Rhetorical Analysis and Critique of Obama’s Yes We Can Speak

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18/05/20 English Language Reference this

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In 2009 Barack Obama, the United States 44th president, delivered an extraordinary, well written and patriotic victory speech. The following will be an analysis of the intent behind Obama’s speech and how it relates to three fundamental facts and how it relates to the status of the United States in the present day. The most important fact about Obama’s Victory Speech is that he cares; more specifically, this is exemplified when he declares that he cares about the safety, rights and unity of the United States. Obama uses pathos and repetitiveness to provide specific emphasis on important subjects of matter. His word choice and examples are powerful. Throughout the speech Obama cares about the people- that is all races, sexes, ages etc. He humbly devotes his victory to the people, and he advocates that his victory is only a small step to success that the people are able to obtain by being involved in the nations presidential elections and the legislative laws that can be created.

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The first half of Barack Obama’s victory speech is him strategically- in order of importance- thanking particular groups for his victory in presidential candidacy. He begins by presenting an unwavering question to a doubtful audience, and then he claims to have a solution for the audience that has doubt in whether if American still has the same potential. Starting a victory speech with a problem and claiming to have a solution is an instant attention grabber. After his attention grabber, he started thanking his specific groups. He then uses pathos to appeal to the emotions of the public by addressing that his answer is found in schools, churches and people that have patiently waited for their voice to be heard and to make a difference. Obama being elected was their voice being heard and his victory would be the difference that they are seeking. This is pathos because Obama was targeting the groups who felt as if they had no standing in the decisions made in the political elections and ratifications. He was giving hope to those who doubted that he could actually win and be the first African American president of the United States. He names different races, sexual orientations, political parties, disabilities and the American segregation of Red and Blue States. In this moment he set a powerful and assertive tone because he provided that the answer to his presented problem was found in the answer amongst all these groups. His repetitiveness helped establish the seriousness of his “answer” and overall it built for great suspense. An intriguing part about Obamas speech was him bringing up unity for the entire country which has been a huge debate in the birth and growth of the country. This emotional and historical fact brings a sense of peace, accomplishment and pride. This concept is traced back to the American Civil War in the 1860’s and the Reconstruction phase that ultimately tried to seal the wounds that the war had caused on the destruction of unity in the country. Before the Civil War Americans were not given the same liberty privileges. Northern states advocated for the abolishment of slavery and the Southern states favored slavery. The North and South was segregated by political parties. So, after the Civil War, the abolishment of slavery was accomplished through the difficult ratification of amendments. (Eric Foner) The powerful “answer” that Obama mentions at the beginning of his speech was not strategically solved, instead it was found in the people. His victory was transferred to the people by his amazing introduction.

Then, Obama starts thanking certain individuals for his campaigns victory. He begins by thanking Senator McCain and Governor Pain in their hard work in the campaign. He also singles out Joe Biden who then served as his right hand as Vice President. Obama then expresses his devotion and love his ultimate best friend and wife, Michelle Obama. He gives a special recognition to his daughters and even makes a subtle joke telling them they can finally get a puppy at the White House. Obama is known for having the ability give powerful speeches but at the same time he has the ability to make certain comments humorous and he does it here. Adding a little humor to a serious speech keeps the audience awake and intrigued. He also gives special recognition to his campaign manager and strategist advisor. So, as previously stated, Obama begins by stating that the answer to the American question is given by the people. Then he personally and humbly thanks all his loved ones. But he concludes his acknowledgments by ultimately thanking the American citizens. Again, he acknowledges that the victory belongs to the people, and not him, “But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to- it belongs to you.” This is a humble and strategic use of pathos because, again, he is immediately transferring his victory as president and giving it to the people. Nonetheless, he states that his campaign was not built on a lot of money, rather it began with the small contributions by those who believed in him. It was built by the working class, the young and the older. He ends this paragraph by stating his repetitive method of “This is your victory.” Repetitiveness creates emotion and emphasis in the authors message. Obamas message was clear, the victory was for the people. (Repetition)

