Unity and Duality in Barack Obama s A More Perfect Union -...

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Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at Download by: [Pennsylvania State University] Date: 16 March 2017, At: 08:08 Quarterly Journal of Speech ISSN: 0033-5630 (Print) 1479-5779 (Online) Journal homepage: Unity and Duality in Barack Obama's “A More Perfect Union” Robert E. Terrill To cite this article: Robert E. Terrill (2009) Unity and Duality in Barack Obama's “A More Perfect Union”, Quarterly Journal of Speech, 95:4, 363-386, DOI: 10.1080/00335630903296192 To link to this article: Published online: 10 Nov 2009. Submit your article to this journal Article views: 1330 View related articles Citing articles: 15 View citing articles
Unity and Duality in Barack Obama’s ‘‘A More Perfect Union’’ Robert E. Terrill Faced with a racialized political crisis that threatened to derail his campaign to become the first African American president of the United States, Barack Obama delivered a speech on race titled ‘‘A More Perfect Union.’’ He begins by portraying himself as an embodiment of double consciousness, but then invites his audience to share his doubled perspective, and finally models a doubled mode of speaking and acting that is captioned by the well-known maxim, the Golden Rule. This speech text thus contributes discursive resources required for the productive doubling necessary for the successful negotiation of contemporary public culture. Keywords: Race; Obama; Duplicity; Public Address; Double Consciousness In The Souls of Black Folk , W. E. B. Du Bois struck a phrase that has rung with extraordinary cultural resonance for over a century * ‘‘double consciousness.’’ 1 Partly, of course, it names a type of alienation, the ‘‘peculiar sensation’’ of ‘‘always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.’’ 2 Being always forced to see oneself through another’s eyes produces ‘‘a painful self-consciousness,’’ a sensation of ‘‘two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.’’ Yet Du Bois seems ambivalent. He recognizes that attaining a public voice requires African Americans ‘‘to merge [their] double self into a better and truer self,’’ but he does not seek to resolve or repair the duality of double consciousness through a transcendence that would meld the self into a seamless totality. ‘‘In this merging,’’ he explains, he ‘‘wishes neither of the older selves to be lost.’’ The African American, Du Bois argues, would not ‘‘Africanize America,’’ and nor would he ‘‘bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism.’’ Though Du Bois understood double consciousness as ‘‘arising broadly from blacks’ contradictory Robert E. Terrill is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University, Bloomington. He thanks the editor and the two anonymous reviewers for their suggestions, which have

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