Full version Rhetorical Analysis Of Barack Obama'S 2004 Dnc Keynote Speech

Rhetorical Analysis Of Barack Obama'S 2004 Dnc Keynote Speech

This print version free essay Rhetorical Analysis Of Barack Obama'S 2004 Dnc Keynote Speech.

Category: English

Autor: reviewessays 20 April 2011

Words: 2184 | Pages: 9

During his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama introduced himself as a skinny kid with a funny name. The rising star of Illinois politics was elected to the U.S. Senate three months later. His delivery, using rhetoric that soars and excites, was full of fiery sentiment that reminds us of what we love about the United States of America. His passionate speech inspired Americans to renew their faith in their country and pursue their individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family.

On July 29, 2004, Barack Obama gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. He was received by thousands of enthusiastic delegates, waving blue and white campaign signs and chanting his name. As the keynote speaker, Obama set the tone for the Democratic manifesto, outlining the principles of the party. His speech concerned the unnecessary and artificial divides in American politics and culture, emphasizing the importance of unity in our country, not just red states for Republicans and blue states for Democrats. Obama backs up this notion by saying "We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states, and yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war, and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, all of us defending the United States of America"(5). He effectively uses the “Stars and Stripes” as a metaphor for our American flag.

The general theme of Barack Obama’s keynote address was the American Dream. He says “My parents shared not only an improbable love, they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation”(2). He spoke of his international and interracial heritage as his father is from Kenya and his mother is from Kansas, and stressed the power of education in our society, noting his attendance at Harvard Law School in spite of his family’s financial hardship. He also criticized poor black youths in America who believe that reading a book is “acting white” (3). He exclaims as a proud American “In no other country on Earth is my story possible,” describing his successful career in politics and law and raising a family at the same time (2). Going along with his theme of the American Dream, Obama identified himself as "a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too"(5).

His speech was an extremely emotional and passionate oration that spoke to millions across the country. He spoke of national unity as one of the most important and unique characteristics of the United States, and how unity is one of the most important things that our country could have in 2004, in light of 9-11 and the war in Iraq. The portion in the speech in which he made the simple phrase "there's a United States of America" a rallying cry of unity and togetherness was simple and powerful. By stating that there is a United States of America he does not simply mean that there is a USA. He means that we are a united country, united as one as the United States of America. Obama’s rhetoric was deeply felt and was more resounding, dripping with patriotism: "We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America" (5). He criticized the Iraq war, saying we should "never ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect the world" (4). This statement reflects the Democrat’s ultimate goal: to earn the respect of the world. The criticism reflects his attitude on the war: we need more troops. It appeals to the opinion of the world but also with a confident yet offensive shade: The world should respect us, because when we confront an enemy we do it right.

Emotionally, the highest point of the speech was his statement that "We worship an awesome God in the Blue States" (5). By saying this he denied the notion that the Democrats are the secular party, and did it in unashamed language. Faith was a recurring theme throughout the speech, from near the very beginning when Obama said "a faith in simple dreams, the insistence on small miracles" (2). Notice how Obama uses the terms “simple” and “small,” utilizing pathos to connect with the “regular guy” of America, the blue collar worker. This is language that Democrats do not often use, and it makes the speech more accessible to many people and gives more support to other themes. Obama connected Democratic social programs with the one and only Golden Rule — to love our neighbors as ourselves. He declares "It's that fundamental belief — I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister’s keeper — that makes this country work" (4). He uses the Bible as his source for this quote, doing something that most Democrats do not talk about, reinforcing his notion that the Democratic party is not always the secular party. Throughout the speech, Obama remains very optimistic, confident that the citizens of the United States as a whole can change the country for the better. Obama's optimism was expressed in the language of faith. When he talked about the "the audacity of hope" he was speaking to something inside of every religious believer, and connecting with the audacious hope that has fueled heroic American historic events, from the nation's founding in 1776 all the way to the civil rights movement (5).

