Thursday, January 24, 2013

Obama Round 2: The Reinaugurating

Obama's presidency has, of course, not gone without criticism. Some of that criticism was accurate, and some was not, but here is neither the place nor the time for discussing the details pertaining to either opinion. What is important, now, is Barack Obama's second inauguration address. It sets the tone for what he hopes the next four years will be like, and it allows him to lay out his plan for America.

One important facet of his inauguration speech I noticed almost immediately was the invocation of the Declaration of Independence and tales of the American Revolution. Here is an example of Obama doing something he does well, often: combining two different aspects of rhetoric. This particular example combines logos and pathos, by combining stories of the American Revolution with his plan to help America come together and move forward.

"Moving forward" was one of the promises of Obama in 2008, and he continues that promise here, albeit on a more subtle level. In 2008, he asked that everyone follow him; now, he wants everyone to work at the same level. The word "together" is used as anaphora towards the beginning of his speech. It was predicted in the word cloud, in fact, that "together" would be an oft-used term.

Much like the word "together," "we" pops up often. Over seventy times, to be exact! His emphasis on community and togetherness is echoed throughout the entire speech, and it represents an interesting departure from his rhetoric four years ago. Then, he saw his election as a turning point for America. His rise to power brought CHANGE® and HOPE® and PROGRESS®, and he would bring America towards a brighter future. Much of what he said then was a response to the Bush administration, and Americans elected him because they wanted someone new to lead them.

Now, Obama's rhetoric is less hopeful. Rather than claiming that his inauguration is a symbol of change in itself, he asks America to work in harmony and strive towards a better future. Perhaps this reflects a less optimistic President, or perhaps simply a more realistic one. He is keenly aware of the partisanship that many have criticized over the past four years, as he refers to the fact that his oath is "to God and country, not party or faction." Here, there is a use of ethos. He is attempting to re-assert his credibility with the American people.

Another good example of Obama's use of ethos is when he uses anaphora and parallelism to list the challenges that America must overcome to ensure a bright future, from civil rights to immigration to public safety. He continually states that America needs to overcome its differences to help those who need help the most. He even cites Newtown in his plea to keep America's children safe in a not-so-hidden example of pathos.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of Obama's second inaugural address is the fact that there are no questions in the entire speech. There is no use of hypophora, nor any rhetorical questions. Since Obama and his speechwriters pore over these sorts of things for months and months in order to make certain that everything is perfect, there is no way that this is unintentional. Personally, I see Obama's use of no types of questions a deliberate attempt to shy away from implying that he has no answer to them. He gives only answers, in fact, to try to prove that his next term in office will be better than his first. It is a subtle and cunning use of logos by Obama, one that could serve him well over the next four years.

No comments:

Post a Comment