How Does Barack Obama Engage His Audience?

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  • Topic: Late Show with David Letterman, The David Letterman Show, David Letterman
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  • Published : November 27, 2011
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Barack Obama engages his audience through means of promoting inclusivity, an informal friendly stance and a family appeal. The non-verbal communication and rhetorical devices Obama uses adds up to a very engaging speech. I will be comparing Obama’s race speech in Philadelphia with the David Letterman interview.

The structure of Obama’s Speech is very important. The words are made to flow from beginning to end, without break. The speech starts by Obama placing himself in history with the 1787 US Constitution – this factual evidence establishes Obama’s authenticity. The main body of the speech has a recurring theme of a ‘perfect’ America that ‘could be and should be’ perfected over time. He claims that America ‘may never be perfect’ but it can ‘always be perfected’. This encourages hope for the future generations within the audience. This repetition is memorable and has emphasis on the future generation, gaining the support of the families. Another key feature of the structure is the rule of three. Obama uses many words repeatedly, for example, ‘constitution’. A union between the government and its people is also a repetitive theme, as it tightens the bondage with all the people, ‘black or white’. The end of the speech is simple but blunt to the point – ‘but this is where we start’. This again places him in history, and gives the speech a circular form.

Establishing rapport with the audience is a key in any speech. Obama’s main method is using non-verbal communication (NVC’s). A simple ‘chop’ gesture is often used throughout Obama’s interview and sometimes speeches. It separates selected points to emphasise them to the audience, and is a subtle gesture to show Obama’s organisation. Eye contact is also essential, as it will engage individual crowd members, making them feel enlightened or special. Stories are used to engage the audience on a more personal level, especially if they are about children. This was the case about the end of Obama’s speech, where he...
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