 2. much-detailed 289. The nature of religious discourse in black churches Apart from the injunctions to and the rationale for behavioral change. In addition. lengthy.com/story-telling-and-role-playing.soulpreaching. the sermons heavily rely on stories. and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. in that case connecting his own experience with that of Jesus.” [our emphasis] Yet.” 289 Martin Luther King‟s famous speech.1.” 3. I am my sister‟s keeper. one of the characteristic features of Obama‟s style was the use of stories: his own. stating what was and what should be. Black Preaching : The Recovery of a Powerful Art (Nashville: Abingdon Press.1 Use of personal narratives of anonymous Americans.1. Obama however does not indulge excessively in the art of storytelling as is the case in sermon delivering. MITCHELL.

they were invited to look at the kids and think again about their initial decision by Obama.4.1. Penguin.371ff. 1997. This aspect is stressed by Evan Cornog : “Stories. and they decided that night to keep going .1.2. Obama‟s repeated use of the expression “so do I” suggests he felt like the volunteers. Bush (New York. intent on fighting joblessness and poverty on the South Side. people whose attitude can and should be imitated. 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”. The Power and the Story: How the Crafted Presidential Narrative Has Determined Political Success from George Washington to George W. but no one showed up.” Evan CORNOG. so did I.1. they had a didactic function290.1. Vol.83 and 3. See also Henry Mitchell who wrote. and I asked them. 3. “I turned” and “I asked” and only then “they looked” and “they decided”.to keep organizing. 84 . without guidance. And I turned to the volunteers. but it was not an unexpected sight.1 A clearly defined.2. 2004). Yet. keep fighting for better schools. The nature of religious discourse p. 290.88. without hope. February 5. See also for storytelling in sermons. "Before you quit. I want you to answer one question. They were like boys in so many cities across the country . What will happen to those boys?" And the volunteers looked out that window. and better health care. But at that moment. Interpretation. In the following example which is taken from the Super Tuesday Speech (St Paul. And so did I. As was seen in 3. MITCHELL. p. being illustrations of how people can individually and/or collectively help to make things change. Obama‟s manipulative account of the story aims to present the volunteers as role-models. in the weeks and months to come. and I still remember one of the very first meetings I put together. p. we discover. lessons that we can incorporate into our understanding of life. have morals. yet not-so-rigid system. And to be honest. When he did tell long stories. “African-American Preaching”.stories. the community began to change. 2008). “Stories teach more effectively than abstractions. The use of hypotyposis p.boys without prospects. they wanted to quit. Obama tells a personal story which illustrates his determination even at a time of defeat: I was a young organizer then.3. and better jobs. the sermon has a transformational purpose and so do Obama‟s stories by offering illustrative rolemodels. The expression suggests that Obama identified with his volunteers when they wanted to quit and when they decided to go on and that they are the source of the action. 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. but surely.51. And slowly. No. I looked outside and saw some young boys tossing stones at a boarded-up apartment building across the street. We had worked on it for days. It constitutes a sentence in its own right with significant pauses before and after its delivery to give it more emphasis.3.” Henry H.1. The kids playing outside seem to work as an epiphany for the volunteers. Our volunteers felt so defeated.

at the junction of music and language.2. which help sustain a particular and steady rhythm and are characteristic features of the pastoral rhetorical style. These devices are very frequent in sermons and can be microstructural (within a sentence) or macrostructural (to shape the construction of a paragraph). Rhetoric Society Quarterly. Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. January 3.1: Theory. Summer-Autumn 1988. “Epistemology of a Drum Major: Martin Luther King Jr. In this sacred universe. p.2. 2008).15.1.1. 85 . David. No.” James A.1. whatever the nature of the discourse. Vol. and the Black Folk Pulpit”. 293. 2007). 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. Using the motifs and stylistic devices used in sermons 3. see Keith D. Black Textual Strategies.4. 291 In Obama‟s speeches. 3. preachers often embed lyrics and Scripture in their oratory. No. one locates and defines a self by consulting Biblical narrative and by expecting an eventual Biblical-style liberation either on earth or in heaven. Vol. 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. Macrostructural anaphora can be used at anytime throughout the sermon to make it more dynamic and create a rhythmic crescendo. February 5. April 28. It is very often used in the last lines to help impress the audience thanks to heightened rhythm. For James A. The process of identifying with the hardships and the eventual triumphs of Daniel. connecting the sacred and the profane.292 Apart from storytelling or comments on Scripture. Black American Literature Forum. MILLER. For more on this aspect.226. Vol. it is the American dauntless and pioneering spirit that “ordinary people can do extraordinary things”. Jonah.3/4. 291. Snead. The sentence comes as a leitmotif in Obama‟s speeches: “Turn the Page” Speech (San Diego. The use of repetition Repetition is a necessary device in oral culture.151. Super Tuesday Night Speech (St Paul. the identification is suggested with the past generations which have made America progress and overcome hazardous hardships. 2008). in Obama‟s speeches. it is central in black church culture.The stories in sermons often merge the time present and the past. Noah. What unifies and guides “this sacred universe” in sermons is God. Winter 1981. SNEAD “On Repetition in Black Culture”.293 The most frequent rhetorical devices are anaphora and epistrophe. 292.18. “The black church must be placed at the center of the manifestations of repetition in black culture. p.

35. South Carolina Primary Night Speech (Columbia. our own fears. all of them clamoring to be heard” is balanced in its delivery even if the three parts are not equally long. epistrophe or even a combination of both (symploce). February 9. 296. the hope of a millworker‟s son who dares to defy the odds. it takes Obama approximately the same time to utter each segment. the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him. The following representation of the phrase “all of them with a story to tell. 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.297 294. 2007).296 As is shown in the two examples just given. all of them seeking a seat at the table. Announcement Speech (Springfield.4. and our own cynicism. 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”. On the contrary he speaks more quickly and as a result as there were more words in those segments.”295 They are usually found at the end of sentences for additional focus (end-weight) and to prepare the audience for applause. The same conclusion was made in a previous unpublished study of the epilogue of the 2004 Keynote Address. all of them seeking a seat at the table. Each of these Intonational Phrases has a relatively equal length. January 26.” 86 . 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. “all of them with a story to tell. See 1.”294. 297. 295. 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. the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta. all of them clamoring to be heard. too. the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores.Barack Obama often uses anaphora. The flourishing rhetorical imagery and characteristic stylistic devices p. 2008).

Fig. the focus on the crucial. the expression of awareness. February 10. humility and sense of responsibility toward American citizens: “I know…. which helps alternate the pace of delivery of each section. historic moment: “This was the moment when…” . The definitions are often both cataphoric (“Hope is…”) and anaphoric (“That‟s what hope is. 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” . the sections are alternately made up of very short or longer paragraphs. It is generally repeated several times and some speeches are constructed as series of paragraphs that can be delineated through the anaphora used.3 Equilibrium and tricolon (Announcement Speech. It is the case for the speeches delivered in early January 2008 after the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary.” . using verbs like SAY or KNOW which are 87 . In addition. 2007) PRAAT Structural anaphora is more frequent and more easily noticeable by the audience. and finally the definition he gives to the word “hope”: “Hope is what…”. Obama also alternates the syntactic structure of the elements repeated to avoid monotony. a definition of the prospective President he would be: “I‟ll be a President who…” . Springfield.”) and serve to structure the paragraph.

Henry H. pp. Philadelphia. NIEMAN and Thomas G. defines the Black preachers‟ “capacity for vividness and communication from the depths” as being typical of the African-American tradition.”300 Conjuring up scenes through vivid descriptions aims at arousing emotion because the 298. 2008) and in “By itself. “African-American Preaching”.102-3. op. Preaching to Every Pew: Cross-Cultural Strategies (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress. James R.. March 18. they acted as “a kind of handrail through the course of the sermon. consisting in repeating at the beginning of a phrase (or sentence) the final words of the previous clause (or sentence). or education to our children. 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).372-4. 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…”. pp.2. the repetitive forms help convey a certain rhythm and “build verbal reassurance..” 298 At the microstructural level. NIEMAN and Thomas G. Henry H.2. It is a deliberate way to insist on key words which do not necessarily have to be repeated in fact. that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. 2008). orienting the listener in moving from one thing to the next. James R. Our time to turn the page…” (Final Primary Night Speech. cit. p.” and “that single moment of recognition […] is not enough to give healthcare to the sick […].”299 3. At the macrostructural level.” Obama‟s frequent and various uses of repetitive devices fulfilled the same functions as in sermons. St Paul.1. June 3. The use of hypotyposis Another stylistic characteristic of sermons is the use of hypotyposis. Obama sometimes uses anadiplosis. 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. 299. MITCHELL. 88 . or jobs to the jobless.103 300. 2001). a specialist in Black preaching. It therefore consists in the immediate repetition of a group of words which are only separated orally by a pause as in “This is our time. cit. op. ROGERS. Mitchell.” (“A more perfect union”. ROGERS. It is not enough to give health care to the sick.

