In 2008, Barack Obama gave a speech, “The Perfect Union.” It provoked arguments among individuals. Some people criticized it for containing provocative statements and delicate topics. No one would ever dare to speak about them before. This essay provides Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech analysis.
The senator spoke about the complicated race relations between Americans and racism. It has deep roots in the history of the country. The analysis itself is going to provide some insight into Barack Obama’s speech strategy.
“A More Perfect Union” is the slogan of a speech by then-senator Barack Obama. He gave it during the 2008 Democratic Party primary contest for the presidential nomination on March 18, 2008. His audience was at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In essence, the address as a response to controversial statements. They were made by his former pastor and presidential campaign supporter Jeremiah Wright.
The speech played a considerable role in Barack Obama’s success in the 2008 presidential campaign. Such topics as the racial division in the US, white supremacy, and institutional racism were discussed. The speech also addressed black “anger,” white “resentment,” and other topics. Barack Obama sought to clarify and contextualize the controversial remarks of Wright. His speech concluded with a plea to push past the “racial stalemate” in America. People should unite to resolve common issues. The following “A More Perfect Union” speech analysis aims to discuss that.
A More Perfect Union: Race Relations
Barack Obama is very conscious of his audience and mindful of it in his message. His target group is the Americans and voters in particular. He goes further. After confronting the entire American population, he splits his audience into several groups.
The second group he mentions is White Americans. He talks about the racial scars which have continued to affect them through many generations. Barack Obama approaches the issue of racial inequality with patience. He ensures that he does not inflict more suffering or further divide based on race. Nevertheless, he does not hesitate to make his point clear.
Thirdly, Barack Obama talks to the African American population. He understands that they also see him as a black American. The people are, therefore, curious to see how he approaches racism issues.
His message to them shows no race favoritism. He states that ‘a similar anger exists within the segments of the white community’ (Obama, par. 35). While addressing them, he explains that this feeling is present among the whites every time the blacks get better services. They feel like they are paying for mistakes they did not make.
The presidential candidate is demonstrating his vast knowledge on the subject. He cautiously selects his words while addressing racism. The problem has affected American people for too many decades to be unattentive. His masterful approach to such a painful issue brings comfort to his listeners. The public seems calm and shows no hostile emotions. This is clear proof that he knows his crowd well enough to meet their needs.
After that, President Barack Obama made his message clear. Seeking solutions to the issues the American people faced is the primary goal. He warns them that silence on racism would not solve anything.
His speech includes the idea of tolerance and solidarity. He needs people to try to live with each other and to understand racial differences. Barack Obama makes sure he has addressed both groups equally. This way, he can unite them as one people and one audience. He also outlines the importance of speaking in one voice. Working together in cooperation is the best future for American citizens.
A More Perfect Union: Rhetorical Analysis
Barack Obama’s opening statements of ‘A More Perfect Union’ reveal the purpose of the speech. He takes his first phrase from the Constitution of the United States, ‘We the people, in order to create a perfect union.’ The statement captures the basis of the Constitutional Convention.
Throughout his address, Barack Obama uses three rhetorical strategies. His argument is based on the following: emotional, ethical, and logical fallacies. He describes himself through his reasoning regarding the audience. The famous quotes he extracts from the Constitution make those unfamiliar with it feel the value of his message (Stoner & Perkins 93). Barack Obama’s rhetorical analysis is aimed to deconstruct these fallacies.
Barack Obama, in his speech, criticizes the old legacy of slavery in America. He acknowledges the Constitution, though deems it unfinished. He tells his audience that the answers to their problems remain in the Constitution. According to the senator, it has flaws attributable to slavery in the country.
The senator is frustrated with the “unfinished” document. He is using a tone of deep disappointment to oppose slavery. He applies an ironic tone to describe how a continued slave trade left a burden on future generations. Thus, using various linguistic techniques helps to pass on his intended knowledge.
Barack Obama believes the Constitution offered the answer to the slavery question. He goes on to add that the assurances made on the paper have not been fulfilled. Barack Obama tells a great story about Ashley toward the end of his discourse. ‘I am here for Ashley,’, he says.
His public is aware of racism. Barack Obama is thinking about what has traditionally been untold. Through discussing his biological, mental, and cultural existence, he completes his philosophies. The senator speaks of his background and does not ignore his own identity. However, it does not appear in the speech. The senator carries out his address through body language, tone variation, and gestures.
He says, ‘But race is an issue I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now’ (Obama, par. 26). He assures the audience that race relations can become better in the USA.
Barack Obama also uses pathos to explain the evils which racism causes. He expresses his disapproval of racism in America. To resolve the challenges that racial prejudice creates, he encourages people to live and work together.
Barack Obama also makes use of repetition as a rhetorical approach to convince his voters. In Paragraph 45 of his speech, he pleads with his audience not to accept being divided by their weaknesses. There is a repetition of the word race in his speech. He recognizes race as a problem in American society in paragraph 26.
Moreover, the senator uses a variety of tactics to communicate with the target audience. His convincing appeal demonstrates that he is a successful author and presenter. Using compelling and adequate evidence shows his incontestable ability to move and convince his audience. He exemplifies the Constitution, his pastor, and his family, leaving everyone deeply impressed.
Barack Obama is shifting his tone to a more direct one. He says. ‘I deeply believe that we can not solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together’ (Obama, par. 6). The genuineness in his speech lasts to the end, making a constant residue in the remainder of the address.
So, in his talk, Barack Obama gives his supporters assurance and hope. He uses motivational terms such as ‘we can do that’ (Obama, par. 46), ‘we can only tackle race as a spectacle….’ (Obama, par. 45) and ‘we can come together and say: Not this time’ (Obama, par. 48). It becomes clear from where he derives his campaign slogan, ‘Yes we can’ and what it means for all Americans.
Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech rhetorical analysis has shown that the senator used numerous rhetorical devices. He implemented them to talk deliberately on the issue of race others would hesitate to address. Indeed, Barack Obama’s ability to deliver a complicated and convincing speech is evident. We can conclude from the analysis that he is a successful writer and knows his audience well.
He employed various figures of speech and narrative techniques. They helped him to deliver his key ideas to the people smoothly. During the Democratic National Convention, “A More Perfect Union” speech left an impression on his supporters and opponents. He was elected the President of the United States of America shortly after.
- Burke, Kenneth. Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method. 199, Berkeley: University of California Press. Print.
- Ifill, Gwen. The breakthrough: Politics and race in the age of Obama. 2009, New York: Doubleday. Print.
- Obama, Barack. Transcript of Obama Speech. 2010. Web.
- Stoner, Mark, & Perkins, Sally. Making Sense of Messages: A Critical Apprenticeship in Rhetorical Criticism. 2005, Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Print.