Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
On September 8th 2009 President Barack Obama delivered the speech “Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama: Back to School Event” at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. President Barack Obama encourages and motivates the students to take school serious and to work for their education, for their own, their parents and the countries good. The theme of the speech is responsibility and possibility.
Barack Obama begins his speech with a rhetorical question: “how’s everybody doing today?” he is being polite and doesn’t expect and answer, because he expects that they are doing good. He continues being polite and understanding. He talks about how it’s to come back to school after summer vacation. He knows the feeling, the students have and how their mind is still on vacation, he shows sympathy with the students by telling them a story about his mother’s way of educating her son: “Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, “This is no picnic for me either, buster.””
The reason why Obama gives this speech is because he wants to tell the students what responsibility they have for their education, just like he has given a speech to the teacher’s, parent’s and the government about their responsibilities. His statement is that the way to success isn’t as easy as it seems in the reality shows on TV, it’s hard. If you want a job you will need an education and therefore you will have to work, train and learn for it. Obama uses patriotism against the students and says that what they make of their education isn’t only important for themselves and their future but also the country’s future and how the nation will meet challenges in the future. He also says that quitting school, is the same as quitting your country, it all depends on the students and their education. “If you don’t do that - if you quit on school - you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.” To meet the greatest challenges as a nation Obama says that values as knowledge, skills, talents, intellect, insights, critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity and ingenuity is what they will need to learn during their education.
Again Obama sympathizes with the students when he says that he knows it isn’t always easy to do well in school because of the challenges and problems you have to deal with at home or with your friends. He also says that it isn’t an excuse for not doing well in school or nor trying to be good. America is the land of possibilities, it’s the land where you make your own destiny and your own future. To make himself more trustworthy he tells about three young people who have done it, gotten an education, even though they didn’t have the best circumstances and the best starting point. By telling these three stories he uses ethos and makes himself trustworthy, because these people are real and living proof that it’s possible. And by including these three people in his speech he emphasizes that there is no excuse for not taking school and education seriously.
At the same time Obama says that the expectations are not that you will succeed every time at everything, but that you try and do your best, to make this clear he gives examples. J K Rowling and Michael Jordan didn’t succeed the first time and they only succeed because they didn’t let the failures define them but they learned from them. They fell seven times but stood up eight times. Obama claims that the story of America is about people who don’t quit and give up even in the hardest times, but people who keep on going and keep on fighting because they love their country to much not to do what they are best at. These people found the nation, fought the civil war and the civil rights, they invented Google and Facebook. Obama’s questions to the students are: “So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?” What is the purpose of their education, how will they help the nation in the future?
Besides using a rhetorical question, ethos, pathos and appealing to the patriotism Obama appeals to his audience by using a lot of triads to underline his points: “So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you.” On page two Obama uses two triads in one paragraph to really underline his point that no matter what your dream is, if you know it or not, you will need an education to do it. Obama sets up a contrast between giving up and failure. He doesn’t think that it is the same thing, because if you give up on school, you also give up on your future and the nation’s future, failure is the bumps on the way to success and what in the end leads to success. During the whole speech Barack Obama doesn’t use a difficult language or difficult words, he appeals to his audience because he is down to earth. His words are chosen specifically to this speech because of the audience. He knows his audience and that, it isn’t high educated people who have a big vocabulary but students from kindergarten to twelfth grade, they are still in the learning process. All of this are noticeable in his speech and this is the reason why Barack Obama is such a good speaker, he can relate to everybody and makes everybody relate to him and listen to him. One of the things Obama is famous for is the fact that he is very clear in his speeches and the audience has no doubt about what the message of his speech is. In this case Obama wants to tell the students what is expected of them, what their responsibilities and possibilities are. What will they make of their education and the nation’s future.
I therefore conclude that Barack Obama reaches the audience in his speech and he is throughout the whole speech clear about the message of the speech and what is expected from the students. The overall message is that nothing is impossible but it’s your responsibility to make it possible. Obama gave the students the resources to get an good education, know it’s up to the students to make a choice, give up on the nation or be a part of the future and help the nation fight the challenges in the future.
[ 1 ]. Barack Obama - Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama: Back to School Event - page 1 l. 1
[ 2 ]. Barack Obama - Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama: Back to School Event - page 1 ll. 14-16
[ 3 ]. Barack Obama - Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama: Back to School - page 2 ll. 62-64
[ 4 ]. Barack Obama - Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama: Back to School - page 5 ll. 158-160
[ 5 ]. Barack Obama - Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama: Back to School - page 5 ll. 164-165
[ 6 ]. Barack Obama - Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama: Back to School - page 2 ll. 39-45