Ashley‟s story is one of the very few fairly long stories told by Obama.transformative purpose of the sermon has to address body and mind as Sherman Haywood Cox II explained. H. Only the second of these two stories is a personal story. spiritual vexation. cit. [. The impression comes from the details302 given by Obama in the description of people‟s position as for example. As Obama never says that he heard the story from someone else. Obama uses people who are vulnerable. he bluntly tells them. The Ashley Baia story. the durable narrative imagery clarifies many immediate examples of oppression. What reinforces this impression that Obama attended the roundtable discussion is the use of speech verbs to introduce what people said. 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. the reference is the storyteller (I/now/here) and the narrated time merges with the narration time.2. The kids are “young boys tossing stones at a boarded-up apartment building across the street.] For the most part people remember pictures better than they remember words.. revival. without 301. cit. Both stories are not action scenes but discussions between people who support Obama and both are centered on the sense of their commitment. but instead of letting his listeners deduce the conclusions they should draw.”301 As indicated in 2. 302. but listening to the Ashley anecdote. By using the deictic “this”. without guidance.soulpreaching.” Henry MITCHELL.1. pp.. the listener has the impression that the scene is being revived. To arouse more empathy. Obama arouses empathy with his stories.” in Keith D. 89 . and liberation.boys without prospects. “Emotion must be a part of real preaching if it is to affect the whole person and not just the mind. op. See www. op. “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”. one has the impression that Obama has actually attended the scene and was present at the roundtable discussion Ashley had organized. one gets the impression that it is not hear-say but words Obama heard directly. and so is the case with the story of the failed meeting organized by Obama while working in the South Side (Super Tuesday Speech).com/emotionnecessary. which reproduces the meeting form described in the stories. 303. Being incorporated in a political speech delivered in front of an audience. creates a mise en abyme. MILLER. Mitchell insists on the importance of details: “The story becomes vivid when there are concrete details the hearer can envision.225-236. 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. The action is past (Ashley‟s eating sandwiches for a year to save money) or outside (kids tossing stones outside).. They were like boys in so many cities across the country . “While providing overarching forms easily recognized by churchgoers. and almost anyone can make a hearer see it.

The church has always been the place where the grievances of slaves and then segregated African Americans were spoken out.1.php. 305.soulpreaching.” Sylvie LAURENT. 90 .telerama. Yet.soulpreaching. Baptist minister Sherman Haywood Cox II explains that Black Church tradition is often reduced to those stylistic concerns. mâtiné de rythm‟n‟blues”. http://www. as well as a “tendency to see the practical rather than a theoretical angle. Black Church preachers are usually renowned for their stylistic skills. “les hommes politiques américains sont souvent des pasteurs lorsqu‟ils sont AfricainsAméricains puisque c‟est là que s‟exprimaient les revendications politiques des Noirs.com/is-that-black-preaching. 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).fr/idees/le-style-obama-un-tonde-pasteur-matine-de-rythm-n-blues.3.”305 This also results from the political role that the Black Church has played from its very beginning. See www. It also accounts for the emphasis laid on collective salvation. 306. “Le style Obama : un ton de pasteur. Obama is addressing adults and plays on the parent‟s instinct of protection and sense of responsibility. He insists on the “tendency to look from the angle of the underdog and those who have their backs against the wall”. Journalist and historian Gary Wills insists on the religious roots of this approach: 304. which is specific to the Black Church.hope.304 3. See Sylvie Laurent.35616.306 and why the point of view traditionally adopted is that of the oppressed.” And Ashley‟s mother had cancer and then lost her job and her health care when Ashley was nine. hence overlooking other major characteristics like the specificities of the outlook expressed. The hopeless and defenseless people in his stories are particularly unprivileged.com/is-that-black-preaching. 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. It explains why religion and politics are so congruent in the black community. See www.

No. what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation.773: “Prayers often focus not on individual salvation but on the needs of the family.” 307 This leads to the privileged use of the personal pronoun “we”. op. which is precisely the predominant pronoun in Obama‟s speeches. Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. 91 . The New York Review of Books. lobbyists). 309.55.1. 2008). 310. all reaching the Promised Land. January 8. factory workers and therefore seek to defend their interests and give them a voice. ethnic minorities. on the private experience of being saved.7. Vol. May 1. 2008). That explains also why Obama defines the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s as the last great stage in American history by representing the last item in the list as if no major event had taken place since that time: Hope is what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire. the neighborhood. New Hampshire Primary Night Speech (Nashua.22. But the Democrats also defend the middle-class against HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations) and other lobbyists. And there is also the idea in Obama‟s speeches that all Americans must move together forward.“That has always been a mark of black religion in America. blacks thought in terms of the whole people being saved-all of them riding on the Ark. See also Mary PATTILLO-McCOY. January 3. See in 1.. 307. 309 Obama‟s belief in the collective power of “Democrats. They target the underprivileged categories of people: single parents. 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. and even African Americans as a racial group.2. 2008. working women. “Two Speeches on Race”. cit. Unlike the Calvinist stress on individualism.” 308. The Democratic Party addresses the economically and socially disadvantaged. Garry WILLS. There is this idea in Obama‟s speeches of defending ordinary citizens against powerful forces (special interests. p. Praise of America and Americans p. Independents and Republicans”310 to make things change explains the appeal to fight for the election but also after the election. Obama‟s redefinition of the American Dream308 reflects that approach of a collective enterprise.

to a climax that exploded in lines of warning to cynics who would divide the country into blue and red states.‟” In a more detailed analysis of the steady crescendo reaching final climax. or so we believe.1.311 Obama‟s speeches generally ended with a climax (lyrical outbursts).1. rise high.77. Yet. The building-up of a crescendo in the overall structure Analyzing Obama‟s 2004 keynote address. “His Way With Words Begins At The Pulpit”. Dyson explained. 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.1. the second is taken from the crescendo or warming-up part. Acting as a preacher 3. he obeyed the black preacher‟s dictum: „Start low.2. they did not necessarily start low and were more alternations of lyrical outbursts and quieter sections.3. the overall movement is one of gradual build-up. 2009. all in measured tones. The only speech that came fairly close to that steady building-up was the speech delivered at Dr King‟s Church. Here are a few sentences from that speech to illustrate the gradual increase of pitch and intensity. strike fire and sit down. with shifting cadences and varied registers. See 3. 311. which is an essential component of sermons for Henry Mitchell. The Washington Post. Michael Eric DYSON. This speech does not represent a steady crescendo. of the general movement of the speech. applauding the aspirations of ordinary Americans and praising the virtues of democracy. The first sentence selected is the opening sentence of the speech. however. “On that occasion. as the pace quickens and then slows down alternately. After telling the story of his biracial roots. It takes half of the speech for Obama to really get warmed up. January 18. The four sentences selected are representative. A clearly defined yet not-so-rigid pattern p. go slow. Baptist preacher Michael Dyson claimed that. he built steadily and rhythmically.1. 92 .2.312 Yet. 312.

4 Ebenezer 1 . Fig. 1.5 Ebenezer 2 . As for the intensity.Fig. The pauses are fairly long (1” for the shortest.PRAAT The first sentence uttered lasts 10”. This rhythm is fairly slow in the middle of the sentence.PRAAT 93 .65” for the longest) and the vowels are lengthened. it remains below 75dB throughout. which starts and ends at a fairly high pitch-level (slightly above 200Hz while the rest is below 175Hz).

