President B. Obama’s speech “Back to School”
President Barack Obama held a speech called “Back to School” delivered at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia on September 8th 2009. Barack Obama addresses the values of hard work and taking the responsibility for paving success, no matter how hard the obstacles might be. The intention of the President’s speech is to persuade and motivate students all over America to stay focused, do their best, and take full advantage of their potential, and make America proud.
Barack Obama’s main arguments are first of all focused on the responsibility the students have for their country. Obama has already talked to parents, teachers, and the government about the responsibility they have for setting high standards, inspiring, support and a save environment for the students, but in the end none of that really matters if the students don’t fulfill their responsibility for the school. He describes how no one is useless, and everyone can contribute “Everyone has something to offer” He even gives examples and ideas of how the future might look for some people. This bright future is paired with what is relevant to the young students at this point in time such as “The knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math….. the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies…. And the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes” He uses anaphora a lot in this text, where he repeats different classes and why the classes are important in life, because a lot of students struggle to see the relevance of what they are learning and by giving this perspective, Obama is able to show a generation of students that they are truly the ones who will become a strong and powerful generation.
It’s an American value and a duty to be a representative not only for themselves but for the whole country. No one is born smart but through hard work and dedication, everyone has the same opportunity to become everything in life. He states that life can be hard and acknowledges that some people have it worse than others because of their appearance, ethnicity or financial but “Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up” and “That’s no excuse for not trying” – Which is a typical American value, because of the equal opportunities, everyone has the same chance to become something, no matter gender, religion or background. Everyone has the same opportunity to do well in life. And that is one of the most important values in the American history. He even talks about the American dream, which is based on the notion of creating own happiness, success and a bright future – and with that, the pathos ’meter’ can’t get any higher! Obama is definitely a patriot, he is proud of America, and feels a strong support for his country.
Obama opens the speech with a simple “How’s everybody doing today?” His sets the scene and reaffirms his authority not just as the most influential, and powerful person in the world, but more significantly, as an equal. He uses pathos to get the students attention and reliability. He appeals to the students and their emotions when he acknowledges the nervousness of the new students, the good feeling of being a senior and the fact that some of the students probably already miss the summer. He gives the speech a personal touch by telling the students about the way he felt, when he was their age. He appears down to earth which builds up a relationship between the President, the students and inspires mutual confidence.
Obama uses everyday and intelligible language. He uses both loose and periodic sentences – mostly loose, while his language is understandable, but yet formal. He modifies his language to youngsters. He doesn’t talk down to the reader, but shows understanding and respect. Despite this he still appears as a leader, when he demands the students to be serious and put their best effort into everything they do.
Barack Obama is very present as a writer, he uses the pronoun »I« a bunch of times, he even talks about himself to show his inner feelings and get a connection to the reader. The quality of this feature is down to earth, and very personal.
He also uses a lot of argumentative features. He gives arguments for almost everything he says. It’s an important subject, and he wants the American students to do their best in school. For example he says “(…..) skills, and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country” Here he even wants the reader to feel guilty, for not doing their best. All over the speech he uses argumentative feature with a lack of pathos, so it gets more personal and emotional. The President repeats himself many times, because he wants to make his case clear. For example he states that “Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up” afterwards he gives 3 examples of how Jazmin Perez didn’t speak English, but she worked hard and is now studying public health. Andoni Schultz who fought brain cancer, and because of hard work he is headed to college. And Shantell Steve, who lived with several foster families, and is now starting a program to help youngsters in crime. Here he repeats himself, because he wants to make it clear that no matter where you are from or what you are, with hard work anything is achievable.
The function of the features have the same quality, Obama uses pathos and ethos to get the reader’s attention and respect. So he can make his case clear, that anything is possible, with hard work.
The speech is exceptional because its purpose is to inform and encourage students all over America to do well in school, which it does. Barack Obama is inspiring, cheerful but still demanding in his speech, which gives him the big respect, and authority he has. Despite the fact that the speech has a very American attitude and outlook on life, there is still one universal truth, which is applicable all over the world, which is that knowledge is the strongest trait and it shall pave the way to greatness and success.