In his keynote address, Obama uses rhetoric clearly and effectively, creating a speech that has a profound impact on its audience: Democrats, Republicans, Independents, registered voters, and TV viewers. His discourse speaks to people of all ages, gender, race, and political belief. Throughout the dialogue, he relates to people throughout the country, citing his heritage as the child of an immigrant and the product of two very different cultures. Using pathos, he effectively associates himself with people of similar backgrounds, proclaiming his pride of his heritage and his success as a minority in American politics. He also notes that his parents gave him the name Barack, meaning “’blessed’, believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success” (2). He speaks of his parents’ educational beliefs: “They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren’t rich, because in a generous America you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential,” effectively using pathos to create a similarity between himself and people of America who are in the same situation that he was in (2). Obama uses parallelism with the terms “tolerant America” and “generous America,” talking about the different qualities of our nation. Obama recounts a few stories in his speech, talking of his childhood, blue collar neighborhoods where jobs are a commodity because factories are being relocated internationally, a father who “was losing his job and choking back the tears, wondering how he would pay 4500 dollars a month for the drugs his son needs without the health benefits that he counted on,” and a young woman who “has the grades, has the drive, has the will, but doesn’t have the money to go to college” (2). Millions of people across the country have the same problems, and millions of people across the country heard Barack Obama sympathize with their situation. These images work well with his audience, as he comes from a similar background and he can relate to people who are in the same circumstances. Obama successfully gains the trust of many of these people because of his knowledge and concern for them. He expertly uses pathos to get an emotional appeal from his audience. He also notes that he understands that people do not expect the government to do everything for them. He describes this by saying “People don't expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all” (3). The audience can easily tell that Obama is extremely passionate on the matter, as he gave and incredibly emotional and zealous speech, using his entire body, not just his voice, as a means to communicate.

Barack Obama has no problem successfully utilizing ethos to convince his audience of his qualifications as the speaker. At the time of the speech, Obama was an Illinois State senator, so he was very well versed in the subject as he had had plenty of previous political experience. As for the other aspects of the speech that concern further subjects then politics, Obama uses his life experiences and stories told to him by others to effectively use ethos to persuade the audience to agree with him. Obama obviously has a vested interest in the matter, emotionally explaining his beliefs as if he would put down his life on them. He expertly avoids stasis, stating the argument, and then giving his solution directly after. As he was speaking directly to the audience of the Democratic National Convention, which would be mostly Democrats, Obama’s ethos was not a problem. However, all of the non-Democratic people that may have been scrutinizing Obama’s speech were not influenced quite as much by his ethos as the Democrats were. He gave his speech with so much conviction and certainty, however, that he may have persuaded some of the non-believers.

Obama uses many examples and stories from his experiences, but he does not use many hard facts and figures that support his topic. In this speech he uses pathos and ethos expertly, but he does not make use of logos very well. In one part of the speech, he paraphrases the most important document of our country in order to make his point: The Declaration of Independence. He makes assertions that the Democratic Party can give the middle class relief and provide jobs and homes to the homeless, which may very well be true, but he does not back up these claims with hard evidence. Cynical listeners with different views than Obama may have found this to be an opinion speech with no real proof that the statements made are true. However, I do not think the object of this speech was to persuade people with facts and data. Obama’s goal was to motivate and inspire people with his words to realize the situation in our country and make the right decisions come November. He iterates “I believe that we have a righteous wind at our backs and that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices, and meet the challenges that face us” (5). Obama uses metaphors is this quote, using a faith-oriented word, righteous, to connect with people of faith. He also speaks about how we stand at “the crossroads of history,” emphasizing the importance of the coming election and how it will shape the history of our nation for the rest of our nation’s existence.

Barack Obama is an expert at using the three modes of persuasion in order to craft this fantastic and inspiring speech. He uses his life experiences and accounts told to him throughout his life in order to back up his arguments and to establish a personal connection with people that have the same situation that he speaks of. Obama grabs people by the heart and soul with his words, and does not let go until you have heard all of them, leaving a profound impact on one’s mind. People will be looking back at this speech for years to come as a fantastic example of American rhetoric and patriotism. And Barack Obama’s speech seemed to have a profound impact on its listeners, as he was elected to the United States Senate three months later.

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"In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? I'm not talking about blind optimism here...No, I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a mill worker’s son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. The audacity of hope!" — Barack Obama (5)