Barack Obama’s Rhetorical Analysis
Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama’s speech in New Orleans on February
7, 2008 showcases his skills as a linguist and orator, occurring in a setting that already has a
favorable attitude toward the candidate.
The circumstances surrounding the speech further
exhibit a “perfect storm” for Obama; still hurting from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and
with Lousiana’s Democratic primaries occurring the next day, the audience exudes an electricity
that Obama capitalizes on with gusto.
Like a heavyweight boxer delivering precision blows to
his opponent, Obama works the crowd with well-timed jabs at the Bush Administration
integrated among personal asides and soaring optimism for the future of both New Orleans and
the U.S. as a whole.
Essentially, by painting his future Presidential administration as personal,
trustworthy, and pro-active, Obama wins the hearts and minds of his audience by appearing
instantly accessible and yet larger than life at the same time, taking advantage of the diverse
nature of New Orleans by first relating to its large minority population, and then promising them
real solutions after he has gained their trust through tactical use of ethos, logos, and pathos.
First, Obama uses ethos to relate to his audience by occasionally dropping the formal
nature of his speech in favor of personal asides and cultural references to New Orleans.
Although one might expect Obama to open his speech with a bang, he instead chooses to
carefully cultivate a relationship with the audience by appealing to their interests, especially
those with a certain significance to the city of New Orleans.
Obama’s opening line, “It's good to
be back in New Orleans. I'm just sorry that I'm a few days late for Mardi Gras,” may not be on
the same plane as “I Have a Dream,” but it eases any lingering tension in the pro-Obama crowd,
and most importantly, sends the underlying message, “I am one of you.”
The remark is
appropriate given the festive, iconoclastic reputation of the city, which favors ornate decorations