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Rhetorical Analysis of Barack Obama's 2004 Dnc Keynote Speech

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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



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