Obama 2004 Speech

Topics: United States, Barack Obama, Democratic Party Pages: 19 (4366 words) Published: May 29, 2014
First Analysis - Obama's 2004 DNC Cpeech
This is the first entry in this site looking at great speeches in history, in movies, in business – wherever they can be found. Suggest some speeches, and if they’re great I’ll analyse them. The purpose of this blog is to try and give you some insight into why speeches work and how you can craft a speech that will win the argument, win the business, or maybe even win the heart of a loved one. In each case I’ll give some history to place the speech into context (either into the context of the speaker’s life or the context of surrounding historical events), some general comments and an in-depth review of the speech. I will reproduce the speech according to how it was delivered wherever I can source the video or audio of the speech being delivered, and I use a single line space where the speaker took a small pause and a double line space where there was a larger, more definite pause or a break in the speech to move to a new section. So here’s the first speech!

Obama’s 2004 Democratic National Conference Speech

The first speech I’m going to look at is Barack Obama’s speech to the Democrat National Conference in 2004. John Kerry was the Democrat candidate for the Presidency, and Obama had the keynote spot at the Conference. This speech needs little introduction, and I think it is the most effective of all of Obama’s speeches. Why the most effective? It turned him from someone with massive potential who was known amongst political circles into a political celebrity.. 0-60 in one speech.

What worked well?
A great speech brings together three aspects – the right speaker, with the right message, at the right time. Sometimes you may be the wrong speaker, sometimes the message won’t be right and sometimes the timing of the speech isn’t perfect (i.e. when you are giving it rather than the timing in the delivery). A great speechwriter convinces the audience that all three of these aspects are in perfect alignment, like some kind of rare planetary occurrence. They convince the audience that they are not listening to just another speech, but rather are witnessing a special moment. Obama’s speech covers all three aspects and you are left with the impression that he is a man whose message was right, whose delivery was right and whose time had come.

The writer of this speech also has a very strong appreciation of American heritage – references are made to Lincoln, and there is a strong link to the abiding American story arc. There are references to the key shared experiences of the American people, and to those values which are said to underpin America. The speech sets out Obama’s values and history in a flattering fashion that makes him eminently electable to those of the right political persuasion.

Finally, there is a wealth of rhetorical devices to be found in the speech.

The detailed analysis

My comments are in red

On behalf
of the great state of Illinois,


crossroads of a nation,
Land of Lincoln,
(Already he refers to Lincoln, a highly respected former President famous for the Gettysburg Address) let me express my deepest gratitude
for the privilege of addressing this convention.

Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let’s face it, my presence on this stage
is pretty unlikely.

My father was a foreign student,
born and raised
in a small village in Kenya.
He grew up herding goats,
went to school in a tin-roof shack.
His father -- my grandfather -- was a cook,
a domestic servant to the British.
(He has set a vivid picture of his father’s childhood – a basic existence)

But my grandfather had larger dreams
for his son.
Through hard work and perseverance
my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place,
that shone as a beacon of freedom and opportunity
to so many who had come before.
(Note the use of contrast – the contrast of the basic Kenyan life and the life in America. Also note the use of a metaphor of a...
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