Barack Obama is a very successful speaker, and uses a variety of methods to captivate the audience and make his message clear to everyone. From the introduction of the speech we can clearly see that the tone of the speech is inspirational. The speech is about change and reaching towards unity and a better future for America.
As we can see from his opening sentence (“This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations”), we see that Obama is clearly referring to the fact that he had made history by becoming the first black president. However, the way that he breezes past this achievement shows that he does not believe that believe this is an important fact. The reference to the future shows he hopes that his achievements will be remembered in the future, not his race.
Very soon into the speech he uses an anecdote (“But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta”) which is very significant to his cause and his beliefs. These anecdotes are a very efficient way of putting across a serious message in an easy to understand, appealing way for the audience. During this anecdote, he talks about some of the horrific things that have happened in American history which include slavery and sexism. However he moves on from these points to talk about the better current standards, showing how America can push forward and grow. This is reassuring to the audience and shows them how he believes he can push America further. These little stories make the speech more personal and make the speech seem conversational.
Obama also uses many balanced sentences to make the speech more enjoyable to hear. Examples of these include “the heartache and the hope” which is a powerful phrase since it contains alliteration and contained positive and negative connotations. “The struggle and the progress” is another good example, since it shows a negative idea which becomes a positive one, highlighting his belief he can bring America up and onwards.
Obama also uses some tripling in his speech (“The buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma”) Tripling is very effective here and creates a sense of progression through the history of America. The use of the “buses in Montgomery” is reminiscent of Martin Luther King’s Speech, and relates to a darker time in American history. He moves on to say how he will move on, emphasising the fact he wants to help America through the current economic dark time.
Through the speech we see that Obama only uses simple connectives such as “and”. This is to keep the audiences interest and keep the main focus on the points he is trying to get across. Obama also keeps the audiences interest by having sentence length variation to create contrast in the speech and rhythm.
Rhetorical questions are also used in the speech to incorporate the audience in the speech and force themselves to question themselves. “What progress will we have made” is a very philosophical question and makes the audience ask themselves too. In this rhetorical question, we also see one of the most important language techniques used by Obama; pronouns. The constant use of “we” establishes Obama as one of the audience, showing he doesn’t believe he is above anybody, creating a sense of unity. He is part of a team trying to take on America with the help of his teammates.
Finally, for language, we see that Obama repeats the phrase “Yes we can”. This inspires the audience since it is a memorable slogan and shows Obama thinks he and the people of America can achieve very much.
The body language used by Obama is also very important in creating a formal speech which is also enjoyable and interesting. During the speech Obama is mainly stationary. He has a confident, upright stance and is always standing firm. This makes him seem confident, and emphasises that he is unmoving and strong. Obama is constantly looking around at everyone during the speech, and even going out of his way to do so. This is to address everyone in the crowd so that his message is felt and spoken to everyone, showing everyone is involved. The only movements Obama does make are small hand gestures during the main parts of the speech to emphasis a point he makes. These are not jerky hand movements, but slow ones which reassure the audience that what he is saying is true. Also read Malcolm X message to the grassroots analysis
During the speech, Obama speaks very clearly with enunciated words. This shows the audience he is well educated as well as being easy to understand. The words he uses are quite simple and not overcomplicated. This is to ensure the audience’s interests to not waver and they are always on him.
Obama has an extremely good rapport with the audience. He directly acknowledges the audience by using “we” a lot during the speech and constantly looking around. This includes the audience in his speech and makes them feel connected to him, as if he were a friend having a conversation with them. This is an effective way to create a rapport with the audience. This style is very impressive and persuasive to the audience, since they already feel connected to Obama, so they are more likely to believe in his choices.
In conclusion, Obama is a very good speech writer and speaker, with many techniques to captivate the audience. His speeches are moving, interesting, and work very well on the general public.