6 Ebenezer 3 . For more on whooping and audio and video examples. it uses “the tonality of African languages”. MITCHELL.” For the influence of African culture.The second sentence selected is pronounced after 8‟11” of speech and lasts 8. fewer and shorter pauses). This is what Black preachers often do to close their sermons.PRAAT The sentence is pronounced after 18‟57” and lasts 10”.cnn. cit.html.com/2010/LIVING/10/20/whooping/index.7”. In the two previous sentences Obama had talked about his father and then his mother. It is very close to singing and according to Henry H.”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). October 20. The sentence is taken from a section which is characterized by the use of epistrophe. 94 . p.2. not just hear it. partly because of its function as a nostalgic ethnic marker and affirmer of identity. see also 3.104. “Black preachers who 'whoop' -. http://edition. The sentence is almost solely made up of one-syllable words. The other significant difference with the opening line is that it is said with a higher pitch. Fig. The aim is to “make people feel the sermon.” This a very interesting section because Obama “imitates” preachers “whooping”. CNN.2. ending each time the sentence with “I needed some hope to get here. Mitchell. John BLAKE. op. 2010. Obama resumes a quieter voice (mostly below 70dB) and lower tone (mostly below 225 Hz) except for the stresses on “unity” (274 Hz) and “cheap” at the end of the sentence (289 Hz).. Call-and-response p. which “has greater dramatic power and appeal.minstrels or ministers?”.374ff.2. The pace is significantly quicker than in the opening sentence (shorter vowels. 313. It comes after a lyrical outburst. See Henry H.

PRAAT This sentence is at the end of the speech (33‟07”-37‟11”) and part of the final lyrical outburst. As was stated in 3.1. cit. the vowels are lengthened. 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. The indirect appeal to people with “we cannot walk alone” prepares for their interaction.which helps quicken the pace and help produce a very regular rhythm which alternates with fairly significant pauses.1. Obama‟s speech at Dr King‟s Church was the only one of the entire campaign whose outline and rhetoric were so 314. A clearly defined yet not-so-rigid pattern. Henry Allen insisted in The Washington Post on the parallels between Martin Luther King and Obama‟s cadenced rhythm. which can only be applauded by all. op.1. 95 . The intensity is mostly at the same level as in the previous example but the pitch is less high (mostly between 240 and 297Hz). The sentence is also situated in a section based on repetitions (epistrophe). The sentence sounds like a consensual slogan. 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”.7 Ebenezer 4 . Henry ALLEN. focusing on general and universal ideas. We are the change that we seek.” Fig. To insist on these key-words.

strongly inspired by sermons.1. “Culture as a Strategy of Action in the Black Community”. 3. she worked in Chicago‟s South Side. 2008. December 1998.6. The tone of a preacher One of the main characteristics of Obama‟s speaking features is his baritone voice. adopting black church culture codes is essential. 2010). that is to stay studying how social action is constructed in AfricanAmerican communities: “Black church culture constitutes a common language that motivates social action. 3. Jonathan Atler explains that Obama‟s “commanding baritone” “could make his most ordinary utterances sound profound. Vol.2.2. 316. Year One (New York: Simon & Schuster. 96 . p.768.”315 Her studies illustrate the power of church culture as cultural tools for facilitating local organizing and activism among African Americans.” Jonathan ATLER. Adopting the techniques of the Black Church For Mary Pattillo-McCoy. Interestingly enough. between Obama and preachers. The Promise: President Obama.2. American Sociological Review. No.2.139. this one example is too marginal in Obama‟s speeches to account for the analogy frequently made between Obama‟s speeches and sermons. “Does Obama‟s baritone give him an edge?” Salon. whether spiritual or political. As was the case for the general outline of the written sermon. p. for it is the “the voice associated with authority” according to opera coach Rick Harrell. whooping). A baritone voice is a natural asset for a leader. as was the case of MLK.316 The cultural conceptions associated with the different types of voices unconsciously influence the listeners. For politicians or local organizers working in black communities. this is the only example in which Obama fully fits the requirements of sermon-making. a sociologist who specialized in social constructionism and African American studies. Yet. Quoted in Frank BROWNING. February 28. either positively (for Obama) or negatively (for 315. Mary PATTILLO-McCOY. 6. It is also the case thus for the tone used and the various specific characteristics (overall crescendo.

the intonation.2. Analyzing Obama‟s catchphrase “yes we can”.” Quoted in Kent GARBER. the pauses and the silences. the emphasis. tone and rhythm – is closer to song. 318. News. American linguist John McWorther explains that it worked precisely because it was delivered with a “black-cent”. For Philip Collins. ESPRIT. “the range of his delivery. this doubly-assertive319 expression starts at a high level and ends high. “Obama: Oratory and Originality”. December 2008. sexist word 'shrill' and that's really code for the voice of the scold. Edith Cresson. What the tone reveals beyond the message. Quoted in Stephanie HOLMES. 2008. who was often associated to a shrilling mother. when Hillary speaks. It is based on an algorithm. 2008 on http://news. Prosograms present pitch contour stylizations by simulating tonal perception of speech. the way he alters his pace. The prosograms were made from John McWorther‟s oral comparison of those two ways of pronouncing the sentence. which conveyed more warmth and made him sound more accessible. 97 . The following prosograms320 indicate the prosodic difference between a black-cent rendition of “yes we can” and a standard American rendition. had to suffer from similar criticisms.uk/2/hi/americas/7735014. “Rhetoric and Speaking Style Affect the Clinton-Obama Race”. a former political consultant. the “black-cent” is characterized by a shortening of “we” and the specific. It makes what is being said more powerful and puts Obama at an advantage against Hillary Clinton. see also Sylvie LAURENT."318 As was seen in 2. For Philip Collins. she starts to sound like all of the negative gender monikers associated with women. that‟s not good for her. posted on November 19.317 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. “His style of delivery is basically churchy. She has to find unmarked space where she is androgynous.4. op . the blue one those of F0. 319. See also linguistic anthropologist Jennifer Jackson‟s analysis of Hillary Clinton‟s voice: “If.co. As regards the utterance of “yes we can”.bbc. Absence of negative marker and presence of the adverb “yes”. U.cit.Clinton). March 25. BBC News. The green line indicates the variations of intensity.” Quoted in Frank BROWNING. 320. 317. who was the first Frenchwoman to become Prime Minister in 1991.stm.3. “Every time [Hillary Clinton] changes her register. Says Lynn Meyer. Obama can use the “black-cent” to sound “black” when he wants.S. people use that awful.” For the pastoral influence. musical black intonation: instead of falling. it's religious: the way he slides down some words and hits others . former speechwriter of Tony Blair. “La bonne parole d‟Obama”.

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. 98 . 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.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.

it takes some time and possibly warming-up for Obama to adopt the expected intonation. McWorther states that Obama uses the black-cent to pronounce his catchphrase but it seems in fact that it depends on the utterances and in some cases. Obama sometimes pronounces the words as if they were disconnected. In fact. In addition.Fig. It bears contrastive emphasis because the verb is not mentioned and to stress the idea of capacity conveyed by CAN. the intonation is closer to the standard pattern. the verb was not mentioned before and therefore the elliptic sentence is open to interpretations. 2008) As in McWorther‟s oral representation of the “black-cent”. January 8. This can demonstrate that. although some of the characteristics of the “black-cent” are present (higher pitch and higher intensity). 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). especially for the first utterances when it is pronounced several times.9 Prosograms of four of Obama‟s utterances of “yes we can” during the New Hampshire Primary Night Speech (Nashua. The successive utterances are more and more patterned on the “black-cent” rendition. marking pauses between each one (which was often rendered in official 99 . The vowel of the auxiliary modal is lengthened.

the intensity is also higher (from 70-75dB to approximately 80dB for the second and third utterances). 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. They said this country was too divided. Commenting on the exordium of the Iowa Caucus Night Speech. They said our sights were set too high. Obama‟s rendition of the phrase is generally musical. Except at the beginning of his enumerations.” 323. 322. op. The first utterance of the verb “said” is much shorter than the second and third utterance (almost four times as long).pattiwood. The vowel is hence considerably lengthened.transcripts by using full stops between the words) and stressing all them.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). not the lyrics.Am (from the “The Black Eyed Peas”) decided to make a song to support Obama based on the “Yes We Can” catchphrase. All writing is a rhythm of kinds and he brings it out. . Patti Wood‟s online comment is available at www. hits the tune. 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. 321. The words are irrelevant. The cretic foot (101) is here based on the strong form of the modal auxiliary “can”.I. The three occurrences of the verb “builds” correspond to the initial three sentences of the Iowa Speech: “They said this day would never come. cit. “He is close to singing. It's about the tune. Quoted in Stephanie HOLMES. with Obama. All these elements help convey a sense of building-up.asp?PageID=5396. To arouse emotion.”321 No wonder that American singer and musician Will. 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. just as preaching is close to singing.net/program. 100 . You might not even remember the word message after the speech. but you‟ll remember the feeling. too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. There are usually at least three elements but sometimes more. 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. long pauses. Obama also uses repetitions (anaphora in particular) to build up a crescendo. As Philip Collins pointed out.

