Summary, analysis and interpretation of speech
The political speech delivered by Barack Obama at Grant Park in Chicago on November 4, 2008 deals with his vision for the upcoming changes in America due to the peoples’ votes. On the occasion of Obama’s election he addresses the American citizens.
First, Obama stresses that due to the election Americans could prove their power. Thus, the former president expresses that the voting causes a difference in America since diverse people participated and were very motivated to do so. Consequently, Obama promises that although there will be difficult times the whole nation will succeed while also hoping for their aims. Besides according to Obama, the contribution of a lot of voters can be summarized by the story of Ann Nixon Cooper. Cooper is an old woman of color. Although she experienced obstacles throughout American history she still voted. Additionally, the speaker expresses his admiration towards her strife to vote. Furthermore, referring to meaningful historical events and the woman’s strife Obama states that it is the time for change. Therefore, he adds that America has to follow liberal, democratic, peaceful and economic aims and the American Dream. Thus, the speaker mentions the optimistic spirit of the nation.
In the political speech Obama intends to appeal to the audience and to convince them of his ideas by using a motivating and committed tone, an inclusive and positive style and various rhetorical devices.
First, a strategy Obama employs is the use of tone. Throughout the speech Obama’s attitude is committed and enthusiastic (cp. e.g. l. 41) especially when talking about his vision about change in America (cp. l. 42). However, the former president is still serious (cp. e.g. l. 42) since he represents an authority but at the same time has to be convincing when mentioning difficulties (cp. l. 34). Besides, that is the reason why Obama is motivating and persuasive (cp. e.g. l. 33). Nevertheless, when referring to slavery (cp. l. 26) he seems to be critical (cp. e.g. l. 29).
Another strategy Obama employs style. Therefore, he establishes contact by making the audience feel personally addressed (cp. e.g. l. 48). In this case, he uses the inclusive we in “Yes we can” (l. 33) to place himself and the audience on the same level and to help to identify with the goal of changing the status quo. Additionally, Obama seems to be proud and patriotic when mentioning “we are one” (l. 45), which is corresponding with the American mentality. Therefore, Obama expresses his values when saying “open doors of opportunity […], promote the cause of peace and reclaim the American Dream” (l. 43/ 44). These common values include solidarity, peace and togetherness. Consequently, the audience can identify with the speaker since they share the same ideas. Besides when talking about America the former president alludes to the inspiring “spirit of a people” (l. 48), so that he chooses positive words to talk about the nation.
Furthermore, Obama makes use of rhetorical devices. For instance, the speaker employs an enumeration and antithesis1 when pointing out that the voters are “young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican […]” (l. 9/ 10). In this context, Obama refers to the diversity of the voters and that all have participated in the election.
Additionally, the speaker underlines this message by using the antithesis, alliteration2 and enumeration “heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress” (l. 31). Due to this, Obama shows that although there were difficult times in the past the nation can still accomplish their aims due to resistance and hard work, which is corresponding with the American Dream since it promises success when you work hard.
In addition, he underlines the possibilities and future changes in America with an allusion to other accomplishments (cp. l. 37/ 38). Therefore, he raises hope for improvement in America and points out his optimistic values regarding progress (cp. l. 33).
Moreover, the speaker emphasizes the future development by employing a parallelism and a metaphor3. When mentioning that “the road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep” (l. 18) Obama illustrates the hard time in the future. Although there were obstacles in American history (cp. e.g. l. 26), there will be additional ones in the near future. Consequently, the speaker reinforces the nation since he assures that they will still accomplish their aims. This is also a reference to the American dream since issues and problems will not stop the country from progressing.
Moreover, Obama presents his optimistic and hopeful visions with the metaphor “bend [the arc of history] once more toward the hope of a better day” (l. 16/ 17). Due to this, the speaker triggers optimistic and proud feelings and associations since he reminds the nation of their past success. Additionally, the former president evokes hope and thus, strife in the listener’s minds.
Besides he underlines this message with the anaphora4 and the parallelism “this is our moment. This is our time” (l. 42) in order to motivate the audience. Therefore, he makes use of a parallelism and enumeration (cp. l. 43 – 46) for the purpose of highlighting his vision of change. Consequentially, he enumerates aims like the American Dream, peace and economic success (cp. l. 42 – 44).
Additionally, he reinforces this message of hope by employing the metaphor “open the doors of opportunity” (l. 43). Thus, he illustrates in a positive way the further successful progress in America.
When talking about the promising election, Obama employs the anaphora “It’s the answer” (ll. 5, 9, 14) in order to promote the democratic power and possibilities in America. Thus, this device creates an optimistic understanding of the peaceful American way of dealing with politics.
Apart from this, Obama enhances this message with the repetition “different/ difference” (l. 8). Consequentially, he points out that this time the equality in America causes a differences since to this date it is possible to use your voice. On the one hand, he once again shows his admiration for the American values such as liberty and equality. On the other hand, Obama denounces those who question the power of democracy.
Therefore, he makes use of the anaphora “who still” (l. 1 -3) in order to enhance the message. Furthermore, having this term as his campaign slogan, the speaker repeats the expression “Yes we can” (ll. 33, 35, 41, 49). This rhetorical device reinforces the national power and urges the audience to believe in themselves.
All in all, the motivating tone, inclusive and positive style and various rhetorical devices create a vivid and diverse image of Obama’s ideas, which intend to convince the audience and to appeal to them.
Obama is of the opinion that America is a place where all things are possible especially due to the power of the democracy. In the contrast of that, people in America still have not achieved every single goal. So, to what extent is it possible for American people to really make changes?
First of all, one may claim that America has still not achieved every goal and aim that they intend to accomplish. Thus, the possibilities to make changes are limited. However, political progress needs time. Since there will always be new aims to achieve, there is also no end of progressing. So, thanks to democracy, voting as well as human rights like the freedom of speech there are a lot of possibilities to change the status quo. Therefore, Americans share their opinions in public through newspapers or social media. This leads to the conclusion that people can criticize and evaluate the political progress which initiates gradual growth and improved development. Consequently, one may make changes. Moreover, this is also corresponding to the American mentality since the citizens strive for freedom, peace and equality.
Furthermore, there could be the argument that even though people strive for change the government is influenced by egoistic reasons such as lucrative deals as well as corruption. Nevertheless, on second thought American people initiated diverse protests against shootings or discriminations. For instance the “Black Lives Matter” movement created awareness among the nation. Consequentially, politicians were influenced by the protests and reacted supportively. Besides the “March for our Lives” movement impacted the nation’s and the politicians’ opinion, so that gun laws are intended to become stricter. Although, these protests have not fully achieved their goals there is still hope. Past protests like the boycott initiated by Rosa Parks or the protests by Martin Luther King still have massive consequences. Thanks to them segregation is de jure not allowed. However, stereotypes are still constituting and presenting a problem in society. Nevertheless, these examples are proof that change is possible under the circumstance that it needs time. Thus, this is corresponding with the American Dream since due to hard works such as protesting you can achieve national and personal freedom as well as economic success.
In my opinion, on a long term basis the possibilities in America are a success since measures and movements affect peoples’ minds and actions. Therefore, changes can be seen de jure as well as de facto.
All in all, after evaluating both positions one may conclude that long term change in America is possible due to its democracy and liberal rights. However it may be limited in a short term perspective.