Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Obama's Use of Rhetoric: A Little Too Much?

In the ever-changing use of language in media, is there ever such thing as too much rhetoric? Is there ever such thing as too much BOLD, BOMBASTIC, AND INFLATED LANGUAGE? Is there ever such thing as a reasonable limit to alliteration and all other amazing, astonishing and astounding literary devices? Surely this is completely ignoble and not imaginable. In the constant and stable world of media can mere presence and atmosphere mask anyone's contradictions? In today's world IS THERE EVEN SUCH THING AS A NEED FOR SUBTLETY!?

Now that I've gotten that out of the way let's move on to Obama's inaugural address. Obama makes extensive use of rhetoric in his inaugural speech. You can clearly tell that he wanted to convey his second inauguration as a very emotional and powerful event. The speech consists almost entirely of pathos and ethos; Obama frequently quotes and paraphrases from the Declaration of Independence, especially "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal..." Much of Obama's speech talks about fairness, that "a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune", "preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action" and "we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people." This speech is filled with things that sound  very kind and idealistic, and since it does not actually address how such things can be achieved it is clearly only there to captivate its listeners via ethos.

Obama also relies heavily on pathos. Several times Obama emphasizes that he is for the common working man by denouncing the rich one percenters with statements like "our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it". Additionally Obama began about every other sentence with "We, the people.." and "my fellow Americans". It is very clear that there is an emphasis that was put on we, and Obama clearly wants to emphasize that his interests are synonymous with the American people's.

Personal, while I think that Obama is a great speaker, this speech was one of the worst he's ever given. The language is so loaded and his voice/emphasis can be so powerful at times that a lot of it feels very forced. Upon learning a lot about rhetoric in this class I have found that I like speeches that are quieter, subtle and thought provoking. I was unable to really form any thoughts on Obama's speech until I read the transcript because when listening to it Obama's rhetoric and presence was too relentless to give me a quiet moment to think.

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