11 They said 2 Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. 2008) 101 . January 3.Fig. January 3. 2008) Fig.10 They said 1 Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines.

It is interesting to listen to Lyndon B. There is also in fact a contrast as regards the pace of delivery of those two sentences.Fig. pauses can also be used to emphasize a word.theirs and ours. 2008): “I will never --.”326 Or in the same speech: “I think it is fitting to reflect --. Pauses often punctuate Obama‟s sentences.html) who has been imitating Obama in the Jay Leno Show on NBC since the 2008 campaign. January 3. largely taken up by imitators. Obama‟s pauses are never as long. They reflect the pastoral tone. “Le style Obama: un ton de pasteur. pp. See also Christophe B. Johnson‟s 1965 Inaugural Address.35616. This has stood out as a major characteristic feature of his spoken style. (pause for applause) But I will not stand idly by when others question mine. --. Duncan‟s website (http://www. June 30. See Sylvie LAURENT for the analysis of Obama‟s use of scansion.324 In that case.325 It is the case for example in Obama‟s Speech on Patriotism (Independence.question the patriotism of others in this campaign. the two pauses have different 324.” In this second example. 102 . According to Pierre Léon. 1993).12 They said 3 Iowa Caucus Night Speech (Des Moines. 2008) Patti Wood insists on the use of pauses to let the audience respond and they therefore function as an invitation to interaction. Léon speaks of “emphasis by expressive juxtaposition” (“emphase par joncture expressive”). His very frequent and fairly long pauses recall King‟s delivery of “I Have A Dream”. Précis de Phonostylistique (Paris : Nathan.christopherbduncan.on the meaning of patriotism. The first one is delivered at a fairly slow pace while the second one is uttered much faster (and also more loudly).143-4. http://www.telerama. 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. 326.fr/idees/le-style-obama-un-ton-de-pasteur-matine-de-rythm-nblues. mâtiné de rythm‟n‟blues”. Pierre LÉON. pauses perform a different function.php. 325.com/christopherbduncanisbarack.

Obama‟s shift from politician to preacher can be determined very precisely: With Obama. 2008. 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”. The paragraph seems to have reached its end. This function of pauses in Obama‟s spoken style is fairly frequent. most of the characteristic features were already present before: the building-up of crescendos (often combined with anaphora). For Patti Wood. 328. “[In Obama‟s speeches] the cadence and the rhythm are hypnotic.asp?PageID=5396. but Obama unexpectedly adds a precision. director of George Mason University's forensics team. January 10. As for the second pause. but Obama suddenly centers the argument back on him (the sentence starts and closes with 1st-personal pronouns). it seems to mark the end of the sentence. 329. The long pause in the first example to let people applause also functions that way. which seems to come as an afterthought. It‟s a model of the Baptist preacher. See n. The first one is used to delay the moment for Obama to say what they should reflect upon. 103 ." He's embracing the pulpit. www. 327. Newsweek. He actually speaks on a beat.327 Obama actually alters pace of delivery. For Peter Prober.net/program. Quoted in Jennie YABROFF. When he is not building up a crescendo.functions. there's a shift in tone from being a politician in Iowa to a preacher in New Hampshire.329 Yet. 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.126 p. He has a new religiosity in his tone when he talks about "three words that will ring. He really does hearken back to Martin Luther King a lot. It lets people time to wonder what they should ponder about. Obama‟s style combines the characteristic features of the black preacher‟s speaking style. the frequent pauses. using the most adequate preachers‟ oratorical tools. “The Mother and the Orator”. comment on the Scripture or appeal to his congregants‟ emotional reaction as the sermon ends.pattiwood.”328 Obama adapts his tone to the section of the speech. The additional idea. is carefully orchestrated.37 for another example of this two-time construction. Patti Wood‟s online comment originally broadcast on the History Channel. Obama often speaks with a regular rhythm.

pp. HERSKOVITS. cit. That the audience shall play a central role in the performance is a characteristic feature of oral cultures. in musical and verbal cooperation.”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. which was reinforced in 1972 with the arrival of Jeremiah Wright. make the journey toward freedom in one body. op. 330 Its function is to unite preacher and congregants and achieve communion. In the late 1960s and early 1970s.”331According to anthropologist Melville Herskovits. 332. 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.”333 From 1971. op. 331.770. There was also an evolution in the Church‟s social approach under Wright. Trinity lost many congregants and the 1971 turningpoint (reaffirmation and enhancement of Black identity) was decided as a response to that situation. From being a middle-class Church. 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. The most famous example of call-and-response in Obama‟s speeches is with the use of the motto “Yes we can”.” 336..org/index.203-4.2. cit. Mary PATTILLO-McCOY.332 Interestingly. The Clinton team developed a counter-slogan which first appeared during her Texas and Ohio Primary Night Speech on March 4. 333.336 The speech had in fact originally been drafted as a victory speech and was rewritten by Favreau in the three hours preceding its 330. cit. which he first used in his New Hampshire (Defeat) Speech to galvanize and remobilize his supporters at the end of his speech.2. Trinity slowly adopted a more ethnic-oriented approach. 334. cit." the mother continent. Cheryl WHARRY. 2008: “yes she will”. Melville J. The Myth of the Negro Past (Boston: Beacon Press. and the long night of racism.. p.204. and remain "true to our native land.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=114 where the Church presents itself as follows: “We are an African people. Henry MITCHELL. Wright increased call-and-response and introduced gospel music (with a youth choir). Trinity increasingly helped and supported the poor.. 335.trinitychicago. op.3. the preacher and the congregation.371 ff.. more and more African Americans considered Christianity as the religion of the whites and many converted to Islam like Malcolm X. Clinton‟s campaign revolved around her (use of the personal pronoun “she”).2. quoted in Cheryl WHARRY. the days of segregation. it is a survival of African tradition in the United States. See Trinity‟s website: http://www. 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. the cradle of civilization. 1958). “Using the call-and-response style. call-and-response is rooted in the African oral tradition. God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days of slavery. while Obama‟s campaign centered on Americans (use of the personal pronoun “we”). p. op. As noted before. p. 104 .

The gimmick was also used to conclude the South Carolina Primary Night Speech (Columbia. Ashley PARKER. The Guardian. After finishing the anecdote. the woman had started shouting “Fired up? Ready to go?” and the other supporters attending the meeting had repeated her chant. without the need for a direct call to say Amen”.341 Obama started to deliver his stump speech mechanically.2212. cit. What reinforced the analogy with preacher was the many parallels with Martin Luther King that Obama deliberately sought to establish. the call for response came from a direct interrogative question in only one out of the 112 cases she had recorded.000 people. Texas and Ohio Primary Night Speech (San Antonio. 2008). January 26. November 4. South Carolina. it had reached a climax and become a chant taken up by all his supporters. The speech was delivered late at night (approximately 11 pm) in front of a huge crowd of 100. 2008. 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. It was however what Obama used in the other example of call-and-response that can be found in his campaign. Obama called “for the „call-and-response‟ by elongating his vowels or doing a lilt in his intonation. The New York Times. Yet. “Tired Obama addresses huge Virginia crowd at final campaign rally”. people started to take it up.” These phonological modifications worked as “interactional cues”. “What would Obama say?”. Obama mainly echoed preachers as regards the frequent pauses and building-up of crescendos. February 5. 340. the calls for response were mostly phonological and had to do with rhythm and intonation. Cheryl WHARRY. 105 . The repetitions enabled Obama to build up as more and more people joined him. linguistic anthropologist. November 4. not trying to imitate but reproducing it. Obama ended his speech in a climax by taking up the chant and interacting with his huge audience. Final Campaign Speech (Manassas. 2008) and the Election Night Victory Speech (Chicago. “This may indicate that the preacher has other strategies for „calling‟. 341. January 20. 2008). To welcome Obama. In the studies led by Wharry.338 For Jennifer Jackson.339 Cheryl Wharry. 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. A tired Obama used the technique in the last speech he gave before the election. March 4.delivery. op. Sounding clearly exhausted. Super Tuesday Night Speech (Chicago. 339.337 The sentence was used at the end (epistrophe) of each sentence of the epilogue and after the third occurrences. a sociolinguist. At the end of the speech. November 3.. the preachers in this study appeared to rely more on phonological prominence. See Ewen MacASKILL. pp. cit. 2008. Quoted in Kent GARBER. the congregation is well attuned to the preacher‟s rhythm and can interact accordingly. According to Cheryl Wharry. Most often.340 This shows that Obama masters the technique and uses it very similarly to how a preacher does. 337. 2008). stumbling at times. 2008). 338. op.

