Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ryan McKinney's Critique of Obama's Second Inaugural Speech

This Monday, President Barack Hussein Obama spoke to the country in his second inaugural speech. He drew upon many of the same key issues that he addressed in 2009 but still are not resolved, and are as much as a problem today as they were 4 years ago. Obama used many rhetorical devices during his speech in order to garner support and "psych up" the country to support the decisions he makes and the "Road to Recovery" which is an often coined term of Obama. Right away, before Obama began to speak, I was reminded of the 2009 speech, this was embodied through the Oh-Bam-Ah chant that sounded like an eerie echo of '09.

I found it interesting how Obama started his speech. He was referring to the founding of our country, over 200 years ago and how we must remain true to those principles should be what motivates our country today. I was very surprised by this since many of Obama's initiatives and policies are in stark comparison to the conservatism of the Founding Fathers. Nonetheless, Obama continued his speech often drawing on Pathos as the mechanism of connecting with the American people. There was absolutely zero logos seen during this speech, and while I did not expect there to be any it is still important to note. Obama used a combination of Ethos (appealing to the audience of the honesty and authority of the presenter) and Pathos (an appeal to the audience's emotions) to enhance his speech. When speaking of the "patriots of 1776 that did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few, or the rule of a mob." he is eliciting patriotism and nationalism in the audience which is displayed through enthusiasm and applause from the audience. This is also a loose example of an antimetabole, in which Obama reversed the order of repeated words to intensify the final formulation

Mr. President proceeded to relate the founding motives of our country to the modern issues that are pressing and that is when he pulled out the big guns (rhetorically speaking). Climax was a key device that was utilized and Obama successfully applied this skill to his speech; he would start by talking about an issue, continue to speak about the injustices, then as he added emotion, he would state what must be done, including how and why this must be done. The following quote from the speech is one such example that displays the text of a climactic delivery:


"For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future. Or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores.
Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people." 

This was immediately met with intense applause and cheers all throughout the live audience, and surely by those behind televisions as well. I am very impressed by President Obama's rhetoric speech after this inaugural address and strive to emulate his ability. He used diacope effectively which is reflected in this example:

"We must act. We must act knowing that our work will be imperfect (ph). 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."

President Obama's repetitive use of the word must places additional emphasis on what he believes our nation must do. 

My word cloud predictions were very accurate at all, Kevin and I had predicted that America, progress, and generation would be the top words used, but that was wrong. While those three predicted words were very large in the word cloud, people, must, and time were the three words which truly had the most repetition during his speech. This is a reflection on Obama's ideas about doing things today to help the next generation's tomorrow. 

I feel that the central focus of the speech was to continue the policies and actions that Obama set into place after 2009 and continue on the path that he is leading us. No radical change was suggested though it might have seemed that there was something fanatic going on by the gesticulation and inflection of Mr. President's voice. Obama recognized America's increasingly accepting culture for people of all ethnicity and background. It was also extremely evident in Obama's second inaugural speech that he recognized that the future is very important and rehashed the theme of Faith in America's future. 
Obama has set a path for himself to continue for the next four years that was directed by his past four years, which entails social benefits reformation, education and technology importance, and fiscally soundness. 


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