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How Does Obama Make His 2008 Victory Speech Successful?

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    President Barack Obama uses a wide variety of techniques to make a successful victory speech. The main features that allowed this were his choices of language; rhetorical devices; his mode of delivery; paralinguistic & prosodic features; and his structure. Obama’s speech is full of carefully thought out language choices that all give a specific effect on the audience. For example, many times in the speech Obama repeats the first person pronoun ‘we’ which makes the audience feel included and involved giving them a strong sense of belonging.

    Obama links this into his use of abstract nouns like ‘hope’, which make a connection with the audience on an emotional level. This is effective because most of the points Obama discusses in his speech are intangible ideas, creating a link between the listeners giving them a common dream and goal of change and development. At the same time Obama also uses emotive/provocative language like ‘despair’ and ‘depression’ which appeals to the audiences emotions and bonds them. This is also effective in grabbing the audience’s attention because it incites them into listening how Obama will change the ‘desperate’ situation in America.

    This is used with the phrase ‘Our Children’ to make an individual connection to the audience. This is effective because it makes the audience feel stronger about a need for change and Obama since it gives something personally emotional that they can all relate to. Another example is where Obama talks about ‘millions’ of people, which is effective because it gives the audience a sense of the scale of choice they made, and also encourages them, that they made the right decision because so many people wouldn’t have chosen Obama if he was wrong.

    As well as word choices Obama used many rhetorical devices to make his speech more persuasive and interesting. For example, in the first part of the speech extract, Obama uses an anecdote of the 106 year old Ann Nixon Cooper to convey a large section of the American history through her eyes. This is effective because it gives the audience something to simple relate to and it also since she is a woman, it leaves the audience more emotionally touched and interested by her story therefore more emotionally vulnerable to Obama’s words.

    Obama uses this anecdote to make many different Exophoric references to various past situations. One example is ‘she was there for the buses in Montgomery’ which is referencing to Martin Luther King and the bus boycott. This is effective because a mutual admiration for Martin Luther King will makes the audience more sympathetic to Obama’s cause. At the same time, Obama also combines this with the Antithesis like ‘heartache and hope’. This causes the audience to make a comparison between the two ideas, causing the good point to be emphases.

    This highlights the good traits of America making the audience feel positive, and therefore positive about his campaign. Also, another example is where Obama uses tripling like ‘New Deal, new jobs, and a new sense…’ to make his speech more memorable. This is effective in this case because it is emphasizing a fresh start with the repetition of the word new, and it makes the audience look forward to the changes Obama will make. This links in with Obama’s many repetitions of the famous exophoric reference phrase from his latter speeches ‘yes we can’ as an Epistrophe.

    This makes the speech more memorable by giving it a kind of theme, that the audience will remember it by. Another important feature of Obamas speech was his Mode of delivery. Throughout the speech extract Obama delivers a seemingly word-for-word memorized speech which conveys his confidence throughout the whole speech. This is important because it gives his speech certain fluency and rhythm which is very effective as it gives the impression to the audience that Obama knows what he’s talking about encouraging them and also it gives the audience hope that he can fulfil his promises.

    As well as this since there is no paper needed to hold, Obama can therefore use non-verbal language quite amply, which helps in getting his point across even more. One of the most essential features of Obama’s speech is his paralinguistic and prosodic features, which are closely resembled to a typical Afro-American sermon in the sense that in both there is intense participation of the audience. An example of this is How Obama pauses before every ‘yes we can’ resembling the traditional ‘amen’ sermon phrase.

    This lets the audience know what’s coming next letting them join in with the chant, uniting the audience. Another example of this is in the latter parts of the speech extract where Obama’s voice level changes to emphasize the points. This is because Obama wants them to leave with those points most prominent in their mind and is important in in rallying the audience up with him. This is effective because it makes an appeal to the audience’s heart because the audience think that Obama is passionate about America and really wants to help their Country, making them trust and believe in him more.

    This was linked in combination with intervals to make a more dynamic and emphatic speech. As well as this at the same time Obama uses a wide range of body language within his speech. An example of this is how Obama turns his head round continuously so he can acknowledge everyone there. This is effective because it engages the audience and makes each person feel like he cares about what they think. This is used together with how Obama uses intonation throughout to create a more memorable fluent rhythmic speech, which shows Obama’s confidence with his words.

    An example is how Obama lowers his tone on bad points and raises them on good. This is effective because it uses emotional prosody to further stresses the good points of America making the audience feel patriotic and good about their country, as well as his campaign. In addition, Obama uses a well thought out structure too effectively combine all of these features. For example, overall Obama uses a past, present, future structure to stir up feelings within the audience from their past, to their hopes for today, to their dreams for tomorrow.

    This is important because it lets Obama appeal to their emotions, and their hunger for change. This is effective as it lets Obama focus on more good points than bad, leaving the audience feeling determined and positive about their future and his campaign later on in the speech. All of these different aspects of Obamas speech helped him make a personal connection with the audience while thanking and reassuring them that they have chosen the right candidate, and that change will happen if they believe in him. Overall achieving his goal making it a successful speech.

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