but he also led with deeds.3. Using MLK’s words Barack Obama often uses well-known expressions from King so as to emphasize the historical and political connection. both directly and indirectly. Iowa is by far the state where the Obama team organized the highest number of events: 178. cit. Obama directly quoted King by using the expression “the fierce urgency of now”. Mary PATTILLO-McCOY. 2008 342. 3.”343 Martin Luther King‟s life epitomizes this close-knit interrelation between politics and religion. 106 . That sense of urgency was also mentioned later on in the campaign. Echoing MLK “He led with words. 345. and heavily relying on symbols. It is deeply rooted in a long-standing political struggle for liberation from oppression and a strongly-held belief in spiritual liberation. Today. p. 2007.3.344 The expression was used by Obama at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner organized in Iowa on November 10. 2007. Speech at Dr King‟s Church (Atlanta. Obama multiplied events in Iowa prior to the caucus. if not a legacy between them two. MLK was also a vigorous and unyielding political leader on the national stage. The speech was entitled “Beyond Vietnam”. 2008).1.. on the forty-fifth anniversary of MLK‟s “I Have A Dream” speech. Shortly before the primary season started. combining politics and religion is seen as a matter of fact among black ministers as Mary Pattillo-McCoy pointed out. 1967. The expression was also used in MLK‟s fierce diatribe against the Vietnam War delivered on April 4.345 The whole speech was actually devoted to that idea of urgency. Barack Obama about Martin Luther King. for example in the speech delivered in Dr King‟s Church on January 20. also in Iowa. op. The last days before the first caucus reveal a certain tension. nearly all of those 178 events were scheduled before the caucus. 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. 344. The Acceptance Speech was for example delivered on August 28th. 343. a key-expression from the “I Have a Dream” speech.”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 strategy was to win the first symbolical caucus at all costs to gain legitimacy and credibility and set a momentum.3. and again on December 27. A minister at Ebenezer Church in Atlanta.770. seeking to establish a connection. Barack Obama often referred to MLK. January 20. “Over 90 percent of the clergy […] believed that churches should express their views on political and social matters.

” (Chicago. 347. November 4. that we. which is generally stressed) or the historic chance of taking over.including a false start due to overwhelming applause . April 3.but it is a recurrent topic and often appears in a number of lexical variations: “we are at a crucial moment” (October 2. This was 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. Obama emphasizes either the assessment of the present and overwhelming difficulties (repeated use of the deictic “this”. “our moment is now”346 and this is the moment” (December 27. this was extremely marginal. 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. the day before he was slain). Obama‟s speech is mostly based upon those words by MLK. from “the fierce urgency of now”. the words “something” and “happening” being given special focus as they are juxtaposed and set apart. then I am absolutely certain that generations from now. one of MLK‟s most famous speeches. This confidence in ultimate victory also echoed the epilogues of Martin Luther King‟s major political speeches. We may not get there in one year or even one term. 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. 2008). Interestingly. and believe in it. the expression “Something is happening” which is repeated twice in the speech “I‟ve Been to the Mountaintop” (April 3. this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal. he even defines the projected upcoming victory as a past turning-point in American collective and popular history and a moment of pride. 2007. as a people. 2007) for example. this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last. the optimistic belief that people‟s victory is at hand (use of the possessive determiner “our”). I promise you . “we are at a defining moment in our history”.we as a people will get there. “And I've seen the Promised Land. and fight for it. “There‟s something happening” is repeated five times . It is worth noticing that it comes after the final victory. will get to the promised land!” (Martin Luther King. 1968). which proves in any case that even if he used any before. and our highest ideals. I have personally not found any occurrences before. best hope on Earth. 107 . I may not get there with you. The sense of pride is developed through the use of a number of superlatives which serve to characterize both America and Americans. But I want you to know tonight. this quote also contains one of Obama‟s very few uses of a performative verb. Hence. For example. but America . 1968. Obama echoed those words in his Election Night Victory Speech: “The road ahead will be long.I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. In some cases. 2007).in the speech delivered after his first defeat in the New Hampshire Primary and 346. The expression is actually used as a title for the speech delivered on December 27. Our climb will be steep. Obama subtly shifts to the “fierce urgency of us”. This expression is slightly modified by Obama by using the same words but with a different syntactic pattern.347 It is also the case with expressions that were repeated several times in MLK‟s speeches through anaphora.

Yet. Though the speech is delivered after his first defeat. 2008). the point is to make King‟s words resonate through the ages.” It has often been said that Barack Obama recalled Martin Luther King as an orator. January 26. Speech at Dr King‟s Church (Atlanta. there are undeniable common features in the form of addressing people and the way of delivering. it resonates with optimistic undertones (“what we‟ve accomplished”) and the awareness of a movement on the way (use of the gerund “happening”). 108 . See 3. but the point is elsewhere. but hardly ever afterward in the campaign. using MLK‟s very words in combination with the repetitive patterns commonly used by preachers.”349 which echoes the battle cry of the civil rights movement. 349. while Martin Luther King‟s rhetoric used to revolve around the fight for freedom. The indefinite pronoun “something” is not immediately defined. Beyond the different thematic approaches. 2008). There is clearly an attempt to revive the spirit of the civil rights movement to woo voters in the South. The words taken up are generally famous words or expressions that should be easily identified as MLK‟s words and suggest an 348. Obama hardly ever pronounces the word. after several repetitions to build up suspense and sustain the audience‟s attention. 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. in particular African Americans. Two other occurrences of the verb “overcome” can be found in the South Carolina Primary Night Speech delivered less than a week later (Columbia.was never used afterward. 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.2. it is ultimately defined as “Change is what happening in America.348 Barack Obama sought to appear as a political leader carried by MLK‟s spirit.2. The use of repetition p. January 20.3.1. In addition to the macrostructure which is clearly delineated through anaphora/epistrophe.85. however. The indefinite “something” never gets precisely defined. It is not surprising that Barack Obama has willingly multiplied the references to MLK in that particular speech.1. “Unity is how we shall overcome. 3. It is the same with the expression.

In Obama‟s speech. Obama‟s numerous repetitions develop a sense of crescendo (in intensity) and each utterance is longer than the previous one. yet not as long. In the struggle for justice and for equality. The first utterance is the most dissimilar to King‟s delivery but each new utterance reveals greater similarity by gradually lengthening the vowels. we cannot walk alone.351 Yet. Interestingly enough. instead of addressing his fellow citizens. we cannot walk alone. 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. the expressions were supposed to be “peace and justice” and then “opportunity and equality”. It was indeed at the core of the struggle. The last utterance presents a significant pause between “cannot” and “walk” just as in King‟s speech. Obama mixed up the notions. In the struggle for opportunity and justice. In the struggle to heal this nation and repair this world. the key-word in MLK‟s speeches was freedom. 2008). 109 . the utterance still remains shorter than in King‟s speech. Taken up by the impetus. The intonation remains high and only lowers on the final syllable. the expression “Let freedom ring” was indeed repeated eight times and appeared as a forceful leitmotiv in “I Have a Dream”. which is heavily connoted religiously.350 we cannot walk alone.immediate connection between Obama and King. 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). 350. we cannot walk alone. the topic is different. that section represents the main and final clause of the sentence. Obama begins the lyrical outburst by shifting to a religious semantics.8s) and a significant lengthening of the vowels. And even if the vowels are lengthened. which was pronounced by Martin Luther King in “I Have a Dream”. According to the final draft as prepared for delivery. Obama uses it again in the epilogue of his Acceptance Speech at the Democratic National Convention (August 28. 351. Brothers and sisters. The second. He addresses his “brothers and sisters”. third and fourth utterances reveal a slow fall. 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 obtained prosogram is partly faulty: King does not say anything between 0. including the loud participation of the audience.”352 Like Martin Luther King in his renowned speech on Vietnam.Fig. The recording of King‟s “I Have a Dream”. 353. 110 . The epilogue of the speech on Vietnam. the epilogue of “I Have a Dream” is characterized by clauses introduced by “when”. The seconds are indicated on the horizontal line.8s and 1.13 Prosograms: Barack Obama and Martin Luther King‟s utterances of “We cannot walk alone. “A Time to Break Silence” delivered on April 4. 1967.6s.353 Obama often concluded his speeches with a series of sentences or one very long sentence containing a 352. being of relatively poor quality. That interval should therefore be considered as a pause.