Now that he successfully thanked the people and his personal partners in achieving victory, for the people, he begins to talk with care about safety, rights and unity. The importance about Obama’s victory speech is that he wants the audience to know that he cares. He cares for everyone, even those who do not support him. As he claims, he even asserts that he will listen to those who fall under disagreement with his policies. He cares about everyone’s opinion and the overall well establishment of the United States. Obama makes is a point that everyone’s protected speech is subject to be heard under his presidency, as it should be under the First Amendment. He cares to know about the proclamations that others have to make in regard to the welfare of the country. However, this empowering and self-assuring speech is disregarded in today’s society because the safety that Obama ensures is not the same with the current president. If that were the case, gun restriction policies would be heard by the President and his Republican Party. Now, countries such are Uruguay, Japan and Venezuela urge its citizens to postpone flights to the United States because the U.S is suffering of mass shootings fed by racisms and discrimination. They even urge people to avoid large public gatherings where firearms are used on large populations of people. Mass shootings were not one of Obama’s main concepts in resolution for the country because they were not this dangerous during his elected term. Safety issue was not a matter of subject for Obama. Instead he claimed that everyone had to participate in the production of laws. Should this have been a matter of serious debate, then only a reasonable person, after reading his victory speech, would conclude that a resolution of this sort is something Obama would have ensured in his victory. Instead, he ensured people that he cares to listen, and he encourages everyone to take matters on legal matters, in this case, gun restrictions. The analysis in Obama’s speech is important because it is completely different from that of our current President, Donald Trump. At the beginning of Trumps victory speech he mentions how he had just received a call from Secretary Clinton and how she was congratulating him for his victory. He claimed, “She congratulated us. It’s about us.” Trump specifically made the victory for Trump supporters as opposed to Obama who transferred his victory to the people. Towards the end of his speech he says, “… we’re going to be doing a job that hopefully you will be so proud of your President.” (Trump’s Victory Speech) In comparison to Obama’s victory speech he made the speech more about himself and his win in the 2016 presidential election. After carefully reading Mr. Trump’s victory speech it didn’t provide the same sense of care that Obama built. The speech Trump introduced was not as passionate, critical or hopeful. Throughout his presidential campaign he promoted white supremacy. He promised to throw every immigrant back to their country while making inappropriate comments about the immigrants. As a result, mass shootings by white supremacists targeting minority groups has increased. The safety of America is not concrete, it is in danger. Many Americans are distraught and attending public events is discouraging because of its lack of safety. It is the opposite today, of what Obama’s Victory Speech promoted because today’s president does not offer the same care to listen to the opposing persons viewpoints.

After careful consideration of the safety repercussions that the country has faced based off of Trumps lack of care in his speeches, the overall rights reserved to the people in Obama’s victory speech will be analyzed. Obama’s intriguing sentence, “And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in American for two-hundred and twenty-one years- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.” Here, Obama is encouraging the citizens of the United States to participate in legislative matters. Policies are introduced by the people, they elect their presidents, they vote, and they use their rights to help make a change in the country. The United States is a democracy by which the people govern through an elected set of representatives enact on behalf of the people. (Smithsonian) Obama upholds this truth by encouraging for everyone to be involved in the governing of the United States through their granted jurisprudential rights. It is because citizens in the past exercised their rights, that they were successfully able to overpass some of the United States most detrimental moments in history. Some examples of some detrimental moments in American history are given in Obamas victory speech: slavery, Dust Bowl, Great Depression, war. Yet, America conquered it all. It was conquered when American citizens took the action to exercise their given rights and it is because of the people that America was able to have an African American president. Obama does a great job in caring Ann Nixon Cooper through a timeline of America’s history and evoking a sense of pride and achievement. Obama’s message was that the rights are owned by the people, and it is when they take full control of these rights that they are able to overcome any national problems. Obama evokes this American pride in the people, and he claims that anything is possible under the rights that pertain to the people. Most importantly, after every accomplishment that the United States overcame, Obama ends it with an empowering “Yes we can.” 

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“Yes we can,” not only applies to the successful achievements granted by the people exercising their rights but it also refers to the Obamas encouragement of unity in the country. It is only when the United States is united that they are able to overcome difficult moments. Obama declares that yes, the country has been successful in many things, but there are a lot more accomplishments that the country must overcome, and it will be done as a united country. “… that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people…” This statement is essential to the importance of unity. Unity is important in a democracy and throughout history it has been evident that every time the country is divided, the people suffer many consequences. In early American history, slavery was considered normal in society. Slavery was legal, it even lasted nearly two and a half centuries before the 13th amendment was ratified, and slavery was abolished. In this crucial time period in American history, the colonies were divided into the North and the South. It is no secret that former president Abraham Lincoln owned slaves, nor did he agree that slavery should be abolished but it is because he preferred the well-being of the country that he decided to abolish slavery. This wasn’t the only divide witnessed in the United States. It is seen today with the very different views between the two most powerful parties in America, the democrats and the republicans. However, in Obama’s victory speech he promotes that his victory was a huge step in unity. America was able to abolish slavery and further down in the future it was able to have an African American president. Both of these things were signs of unity and progressive American legislation that allowed both of these circumstances to even occur. So, in the victory speech, Obama cherished unity and declared that a united America can achieve anything. However, this sense of national unity seems so distant today. Now, President Trump has caused a divide in the country by insulting many public officials, specifically those belonging to the democratic party. He has urged the separation of immigrant families by holding them in detention camps where they are being treated inhumane. Many in the country urge for this type of conduct to be illegal and immediately stopped; meanwhile, others declare that it is only right that these families be detained and sent back to their country. The unity once felt in Obama’s victory speech seems so distant in history.

In 2009, Barack Obama delivered a sincere victory speech that created a sense of care under his presidential term. Obama’s empowering and patriotic word choice caused the people to feel safe, motivated to exercise their rights and to stay united in order to overcome any national obstacles. Obama gave this victory to the people and he promised to listen to his people, even those that may disagree with him. Much of what Obama delivered is very different to what today’s president has offered. There is a dramatic and very disputable difference in the type of presidents the United States has had over the past decade. Today, Obama is missed. Today, the United States does not feel as safe. Today, the country is divided. However, in 2009, Obama declared that as long as the United States used their rights, it could achieve the impossible. There is still hope, and the “Yes we can” has not been forgotten.

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