Essay on Barack Obama Speech Analysis
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Public speaking skills are very important to anyone that aspires to be a politician. Barack Obama, the president of the United States, is known for being a very good public speaker. In fact, Richard Greene of the Huffington Post ranked Barrack Obama as “America's third greatest presidential orator” (Greene). Throughout this paper, I will be analyzing the speech delivery and the organizational structure of Barrack Obama. The specific speech that I will be analyzing is the speech given by President Obama at the 2012 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. In addition to giving my opinion on the president’s organization and delivery, I will also be giving advice on what he could have done better. Organization is a huge part of…show more content…
Public speaking skills are very important to anyone that aspires to be a politician. Barack Obama, the president of the United States, is known for being a very good public speaker. In fact, Richard Greene of the Huffington Post ranked Barrack Obama as “America's third greatest presidential orator” (Greene). Throughout this paper, I will be analyzing the speech delivery and the organizational structure of Barrack Obama. The specific speech that I will be analyzing is the speech given by President Obama at the 2012 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. In addition to giving my opinion on the president’s organization and delivery, I will also be giving advice on what he could have done better. Organization is a huge part of making a speech and could mean the difference between a great speech and a mediocre speech. Barack Obama’s speech was very well put together. It also sounded and looked well-rehearsed. Most of his speech was done in topical order with very few topics being covered in chronological order. Obama definitely accomplished his goal of getting the crowd excited to hear his speech through the use of a very creative attention getter. His attention getter consisted of lots of humor, but also highlighted some of his accomplishments during his first term as president. For example, President Obama stated that "Last year at this time, this very weekend, we finally delivered justice to one of the world's most notorious individuals,” jokingly followed by a
Barack Obama can rise to the big rhetorical occasion. We all know that, so it was no surprise on Tuesday morning that he pulled out the stops for his acceptance speech in Chicago, re-elected for a second term despite the recession and his own underwhelming record in office, the backdrop to a bitterly partisan campaign against Mitt Romney. I found it more poignant than was probably intended.
In an age where the conversational style of television interviews is the dominant style of public discourse – the glib soundbite, the personal confession, the unconvincing attempts by extraordinary men (if only in the size of their egos) to persuade voters they are just like them – people often mistrust the big speech with its naked appeal to suspend disbelief.
Why? Because the 20th century was littered with such promises, most notoriously in the mid-century heyday of totalitarianism, though it is always worth recalling that Franco, Stalin and Mao were not public speakers in the Hitler or Mussolini mould. Churchill was an old-school rhetorician, but America's FDR, hero of the fight against Depression and war, specialised in the radio "fireside chat".
Both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, folksy exponents of Middle America's virtues, could do both. Tony Blair was pretty good. Margaret Thatcher, like Charles de Gaulle and William Gladstone, addressed all audiences as if they were a public meeting (as Queen Victoria complained of Gladstone), exceptional public figures all of them. Most of the time we have to settle for greater mediocrity.
Was the animating spirit of this morning speech actually Jack Kennedy, whose inaugural State of the Union address in 1961 stirred many listening hearts? The cadences were there, but so were those of Martin Luther King: the preacher's habit of repetition on a rising note which are so familiar to millions of Americans, black and white.
But Kennedy's speech famously focused on the historic tussle with Soviet communism – then nearing its peak – the young, new president's willingness to "pay any price", his challenge to Americans to "ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country".
Stirring stuff but, in the America that Obama leads, international affairs take second place to healing domestic wounds and squaring up to the challenge – political, economic, cultural, educational – that comes from a resurgent Asia. Russia, hobbled as usual by a command economy incompetently run, was never the threat that China poses. But China has not been the dominant focus of this election.
Obama's problem has always been that he can hit the high notes of the politician's trade, but not the low ones, the ones that "squares or squashes" his opponents – the phrase is David Lloyd George's, a British reformer who could do both – and persuades voters to follow down necessary roads they may not want to travel. He promises to try harder second time around. Good.
But that comes later. Tuesday was an occasion for the lofty phrase about the bright, if tarnished, promise of America's future and for gestures of conciliation to a defeated opponent and his supporters.
Here's an example of the healing Obama: "That's why elections matter. It's not small, it's big. It's important. Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy. That won't change after tonight. And it shouldn't. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty."
Here he is being upbeat: "We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the best teachers, a country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation with all of the good jobs and new businesses that follow. We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened up by inequality, that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet."
And here's a gesture to that cherished belief in American uniqueness (the "last, best hope of mankind", as once put by Abraham Lincoln, the republic's most beloved president, and a crafty public speaker in the folksy and lofty departments): "We want to pass on a country that's safe and respected and admired around the world, a nation that is defended by the strongest military on Earth and the best troops this – this world has ever known – but also a country that moves with confidence beyond this time of war to shape a peace that is built on the promise of freedom and dignity for every human being."
But he was also more personal than Mr Cool usually feels able to be, a tribute to his magnificent campaigner of a wife, and an affectionate ("one dog's enough") gesture to his kids. Obama has been making similar remarks throughout the campaign, but they come better from a winner, exhausted, evidently grateful and relieved.
The president struck what Democratic voters – and many conservatives as well as liberals abroad – will find to be more persuasive notes than Governor Romney might have offered: inclusivity, education, the need to get the US federal budget back into better balance, to protect the weak and hold the ever-more powerful of corporate America to better account.
He mentioned military wives, and the need to ensure that their husbands get civilian jobs on leaving the services, and families struggling to pay the bills for sick children – one in Mentor, Ohio, no less, how suitable for a mentoring president – of the women and Hispanic voters, and the young, who helped to secure his second term.
But he doggedly stuck to the grooves of the American dream. "You can make it here in America if you're willing to try," he said towards the end. Well, yes, and his own improbable career as America's first Pacific president as well as its first black one shows it can still be done.
But all the data about rising inequality and stalled middle-class incomes, which is a story at least a generation old now, reminds his listeners how hard the dream has become for millions, especially for the poorer whites who – unlike many of the women, blacks and Hispanics in Obama's coalition – have seen their living standards and prospects decline.
With or without the rise of China, this would be a problem. It is the dysfunctional American political system which has gridlocked Washington, raising the prospect of the "fiscal cliff" disaster in a few weeks' time if compromise is not reached. Obama's victory does not guarantee success; far from it. That was the poignancy of this morning's speech for me.
"I have never been more hopeful about America's future," the president said. Well, good luck. Here's hoping he knows something the rest of us can't quite see; even if it is only his own determination to learn from past mistakes and do better.