the intonation is either rising to convey energy (“Announcement Speech”. 354. 2007) or falling to convey solemnity (“Turn the Page”. It is the case in fact with the epilogue of the speech that pushed Obama into the limelight at the 2004 DNC Convention. It is the voters who can put Obama in a position to act. becomes “then we”. 111 . Springfield. just before the election. According to the speeches. hence involving everyone: “If we will”. It consisted in conditioning the victory on people‟s mobilization and volition. adding further cohesion to the epilogue and maintaining the focus on people instead of shifting it to Obama alone. at Dr King‟s Church and at the very end of the campaign. April 28. 2007).series of hypothetical clauses. February 9. the condition rests on an inclusive “we”. except for the speech delivered at Dr King‟s Church. The pattern of the protasis was generally the same. San Diego.354 It was especially the case with the speeches at the beginning of the campaign. Interestingly enough. “if you will” and “if you‟re willing to” which are repeated several times whereas in Martin Luther King‟s speech. Depending on the speeches. it is different. In Obama‟s epilogues. it was played in three different variations: “if you want”. the pattern as regards the apodosis evolves in the course of the campaign and “then I”.

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.CONCLUSION … “Don‟t tell me words don‟t matter. not on a specific agenda. This is symbolic of the whole strategy: centering the whole discourse on America and Americans. Obama is not the first. 112 . it might well be said about Obama‟s style that “its genius is synthesis. what supporters traditionally chant. It is fitting that he used interaction (and thus polyphony) to impose that message of collective action. Even the self-referential anecdotes about his life function to illustrate how intrinsically American his own experience is. Through the use of call-and-response. 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.” Barack Obama (February 17. 2008) Using a sentence from Margaret Atwood‟s The Handmaid’s Tale.” The various components of Obama‟s rhetorical and oratorical styles reveal multiple sources of inspiration in the form as well as in substance. By adopting the tone of a preacher.

audiences and venues. cit. Hillary Clinton in the speech she delivered to give him her endorsement. He was using the language of a preacher.”356 This particular and specific combination of rhetorical and oratorical elements provides us with a detailed guideline of Obama‟s idiolect and spoken style. they also fulfill another function. News. U. “Rhetoric and Speaking-Style Affect the Clinton-Obama Race”. That simplistic approach helps conjure up a mythical America through words. 2008.355 Obama also used the great voices of the past to stress the historical continuity with those respected elders. The closer he got to an ethnic group. The trumpeted and recurrent references to Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King overshadow the tacit discursive influence of Reagan. 2008.357 Whatever the exact measure of those specific components.” Interviewed by Kent GARBER. Roosevelt and King. “[George W. Bush. Bush] also handled the register of the sermon.6.358 Some ideas like “the invisible Americans” that Hillary Clinton developed as a major theme of her campaign are present in the Reconciliation Speech. For Obama. November 26. op. March 25.6 p. the speech also includes a storytelling section which. depending partly on the distance Obama would seek or need to establish from the black community. it is Lincoln. by focusing on her connection 355. so did also George W. the further he moved away from the others. February 17. Yet. which mainly had to do with his oratorical skills. It is also ironical as Hillary Clinton had accused Obama of plagiarizing the phrases of others. 356.however. Charlotte HIGGINS. the rhetorical characteristics of the speeches remained unchanged. “George W. 113 . The Baptist Standard. and according to Jennifer Jackson. Jennifer Jackson addresses the problem of indexing a specific group in the interview given to Kent Garber. 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.S. the preacher‟s tone or the use of call-and-response was adapted to circumstances. See n. “The new Cicero”. The connection with Lincoln and King is more symbolical than truly historical and has more to do with what the two represent in American collective (and partial) memory. the measure of some specific components like the black-cent. The Guardian. See also Deborah CALDWELL. Drawing a parallel with Cicero. it was the Protestant southern sermon. He was never quoting scripture. but he did a warped register of the sermon. Scipio Aemilianius and Cato the Elder. It was not the African-American sermon. 357. Bush: Presidential Preacher”. Professor of Classics at the University of Glasgow. For Cicero. 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. to have used a preacher‟s tone: Lyndon Johnson did. 358. For Catherine Steel. Kent GARBER. it was Licinius Crassus. 2003.

100. the beginning of the speech echoes Obama‟s usual introductory account of the journey travelled so far. 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. he‟ll fight for you and he‟ll stand up for you every single day in the White House.359 Yet. 2007). In her speeches. As was seen in the introduction and in Patti Wood‟s comments. 362. She hardly ever mentioned him in her speeches afterward and until the end of the primary season. 360.364 Obama‟s speeches manage to produce a feel-good effect. “Americans who love this country”. June 27. “This election is one of the most important in our nation‟s history.361 On February 9.” Hillary Clinton at the Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner (Des Moines. just after it became clear that McCain would be the Republican nominee.” 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. Senator McCain is simply offering four years more. Unlike Obama‟s speeches which began to focus on McCain very early in the campaign. In Clinton‟s campaign speeches. Clinton concentrated her campaign speeches on putting forward her experience and attacking the Republicans.with individual ordinary Americans. she can‟t afford insurance.8 and p. Clinton kept fighting the primary season as an internal Democratic contest all along.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. which is both 359. 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.” Interestingly. See n. after eight years under President Bush. “I know he‟ll work for you. 363. change is just a word if you do not have the strength and experience to make it happen. Clinton criticized him without praising his military service. restore a damaged confidence by praising the “unique” American experiment. So. before the Primary season actually started. there is also a dramatization of the stakes of the 2008 election. Clinton usually reinforces the dramatic effect produced by using direct speech as she did in the Reconciliation Speech. „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. “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. Here is one example among others: “We‟re standing for the mother who grabbed my hand and asked me. Clinton refers to John McCain here as Senator McCain as Obama usually did. In fact. change was hardly ever set into historical perspective but meant a change of Administration with the Democrats replacing the Republicans in the White House. “We are one America. 361. she usually just called him McCain. 2008. See p.” (Unity.” .362 Many key-expressions from Obama‟s speeches have sneaked into Clinton‟s Reconciliation Speech: “the country we love”. 364. it generally amounted to a rhetorical question to ask who could most surely defeat him in November. 2008). presenting it as the beginning of a new era. She changed strategy as the Primaries appeared much tougher than expected.114 p.35 for Obama‟s use of the expression. November 7. 114 . When she did. sounds much as it did in her campaign speeches. She took on Barack Obama for his lack of experience: “Change.

“Obama is to me very analogous to Robert Kennedy. the magic did not last long.” 365 By praising America and Americans.ilovepolitics. 368 For Elvin T. The New Yorker. Reich who found Obama particularly inspiring. “Inside Obama‟s Rhetoric”. Tulis and is directly associated to President Reagan. See in particular Bill Clinton‟s showdown with the Republican Congress in 1995-6.369 President Obama got personally involved in the complex and fiery debate on healthcare legislation and delivered a major speech to Congress on September 9. George PACKER. February 20. The closer you got to him. Lim insists on the difference between great communicator and great teacher. they also provided an immediate positive effect. The Washington Post. It would in fact be fairly relevant to prolong this research and extend it to Obama‟s presidential speeches. however. the president should have pedagogical leadership. His speeches were not only about building a new future. few presidents other than Ronald Reagan have been able to lead the nation by the power of their words. 2008 on www. The Inaugural 365. 1988). After “A more perfect union”.” David BRODER. Non-essential services were suspended for over two months (November 1995-January 1996). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 366. to see how his style has evolved and how the visionary rhetoric has adapted to political responsibility and accountability. “The Real Value of Obama‟s Speech”. 2008. 2008. New Yorker journalist George Packer evokes how he personally felt after attending one of Obama‟s rallies. Bush (New York. his mastery of communication and his power of conviction. pp. educate and inspire people.” For some.” Christian Salmon interviewed by Marjorie PAILLON and Julien LANDFRIED. March 23. 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. and the speech dissolved into pure feeling. 367. “Within minutes. Elvin T. which stayed with me for days. What Obama showed in Philadelphia [with the race speech] is the potential similarly to inform. 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. Jeffrey K.info (www. Packer quoted in this article former Secretary of Labor Robert B. 2008.366 This inspirational force helped cast Obama as a presidential figure and a would-be rhetorical president. “The Choice”. 2008). The New York Sun.info/avec-obama-c-est-toute-une-amerique-qui-retrouve-sesreperes-perdus-depuis-le-11-septembre_a617. Clinton managed to have the Republicans (and Congress) blamed for the crisis. TULIS. the more you realized that his magic lay in his effect on others rather than in any specific policies. The concept of “rhetorical president” was developed by Jeffrey K. 115 .119-120. 369. 2009 to present and defend his plan. LIM. Lim who promotes the necessary rehabilitation of presidential rhetoric.inspirational and therapeutic. The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W.html).ilovepolitics. “In recent decades. Obama also managed to reconstruct a nation whose self-confidence had seriously faltered after 9/11 and the stalemates in Afghanistan and Iraq.367 That rhetorical aspect of the presidential function has now become intrinsic to it. David Broder made an analogy between Obama and Reagan. January 28. The Rhetorical President (Princeton: Princeton University Press. see Robert SAMULESON. 368. I couldn‟t recall a single thing that he had said. Posted on June 6.

