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Obama Speech Rhetorical Analysis

Public Speaking
by

Matthew Costello

on 7 May 2013

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Transcript of Obama Speech Rhetorical Analysis

Introduction Purpose Rhetoric Results State of the Union Barack Obama “one of the most stirring examples of American political rhetoric” Constitution Center "A More Perfect Union Speech" Background of Speaker Work Cited
"AFP: Barack Obama's Race Speech an Online Video Hit." Google News. N.p., 21 Mar. 2008. Web. Apr. 2013.
"CBS Poll: Good Reviews For Obama Speech." CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 11 Feb. 2009. Web. Apr. 2013.
Obama, Barack H. "Remarks of Senator Barack Obama "A More Perfect Union"" Constitution Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 18 Mar. 2008. Speech.
"Obama Speech on Race at the National Constitution Center." Obama Speech on Race at the National Constitution Center. N.p., n.d. Web. Apr. 2013.
Pickler, Nedra, and Matt Apuzzo. "Obama Confronts Racial Division." Associated Press. N.p., 25 Mar. 2008. Web. Apr. 2013.
"President Barack Obama." The White House. N.p., n.d. Web. Apr. 2013.

Ross, Brian. "Obama's Pastor: God Damn America, U.S. to Blame for 9/11." ABC News. ABC News Network, 13 Mar. 2008. Web. Apr. 2013. Pivotal speech of his 2008 campaign for President, also known as his “Race” speech

Delivered on March 18,2008 around midday at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Sought to address the broader issue of race in American life and politics

Touched upon racial history and tensions in America, race and inequality in the United States, white privilege and more President Barack H. Obama is the 44th President of the United States and former US Senator.

Truly embodies the American dream with his unique background and middle class upbringing with a father from Kenya and mother from Kansas.

Born in Hawaii and raised from the help of his white grandparents as his mother passed away while Barack was at a young age.

Studied at Harvard Law School, worked as a community advocate in Chicago and taught Constitutional Law

Married to First Lady Michelle Obama with two children

First African American President, brings entirely unique perspective on this issue. Mood of the Country Speech took place directly in the middle of the 2008 Presidential Election; the nation was politically divided
Americans were throwing their support behind distinctive candidates from both political parties

Country turned off from issue of race with criticism of Obama due to recent release of statements by Reverend Jeremiah Wright

Country remains divided on many political issues highlighted by partisan politics as well as issues concerning race that are intermingled into American’s lives Demographics/Target Audience Target audience not narrow in scope, Obama targeted all Americans

True diversity in demographics of those watching evident through record views on YouTube and other media outlets

Targeted politicians and members of media which criticized Obama for relationship with Wright

“The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well”
Sought to educate the American people on the importance and history of race in this country
Responded to the attacks regarding his former Reverend, Jeremiah Wright

Working towards uniting Americans around what brings us together rather then what seperates and ostracizes our people

Also sought to express the unique story of Obama’s life and diverse background coming from a multiracial family

Urges the nation to “break a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years” “to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America” Speech also places race on back burner to emphasize importance of issues facing american families economically

Seeks to put differences aside to garner solutions on pressing economic and political issues

“If we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care or education or the need to find good jobs for every American” Find solutions Eradicate scandal history A main purpose of the speech, Obama directly addressed the concerns of the media and political pundits concerning his relationship to Reverend Wright

Argued for both the good and bad in Wright without fully disowning him

Stated that Wright’s views which were made public “were not only wrong but divisive… at a time when we need unity”

“I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him that I can my white grandmother- a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in the world” Speech contains examples of many rhetorical choices, namely Aristotle’s rhetoric through ethos, logos and pathos

Ethos- Obama establishes his credibility on the subject by demonstrating the unique place he holds in this context as the son of a black man from Kenya and a white women from Kansas, raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a depression…

Through this diversity and detailing his own American story, he establishes his own credibility on the subject and places himself into a unique category which no prior President or candidate for higher office can replicate Obama integrates pathos throughout his speech by highlighting controversial historical subjects such as slavery and segregation and sharing current stories involving racial discrimination, prejudice and racism

Details the story of Ashley, a twenty three year old white woman who worked to organize a mostly black community for his campaign to fight against injustice and inspire many african americans in the process.

Through logos, Obama cites historical documents including the constitutional to provide a historical and substantive perspective on the race issue

“"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union. Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in Democracy” Speech was viewed as widely successful and received high praise and largely positive reviews


The reaction from the media and others who had criticized Obama and his relationship with Wright were also positive with praise from many media outlets.


Joe Biden,his current VP called it “one of the most important speeches we’ve heard in a long time” and many compared it to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech


Americans recognized the role of race in the campaign as well as the need to put our differences aside to eventually elect our nation’s first Black President
Full transcript