Considered by many the best orator and rhetorician of all the presidents, Obama had high expectations to meet for his second Inaugural Address on Monday. In his speech, Obama focused on “Faith in America’s Future,” as he outlined some of his plans for his next four years in office. Likewise, Obama made use of various rhetorical advices to appeal to the US citizens and to evoke patriotism and public support for the future of America.
One of the main devices used by Obama is allusions and not only allusions but also direct quotations from some of America’s most famous documents. For example, Obama directly quotes the Declaration of Independence, by stating “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” By doing so, Obama attempts to appeal to the pathos of the American people. He is evoking a sense of patriotism and support for restoring our nation to its glory, by citing some of the most America’s most prized possessions. Another example of Obama’s allusions references Martin Luther King, especially appropriate because the inauguration was on Martin Luther King Day. Obama augments his ethos, by showing his knowledge and understanding of the rich history of the United States of America.
In addition to allusions, Obama’s use of gradatio is significant in not only his Inaugural Address, but in all of his speeches. Obama creates climaxes throughout his speech to create enthusiasm and to emphasize the importance of taking action against the problems America is facing. Obama often starts by describing a problem and then increasing his enthusiasm and tone as he reaches points regarding how we can work to solve said problems.
In response to the hardships that America has faced over the past few years, Obama stresses his hope (and the hope we should all have) for improving America’s position in the world. Obama describes ways that he plans to help America, including reforming health care, supporting democracy across the world, and decreasing our impact on the environment. Interestingly, two of the most commonly used words in this speech are “we” and “must.” We had predicted that Obama would use words like "America," "promise," and "country" most often based on a variety of his past speeches, but he surprised us by using other powerful words. By using the word “we” over seventy times, Obama emphasizes the importance of working together as a nation, not as individuals. The success of the US dependent on the collective efforts of us as a people, not on the hard work of a few individuals. Similarly, the use of “must” describes the imperativeness of improving our nation; Obama believes that we need to fix our nation soon and utilizes his second inaugural address to try to motivate the US citizens to help work for change.
Obama does a great job in addressing the theme of “Faith in America’s Future.” He clearly displays that he wholeheartedly believes that America can be restored to its glory and its position as the most powerful nation in the world. The passion in Obama’s address makes it easy for American citizens to choose to support Obama’s cause for change in the current state of our country.
Compared to Obama’s first inaugural address, this one has a slightly greater aura of urgency. By using words like “must,” Obama insinuates the necessity to change the course America is on. In his last inaugural address, Obama focused more on his plans to improve national unity and fix the issues that he inherited. In contrast, his second address Obama describes his visions for the future of America, long past his term in office. His first term in office seems to have taught him the importance of persevering as a nation and the necessity of national unity through various crises and tough times. By understanding both the accomplishments and his shortcomings of Obama’s first term, he will be able to better serve the country as the President and bring the country back on the track to success, away from economic depression and foreign opposition.