Obama‟s televised announcement of bin Laden‟s death on May 2. FRANK. Vol. comedian Seth Meyer addressed President Obama and told him. 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”. Obama might well need to rely on the same rhetorical tools he used in 2008 to capitalize on his record. provided the economic situation improves. “The Prophetic Voice and the Face of the Other in Barack Obama's „A More Perfect Union‟ Address. After taking on the cluster of Republican hopeful candidates at the 2011 Annual White House Correspondents‟ Dinner. Obama helped measure how much progress had been made by African Americans since the Jim Crow era.2. Obama included in that announcement pathos and storytelling370. March 18 2008”. 370. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. he presented himself as the metaphor of the American unity he had always been promoting.Speech provided a first glimpse at the solemn tone President Obama would use. Obama‟s 2008 victory will remain historic for its symbolical meaning. The New Yorker. His major campaign achievement was precisely to convince voters to look at him and see an American. “The Joshua Generation”. 116 . leaving a gaping hole in our hearts. in his Election Night Victory Speech. Someone who could represent them all. The empty seat at the dinner table. When forced to address it.372 Obama sought however to deliberately evade the issue of race throughout the campaign. 2009. 372. Nearly 3. November 17. 2011 provides many echoes with the campaign speeches that this dissertation sought to analyze and characterize. David REMNICK. Rhetoric & Public Affairs.” Whatever happens at the 2012 presidential election. No.” 371. 12. By recounting the past century through the eyes of a 106year-old black woman. Hailed by some as a “new black Moses”371 or as the prophesied. Ann Dixon Cooper. “We know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world.000 citizens taken from us. it echoed the tone he had used to deliver “A more perfect union”. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child‟s embrace. 2008. When the situation requires though. Come 2012. Collin Craig. “I can tell you who can definitely beat you in 2012: 2008 Barack Obama. Obama revives the rhetoric of unity and sounds very much as the presidential hopeful used to sound. quoted in David A.

Night Speech students‟ standard of living (Des Moines. the disabled or homeless vets who wonder why their service has been forgotten. but who nevertheless think of those they've left behind and question the wisdom of our mission in Iraq. low wages Teachers. who now compete with their teenagers for $7-an-hour jobs at Wal-Mart. She spoke not with self-pity but with determination. 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. who are still digging into their own pockets to pay for school supplies. low wages. I've met Maytag workers who labored all their lives only to see their jobs shipped overseas. a young woman who still believes that this country will give her the chance to live out her dreams. 2007). health care I've heard from seniors who were betrayed by CEOs who dumped their pensions while pocketing bonuses. education Health care. December 27. Industrial relocation. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq Iowa Caucus Health care. Just two weeks ago. The elderly. 2008).[…] I've spoken to veterans who talk with pride about what they've accomplished in Afghanistan and Iraq. who still goes to bed each night praying for his safe return. January 3. 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. students‟ standard of living Veterans. I've spoken with teachers who are working at donut shops after school just to make ends meet.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. 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. 117 . the mothers weeping in my arms over the memories of their sons. and from those who still can't afford their prescriptions because Congress refused to negotiate with the drug companies for the cheapest available price.

[…] We're here because of the mother in San Antonio that I met just today. She told me she was on the verge of packing and didn't know where her family would go next. 2008) Bankrupty / Housing The elderly 118 . 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. […] We're here because there are workers in Youngstown. Ohio students‟ standard of Primary living Night Speech (Houston. Ryan. Ohio. He was 20 when he was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. but he gave all." 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.Potomac Low wages Primary Night Speech (Madison. it says. who've watched job after job after job disappear because of bad trade deals like NAFTA. who've worked in factories -. Health care. […] We're here because of the mother that I met in Green Bay. housing War in Iraq Texas and Health care. She's got 2year-old twins who are legally blind. March 4. just this afternoon. 2008). Inscribed on it is the name of her son. "All gave some. She somehow entered into a predatory loan and saw her mortgage payments double in two weeks and has paid thousands in fees to try to stave off foreclosure. […] 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. who gave me this bracelet that I'm wearing. There's nothing empty about the call for change that The elderly. Wisconsin. 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. […] It's the dream of the senior I met who lost his pension when the company he gave his life to went bankrupt.who've worked in factories for 20 years. […] It's the dream of the teacher who works at Dunkin Donuts after school just to make ends meet. And next to his name. February 12. February 19. industrial bankruptcies Wisconsin Industrial Primary relocation/unemploy Night Speech ment (Houston. and then one day they come in and literally see the equipment unbolted from the floor and sent to China. International trade agreements Bankruptcy.

August 28. students‟ standard of living Unemployment. Health Care. housing cystic fibrosis and couldn't pay their health care bills. 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. 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. The Acceptance Speech (Denver. I see my grandfather. marched in Patton's army. or the man I met who living (Bristol. but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.I. in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan. There's the young woman I met who works the night students‟ standard of shift after a full day of college and still can't afford medicine for a sister who's ill. I think about my mom. who once turned to food stamps. 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) Final Primary Night Speech (St Paul. I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed. who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management. June almost lost his home because he has three children with 5. 2008) Health care. June 3.when I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down. I think about my grandmother. 2008) Treatment of veterans Because. April 22. who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift.01 and a simple verse of scripture tucked inside. industrial crisis Sex discrimination (glass ceiling. who signed up after Pearl Harbor.Speech to AFL-CIO (Philadelphia. lack of opportunities) 119 . and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the G. who still doesn't have health insurance for himself or his wife and lives in fear that a single illness could cost them everything. 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. In the face of that young student. When I -. who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree. Health care. students‟ standard of living Speech on Health Care Health care. despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. Bill. And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business or making her way in the world. 2008) Bankruptcy.

For the other key-speeches. the speech that propelled Obama into the limelight.373 Boston (MA): key-address delivered at the Democratic National Convention to support the Kerry-Edwards ticket.TIMELINE OF KEY-SPEECHES … Before the 2007-8 campaign July 27. 120 . 2004 “The Audacity of Hope”. During the campaign The primary campaign 373. 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 More Perfect Union”. “The Audacity of Hope”. “A World that Stands as One” and “The American Promise” are the official titles of these speeches.

Obama defines the part America should play in the world. ethnic minorities. Nashua (NH): Obama is defeated by Hillary Clinton in the first primary. March 18. energy. 2008 July 24. 2008 Super Tuesday Night Speech. 2008 Iowa Caucus Night Speech. June 3. etc. the economy. “A World That Stands as One”.. 121 . hence demonstrating that he is no token candidate. 2008 “Yes We Can”: New Hampshire Primary Night Speech. 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. January 8. The speech he delivered that night. his minister.S. The race with Hillary Clinton is over: Barack Obama will be the Democratic candidate against John McCain. Unity (New Hampshire). Obama responds to the criticisms with a speech that proves a carefully-written reflection on race in the U. Obama intends to get over the past racial divisions. The campaign against McCain Apart from a series of speeches to develop his views on women. will prove a powerful battle cry and urge to go on. 2008 Reconciliation with Hillary Clinton. Springfield (IL): Obama announced he is running for President. Obama delivered the following key-speeches: June 27. 2007 The Announcement Speech. February 5. 2008 Final Primary Night Speech. January 3. 2008 “A More Perfect Union”. St Paul (MN). Des Moines (IA): Obama wins the first caucus in a mainly white state.February 10. Berlin (GERMANY). Chicago (IL): Obama still has the lead but he has not won in a decisive way yet. though.

