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After a closely contested election that divided the country right in the middle, the Obama reelection speech had to deviate from the festive mood in order to have a national appeal. It was not a speech for democrats, but rather for the whole country and therefore his audiences included his opponents in the election. The president therefore had to find a common ground in order to appeal to the whole nation and, at the same time, appreciating his campaign team for their incredible job. He had also to reach out to the republicans; hence, his speech had a reconciliatory tone, which included his acknowledgment of Romney’s role to the American people. So, how effective is the speech of Barack Obama?
The ethos of the president is very strong, since he is a well-known politician. Besides, the fact that he was re-elected as a president of the United States for the second time gives him all the credibility and authority possible. He starts his speech by mentioning the country's history and by reaffirming the country's core values of democracy, tolerance, freedom and liberty. The country had gone through a myriad of immense economical, political and social challenges, but they have kept the principles and the aspirations of their founding fathers intact. The determination not to retreat even in the face of adversity has been the driving force behind the country’s success. He provokes the feelings of patriotism by his rhetoric; “we are an American family and we succeed or fail together as one country and one people.” (Transcript of Obama’s reelection speech). This shifts the people’s feelings from the ideological differences they have in terms of politics to the common identity they share as American citizens. This is a good example of the pathos of the speech, since it appeals to audience’s feelings.
In order to acknowledge the importance of election, he downplays the rivalry between him and his opponent Romney. In this instance he is able to concentrate on the positive sides of election by applauding the principle of democracy in promoting prosperity and liberty. He makes this by extending a hand in terms of cooperation with the republic camp: “I also look forward to talking with Romney so we can see how we can work together to move this country forward.” (Transcript of Obama’s reelection speech). He therefore succeeds in demonstrating election as a platform for articulating ideas for building nation, rather than dividing it. The president notices the common values that both men share in terms of improving the lives of the American people.
He also disputes the election process and campaigns conducted by politicians who are power hungry. He depicts those people who participate in elections as patriotic and who share the dream of moving the country forward. However, he acknowledges that sometimes campaigns do not paint an ideal picture of politicians debating about issues, since they get personal at times. This is illustrated in the statement ”I know campaigns can sometimes be seen as silly. And that provides plenty of hearsay for the cynics that tell us that politics is nothing more than a contest of egos or the domain of special interests.” (Transcript of Obama’s reelection speech). This statement shows the importance of the election process.
Obama’s speech also connects election with the daily lives of the citizens by depicting how election touches their lives at personal level. The president claims that all those people who participate in election do it due to the issues they want the government to deal with. He paints a picture of an ordinary citizen participating in the election and explains her motivation: ”you will hear the pride in the voice of a volunteer who is going door to door because her brother was finally hired when the local auto plant added another shift. That’s why we do this. That what politics can be.” (Transcript of Obama’s reelection speech). This statement underlies the importance of politics and why people should participate. This can be a good instance of logos. By giving example with a logical reasoning he persuades people to vote, making in most cases people vote for him.
Obama demonstrates his grasp of national challenges that include war, economic meltdown and immigration issues. He also touches on sensitive issues like America relying heavily on the foreign oil and shows how these challenges impact the lives of Americans. When talking about these problems he expresses hope saying: ”our economy is recovering. A decade is ending. A long campaign is now over.” (Transcript of Obama’s reelection speech), Being the president, he admits that there are difficulties awaiting ahead and tells what the country has to do in order to move forward. He helps to bring national appeal to the citizens and boost their confidence in solving the problems they are facing.
He rallies the citizens together in their struggle to overcome difficulties the country faces and pleads with the people to make personal contribution to the nation building. This creates a sense of nationhood and makes the audiences feel a sense of belonging. Hence, the passion of national and individual struggles is merged to a great extent. The president states that “I am hopeful tonight because I have seen the spirit at work in America. I’ve seen it in the family business whose owners would rather cut their pay than lay off their neighbors, and the workers who would rather cut back their hours than see a friend lose a job.” (Transcript of Obama’s reelection speech).
The speech also depicts the president as a person who is in touch with common people’s aspirations and struggles, especially of the middle class. He demonstrates that he shares their plight in difficult economic times and also takes the opportunity to explain some of his policies. He tries to bring out the necessity of national health care. He narrates the story of a father in Ohio whose daughter has been struggling with Leukemia. He explains how the insurance people were about to stop paying medication before the national care policy was implemented giving the family a new hope. This is an appeal to the emotions of the listeners, which really helps to drive the message. He summarizes by showing how his care can be beneficial to any household.
The president addresses the American dream, which has been a philosophy of Americans becoming the greatest nation of all times. He says “if you are willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you live.” (Transcript of Obama’s reelection speech). Obama, a son of a Kenyan, rising from the beaches of Hawaii all the way to the lawns of White House, is a testimony of American dream success. As the president of United States and a first black president, he shows the limitless of what one can achieve in the United States if they work with determination. He therefore inspires people to follow their dreams with passion and dedication.
Another important attribute of his speech is his constant emphasis of “we” rather than ”I” or “the government.” This helps to bring people together and rally them towards a common goal. It also paints him not as a president, but as a participant, as an individual who is going through challenges like everybody else and willing to work to achieve his goals. However, he tells them that he knows what they expect from his government and claims that he will carry their stories when he gets to the White House.
In conclusion, we can say that the president’s speech succeeded in persuading his audience in several aspects. This can be attributed to the three appeals found in his speech - logos, ethos and pathos. He manages to persuade people by logical reasoning. He successfully uses appeals to listeners’ emotions and feelings. His authority is indisputable. Besides, he identifies himself with the audience by bringing out common ideas of patriotism and demonstrates the grasp of national issues facing the nation. All of this makes his speech really effective.
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