Thursday, January 24, 2013

Melissa's Post on Obama's Second Inaugural Address

On Monday, January 21st, 2013, President Obama made history again. He is not only the first African-American president to be elected president for two terms but also the first president to use the word "gay" in his inaugural speech.

I don't like politics, and most of the time I don't really understand it. I did grasp his focus on equality and the balance between personal and government responsibility; however, politics aside, President Obama is a skilled public speaker who knows how to use rhetorical devices well. His consistent use of parallelism, climax, and allusions help make him such a great speaker.
Obama speaking during inauguration 2013

His constant parallelism is seen in many of his other speeches and debates. In this particular speech, he emphasizes "We, the people" and "Together", and based on all the other posts so far, it has been effective in making it clear to everyone that he wants to build a future together as a nation. The parallelism gives a sense of consistency and assurance in what he is saying, and because he uses the device so much, it becomes a trademark of his. For me personally, parallelism also adds to the flow of the speech, and as I'm listening, I become more and more attentive each time he begins the same phrase because it seems like he will build up to a final point.

This parallelism often results in a climatic effect. Each time he continues with a certain phrase/word, he begins to emphasize it more and more. For example when Obama begins to describe "our generation's task" he uses the phrase "our journey is not complete" multiple times. Eventually, it culminates to great applause and cheering. This section contains a lot of specific scenarios to which many people can relate, using pathos. This is the point when President Obama mentions gay marriage rights and voting rights, and the "little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own." 

The large crowd at the National Mall during the speech
President Obama alludes to many different instances from history (Lincoln's address, Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall), reminding us that to get through this tough time, we must stay true to American values and principles. Obama's ethos is strengthened by these allusions, proving his credibility. In fact, his ethos distracts me from some of his points that apparently, weren't exactly legitimate. For example, when we watched a bit of the speech live in history class, Mr. Ross pointed out when he says "that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action" and asked us to analyze what Obama meant by that. I didn't even catch it the contradiction at first because I just listened to and believed everything Obama said because he is a brilliant speaker, and, well, the president.

In general, I think it's clear that Obama has grown over the past four years, just like everyone else in the country. He looked jaded, gray-haired, and tired, but his speech had a determined focus on the "Faith in America's Future." The most used word "must" (according to International Business Times, not me because I was pretty off in my predictions) was relevant in presenting the urgency of the situation. With his constant reminder of coming "together" to complete "our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American," President Obama brings faith to the American people.  

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