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23 November 2008
Rhetorical Analysis of “A More Perfect Union” Speech
The speech titled “A More Perfect Union” was delivered by Senator Barack Obama on March 18, 2008 near the historical site of the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The speech responds to the video clip of Barack Obama’s pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, making racially charged comments against America and Israel. The pundits and various news media outlets played the clip repeatedly on the television, radio, YouTube, and podcasts.
First, the Senator’s speech attempts to address the nation on their concerns of his affiliation with Reverend Wright. Second, the speech addresses the sustaining and prevailing issues of race within America and how it paralyzes our nation.
The speech is compelling because it possesses the necessary elements of effective and persuasive rhetoric; in summation, Obama’s rhetoric works. Rhetoric is the study of opposing arguments, misunderstanding, and miscommunication.
Also, relevant to this analysis, rhetoric will be defined as the ability to speak and write effectively and to use language and oratory strategically. Despite the common employment of speech writers by most politicians, Senator Obama wrote the speech himself.
By addressing the misunderstanding and miscommunication connected to and perpetrated by racism in America, the audience sees precisely how effective Obama’s speech is when examined through such lenses as the classical and 20th century rhetorical theories and concepts from Aristotle, Richard Weaver, Stephen Toulmin, Chaim Perelman, and Michel Foucault.
Barack Obama’s speech echoes the rhetorical concepts of ethos, pathos, and logos that are explicitly discussed within Aristotle’s The Rhetoric. Ethos is how the speaker’s character and credibility aids his or her influence of the audience; whereas pathos is a rhetorical device that