The speech made by Barack Obama in 2008 is one of the examples of an effective communication. In this piece, the newly elected president did his best to combine the interests of all populations groups for overcoming the challenges of economic and political nature of the time. Hence, his purpose was to clarify the direction of his administration’s future work and gain support from the citizens in the process, who were the main audience in this situation. His tone is was highly motivational due to the need for claiming the correspondence of his ideas to people’s expectations. From the rhetorical perspective, he incorporated numerous devices in order to convey the message to the listeners while providing a uniform basis for further political cooperation. Hence, the proper use of suitable appeals helped Obama achieve the unity among different categories of citizens.
The first and the most important solution in preparing the speech was to include pathos in order to achieve the above goals. In other words, Obama heavily relied on people’s emotions and attempted to link them with his own feelings (Gagich & Zickel, n.d.). By doing so, he managed to draw the attention of the citizens, mainly concerned with their family life, the future of their children, and financial wellbeing, which is directly connected to the first two provisions. Thus, the gratitude he expressed for his wife’s support and his love for his two daughters were thoroughly described in the beginning of the speech (NPR, 2008). These statements reflected his orientation on the family and new generations, which is similar to that of other people in the United States. Also, Obama emphasized the need for people to “make the mortgage, or pay their doctor’s bills, or save enough money for college,” thereby showing that he also cares about this aspect (NPR, 2008). In this way, the given examples prove that the president wanted to relate to people’s emotions in the first place.
Second, Obama successfully employed pathos in order to confirm the presence of shared values. By doing so, he managed to efficiently support his patriotic views and claim their resemblance to those of other citizens of the United States (Gagich & Zickel, n.d.). One of the most apparent cases where this approach was used was the quote of Abraham Lincoln about “bonds of affection” and the importance of being “not enemies but friends” (NPR, 2008). By referring to it, he emphasized the significance of their shared past as well as the direction for future work based on this understanding. In addition, Obama underpinned this intention by frequently including “we”-phrases in his speech as if inviting the listeners to consider their contributions to the prosperity of the country (NPR, 2008). Hence, it can be stated that pathos also played a critical role in the effectiveness of the message.
Alongside the two appeals, discussed above, Obama also incorporated other rhetorical devices in his speech in order to reinforce the positive attitudes towards himself as a new president of the United States. For instance, when speaking about the upcoming progress, equality, past hardships, and emerging challenges, he constantly repeats the phrase “yes, we can” in the end of each statement (NPR, 2008). By including these repetitions, Obama highlights the significance of individual efforts in contributing to the shared cause. Moreover, he frequently resorts to exaggerations in order to confirm that the initiatives implemented on the governmental level are of critical importance. For example, saying that the challenges, faced on the way to prosperity, are “the greatest of our lifetime,” he efficiently addresses this task (NPR, 2008). In this way, these devices complement the above appeals in conveying the message.
In conclusion, the call to action, claimed by Obama in his speech, was supported by relying on pathos and ethos alongside numerous repetitions and exaggerations. His attempts to explain the need for combining efforts were, therefore, successful, as this approach allowed him to draw the attention of all population groups. By emphasizing the significance of family and future generations by his personal example, he evoked similar feelings in others, and by referring to the shared past, he explained the necessity to act together. These solutions were complemented by the importance of tasks and the inclusion of everyone in addressing them, effectively conveying his ideas to the public and making him an excellent speaker.
Gagich, M., & Zickel, E. (n.d.). 6.4. Rhetorical appeals: Logos, pathos, and ethos defined. Pressbooks. Web.
NPR. (2008). Transcript Of Barack Obama’s victory speech. Web.