The speech is delivered on the forty-fifth anniversary of Martin Luther King‟s “I Have a Dream”.August 23. Denver (CO). November 4. Springfield (IL). Chicago (IL). 2008 “The American Promise” or Acceptance Speech.C. 2008 VP Announcement Speech. Barack Obama is officially nominated as the Democratic Party‟s candidate for the presidency. 2009 Inaugural Speech. DNC Convention. 2009 “A New Declaration of Independence”. Philadelphia (PA): part of the Whistle-Stop Tour performed on January 17th which took Obama from Philadelphia to Washington. A similar tour was performed by Abraham Lincoln before being first sworn in as President in 1861. Barack Obama delivers his first speech as President-elect. Washington D. August 28. Joe Biden is introduced as Obama‟s prospective VP. After the campaign and onto the Inauguration January 17. 2008 “Yes We Did”: Election Night Victory Speech. Obama delivers his first speech as President after swearing on Lincoln‟s Bible. 122 . January 20.

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msnbc.com/2010/LIVING/10/20/whooping/index.com/ (01/11) The Washington Post‟s special campaign project: http://projects.com/id/22771568/ns/politics-the_debates/ (04/11).pattiwood.soulpreaching.C.telerama.html. MOORE Michael. 2004). DOCUMENTARIES .http://television. October 20.christopherbduncan. http://www. 2007).com/christopherbduncanisbarack. 2008. “Clinton.php TV NEWS REPORTS BLAKE John.cnn. “Black preachers who 'whoop' -. COX II: www. CNN.washingtonpost.html (11/10) Sherman H.minstrels or ministers?”. MITCHELL Andrea. The DVD was released by the Editions Montparnasse in 2005.fr/television/christian-salmon-obama-c-est-l-art-du-storytellingporte-a-son-incandescence.DVDs KAREL William. Sicko (Dog Eat Dog Films.net/ (04/11) 129 . Le monde selon Bush (Flach Film.msn. Debate”. Obama Clash at S. DUNCAN: http://www. 2010. The DVD was released in France by TFM in 2008. http://edition. January 22.35081. WEBSITES Christopher B.com (05/10) Patti WOOD: www.

5. 23. 21. 44. 108. 80. 58. 90. 116. 102 E empathy. 30. 70. 49. 32. 71. 115. 39. 66. 81. 88 anaphora. 32. 97. 96. 57. 87 anti-intellectual. 72. 45. 65. 37. 83. 62. 19. 25. 28. 78. 12. 69. 75. 52. 104 Carter Jimmy. 80. 74. 104 Founding Fathers. 54. 83. 97. 17. 34. 20. 63. 115. 13. 12. 18.. 38. 74. 123. 91. 39 exaggerations. 57. 31. 30. 121 American Dream. 92. 47. 82. 22 cataphoric definition. 43.. 125. 86. 17 epistrophe. 49. 66. 91 Clinton Hillary. 61. 103. 49. 86. 90. 9. 60. 6. 81. 36. 56. 116 Favreau Jon. 24. 85. 21. 17. 30. 113. 107. 46. 84. 41. 70. 24. 105. 52. 9. 81. 115. 60. 126. 6. 90 exceptionalism. 11.INDEX … A America. 33. 63. 112. 63. 126 130 . 10. 16. 58. 124. 66. 59. 23. 70. 4. 35. 100. 47. 5. 34. 27. 112 Cicero. 74. 47. 64. 84. 74. 40. 15. 27. 37. 87 catchphrase. 34. 35. 79. 56. 123. 52. 50. 113 Bush George W. 61. 26. 27. 59. 77. 35. 113. 103. 86. 109. 113. 71. 6. 40. 25. 85. 22. 40. 99. 14. 44. 122 black-cent. 26. 65. 12. 75. 25. 84. 78. 9. 20. 99. 7. 125. 23. 31. 97. 125 ethos. 20. 48. 31. 79. 79. 82. 25. 89. 57. 70. 48. 48. 91 anadiplosis. 89. 32. 114. 82. 28. 80. 75. 114. 38. 78. 49 F family. 105. 67. 124. 23. 22. 14. 49. 74 G George Washington. 18. 114 D Duncan Christopher B. 127. 40. 35. 55. 108. 8. 34. 51. 109. 31. 76. 64. 115. 57. 104. 67. 30. 91. 129 C Call-and-response. 41. 62. 127 Axelrod David. 24. 76. 125 anaphoric definition. 108. 121. 95. 58. 53. 66. 36. 7. 113. 23. 24. 125 Civil Rights. 79. 68. 82. 75. 45. 38. 29. 113. 19. 83 country. 112. 73. 85. 75 Ashley. 94. 129 Constitution. 31. 52. 50. 107. 87. 44. 94. 125 Bible. 32. 44. 66. 79. 62. 50. 48. 51. 44. 74 B baritone. 7. 89 epideixis. 27. 24. 100. 60. 114.

59. 95. 9. 123. 9. 105 symbol. 89 nation. 107 Pitch. 69. 22. 69. 56. 51. 70. 108 R Reagan Ronald. 71. 64. 100. 13. 26. 102. 71. 77. 74. 102. 27. 79. 29. 22. 125 performative. 102. 63. 69. 59 mise en abyme. 78. 103. 40. 86. 80. 111. 27. 104. 77. 76 passive form. 109. 125 pronoun. 57. 126. 20. 105 S sacralize. 85. 113. 26. 112. 65. 10. 58. 104. 64 pathos. 76. 81. 103. 54. 24. 35. 42. 99. 75. 82. 25. 78. 24. 96. 70. 20. 68. 9. 69. 73. 6. 30. 53. 83. 100. 75. 83. 70. 33. 11. 60. 108 McCain John. 15. 36. 79. 48. 113. 109. 107. 43. 115 King Martin Luther. 28. 61. 73. 27. 25. 110. 75. 67. 107. 99. 25. 93. 37. 92. 97. 93. 85. 30. 53. 88. 18. 75 intonation. 27 lyrical outburst. 14. 25. 25. 26. 92. 95. 47. 111 intradiegetic. 94 Praise. 57. 5. 122. 63 symploce. 105. 75. 105. 52. 17. 111 pauses. 62. 22. 30. 39. 114. 78. 34. 99 rhythm. 107. 19. 27. 44. 115 non-defining restrictive relative clause. 32. 77. 37. 5. 83. 55. 77. 79. 79. 105. 46 J Johnson Lyndon. 114 I intertextual. 116 metonymy. 114. 15. 109 131 . 43. 59. 41. 65. 27. 92. 70 stump speech. 26. 28. 105 God. 108. 50. 124. 99. 84. 121 metadiegetic. 104 H hero. 97. 29. 33. 15. 51. 82. 19. 58 scripture. 113 K Kennedy John Fitzgerald. 25. 95. 39. 39. 80. 85. 21. 68. 55. 54. 89 N narrative. 24. 19. 100. 18. 94. 71. 95. 116 pattern. 112. 20. 109 M macrostructure. 46. 56. 20. 10. 106. 49. 88. 109 Lincoln Abraham. 28. 24. 31. 113. 8. 38. 67. 98. 77. 63. 64. 39. 8. 60. 24. 107. 17. 31. 18. 103. 42. 95. 91 preacher. 4. 94. 126 L Lakoff George. 62. 39. 13. 75. 115 representation. 53. 57. 97. 23. 86. 91. 57. 91. 54. 72. 37. 122. 54. 32. 53. 128 leitmotiv. 113. 103. 50. 62. 50. 88 P paraleipsis. 109. 22. 23. 56. 50. 85. 83. 25.gimmick. 81. 103. 128 logos. 44. 46 metaphor. 55. 105. 82. 113 signifiyin‟.

90 U united. 4. 80. 96. 70. 97. 66. 86. 37. 58 tricolon. 38. 45. 75. 75. 104. 94. 64. 61. 58. 36. 100. 59. 23. 68. 116 toponyms. 116. 103. 50. 121 W Wright Reverend Jeremiah. 113. 112. 18. 15. 94. 39. 104. 35. 65. 69. 87. 63. 81. 67. 58 unity. 67. 51. 24. 78. 79. 67. 34. 70. 102. 39. 24. 53. 121 132 . 19.T tone. 9. 63.

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