Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Jamie's Blog Post on President Obama's Inauguration Speech

President Obama gave his second inaugural address on Monday after being reelected as President last November.  Following the precedents the President set in his first address he discussed the challenges America faces in the present and the future, with also references to the country’s history.  The President also took advantage of rhetoric, in his speech, something that shouldn't surprise anyone who’s ever heard President Obama (or almost any other politician) speak before.  

The President addressing the nation.
One of the most common rhetorical devices that Obama used on Monday was parallelism and climax.  A line that stood out to me was when the President said, “We must act, knowing that today's victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.”  Here Obama uses climax to build off of the idea that America is always a work in progress, and that this won’t change in four years, 40 years, or even 400.  Obama states that in 400 years America will still face issues to not only reassure citizens that America will be here in 400 years, but to also to show that not every problem is easily solved, and if we are still facing issues in 400 years, it should come as no surprise that we will continue to be met with challenges today.  

Obama took advantage of parallelism earlier in his speech as well when he states, “we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher.” The use of words like remake, revamp, reform, show that Obama is accepting that there are flaws within our government that need to be reevaluated.  The most important part of this quotation is the “empowerment” of the citizens.  Obama uses pathos here to relate to the crowd both present at the inauguration and those watching from home.

Obama used the rhetorical technique hypophora when he comments, “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it.”  The intention of this line is that although the path towards alternative energy has often been looked at skeptically or has been criticized, the United States has a chance to lead the way for the rest of the world in its discovery.

A few days before the inauguration, I made some predictions of words that the President would use the most during his speech.  One prediction which I felt very comfortable that I would hear was the word “middle”.  Not because of expressions like middle of the road, but because of discussion on the middle class and the Middle East.  Both were  mentioned, but only once and without any real depth in the reference.  Another word I predicted would be used commonly was people.  The President referenced the people ten times throughout his speech, and addressed American citizens as if he was just another average Joe.  President Obama has used this technique to connect with voters in the past and may be one of his most popular qualities.  The economy was something I expected to be a major discussion point, however the president only referenced the economy by name once, though he did reference economic issues throughout the speech.

My predictions, I was shocked Sanjay didn't come up more.

The theme of the speech, “Faith in America’s Future” was definitely addressed and was definitely the main focus of the speech.  Obama referenced the future multiple times, but he went into very little depth besides reassuring the people that America can only improve in the future, but it will take work to get there.  The lack of depth in the discussion was the most disappointing part of the address.  President Obama brought up a multitude of problems, however he did not suggest reasonable solutions for many of these.  I realize the speech would have been hours long had he addressed his plan for every issue, but it would be nice for him to back up his faith and optimism in America’s future with a concrete outline or implementable ideas.

To begin to wrap up, I think Obama has not only learned from his past four years in office, but grown as well.  It was hard not to notice how quickly his hair has grayed from the stress of the presidency in just four years.  I think now that Obama doesn't have to worry about reelection in four years he is able to more openly speak about and support issues he truly cares about.  For example, Obama included direct references to gay rights in his speech, a topic that was not mentioned at all in his 2009 inauguration.  He was also more firm about America’s need to grow more ecologically aware.  There are some things that haven’t changed. Both speeches emphasized the importance of equality for women, as well as the importance for fairness between all creeds and people.

Overall, President Obama delivered a good speech on his second inauguration day.  He used rhetoric to appeal to the crowd while putting a variety of issues in the spotlight.  Although Obama’s speech was well said and interesting, it suffered from a lack of depth and a real discussion past simply raising the problems America faces.

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