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Barack Obama's Victory Speech

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Barack Obama’s Victory Speech: What rhetorical devices does he use and what is the intended effect?

When Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to thousands of Americans in 1963, nobody would have thought that one day America will be led by a black president. In November 2008, 45 years later, Barack Obama was elected as the first African American president in the history of the United States. From that day on he represented the dream come true of millions of his fellow citizens. In his victory speech, Barack Obama makes use of multiple rhetoric devices, in order to catch the people’s attention, make them strive for his goals and predominantly call for unity.

By a frequent use of the third person plural pronouns “we”, “us” and “our(s)”, Obama creates a sense of community and also puts himself on a level with his audience. To emphasize the role and importance of every single American for the future of the Nation, he lists some contrasting characteristics: “young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled”. All of these people play an important role and are part of the United States of America. Additionally, Obama expresses his dependence on the audience by expressions like “I cannot happen without you”. All of these devices, used to speak on behalf of the audience, create a strong feeling of unity.

Furthermore, Obama chooses the rhetorical devices of anaphora and epiphora cleverly. Throughout his whole speech, he repeats motivating starts and endings of sentences. Being confronted with phrases like “It’s the answer”, “Yes we can”, “This is our” and “we are one” over and over again, the audience is lead through Obama’s speech and can follow its multiple purposes more easily. Especially the epiphora “Yes we can”, which he uses towards the…...

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