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A More Perfect Union: Rhetorical Analysis

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The speech titled “A More Perfect Union” was delivered by now President of the United States, then Senator Barack Obama on March 18, 2008. The delivery was a fitting location where the United States Constitution was signed over 200 years ago in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The root cause for the speech was to confront a speech given by Obama’s pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. He had made extremely racially accused statements pertaining to both Israel and the United States. In our world of internet media and 24 hour news casting, these clips were constantly played and stirred up a lot of ire among the American people. The then Senator decided to write and deliver a speech to address concerns that our country had regarding his affiliation with Reverend Wright. Furthermore, he wished to use this opportunity to discuss prevalent issues of racial tension in America and how it weakens our country.

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This particular speech is fascinating since it possesses the retains fundamental elements of alluring eloquence. The basic study of rhetoric involves researching opposing arguments, misunderstanding and misperceptions. Rhetorical analysis relevance is characterized by an aptitude use strategic oratory, as well as being able to write and communicate in a way the public will understand. Barack Obama is unusual in that most politicians have professional speech writers to write their speeches, however Obama did this one on his own; a very unique and impressive feat.

Barack Obama recognizes that media outlets consistently search “for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well” (Paragraph 7). The viewing public is aware, although they may not openly discuss, that there is a blatant division among various races. The mere idea that Obama is amenable to address what many consider, “The elephant in the room,” is extraordinary. As the crux of his speech, he states , “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.” This is one that must be easily fit within the parameters of our nations Constitution. He illustrates his understanding of previous circumstances and immediate concerns not just within the US, but in a global market. One of the most paramount endowments of our great country is “legacy of slavery and Jim Crow”(Paragraph 24). Currently, there are severe conflicts throughout the world, mostly centered within the Middle East. The public knows he is fully aware of history, as well as present day conflicts that affect us and other countries.

His genetic make-up was also another universal theme in his “A More Perfect Union” speech. He states Africa is the origin of all humanity and that African blood flows through his veins. His father is from Kenya and his mom is a white woman from Kansas. Thus he has slave and slave owner blood. He married a woman, who too has slave and slave owner blood in her heritage. He is the father of two children who are of European and African descent. This multicultural heritage gives him an upper hand on race and race relations. He says, “ his story is seared into his genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts-that out of many, we are truly one” (Paragraph 6). Obama’s capability to tell this powerful story gives him dominance when creating a biological connection with the public. We truly are a country of immigrants. Not only now, but many of us who have multiple generations of American heritage, have origins to ancestors that came to Ellis Island near the turn of the 20th Century. His ability to appeal to the emotions of so many Americans with thought provoking imagery, allusions and feelings about the sensitive topic of race, is what makes him one of the greatest orators of our time.

It is unnecessary to re iterate the deep seated feelings of wrongdoing and racial injustice that has governed our country through decades. Even post Civil War, many African Americans were persecuted and discriminated against when all they wanted was to become normal, contributing, integrated members of society. However, it is fair to point out that after the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s and racial inequality, particularly prevalent in the Southern states, there are still many imbalances between the black and white communities. These disparities are directly correlated to feelings, stereotypes and inequalities that have continued from generation to generation. Many of our parents and grandparents were subject to the legacy of Jim Crow. Obama appeals to the audience with his knowledge of past events and illustrates that racism in this modern era, has roots in our history. This cannot be placed on the back burner of our minds and must be confronted and dealt with immediately. Barack Obama can force an audience to reflect within themselves and dredge up emotions that many have suppressed.

For this hallmark speech, and many other of his speeches, he uses basic elements from “The Uses of Argument by Toulmin. The primary schema used for argument interpretation contain six segments: Qualifier, Claim, Data, Warrant, Evidence and Rebuttal. There is a varying degree of force present in the speakers certainty pertaining to a claim. The latter is the conclusion that warrants merit while data is the research uses as its foundation. The warrant permits the speaker to motate from the data to the claim while presenting the evidence to back up that statement. Finally the rebuttal is the Devil’s Advocate so to speak, a myriad of questions or declarations that may come up in order to refute the claim. Barack Obama has certainly mastered these argumentative elements in conjunction with his intelligence and charismatic demeanor when presenting such a moving speech.

    References
  • Obama, Barack H. “A More Perfect Union.” Philadelphia PA. 11 Dec. 2013. Speech.
  • Toulmin, Stephen. The Uses of Argument. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge UP, 2003. Print.
  • Sugrue, Thomas J. “A More Perfect Union? Barack Obama and the Politics of Unity.” Editorial. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of Technology. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.