Barack Obama: a more perfect union
“A More Perfect Union” is a speech that was delivered by Barack Obama on March 18, during his tenure as the senator of the state of Illinois. It was delivered in Philadelphia, in the state of Pennsylvania next to a historical site, which marked the signing of the Constitution of the United States. The speech’s primary purpose was to give a response to racially charged comments made by one of Obama’s pastors, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, which were strongly against Israelites and Americans. In the speech, Obama gives a clarification on his association or affiliation with Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Obama attempts to address myriads of issues in the US related to racial discrimination, and how the issues or practices have jeopardized the operations and efforts to eliminate discrimination in the country. There have been concerns and questions regarding the credibility of the speech and how it highlights the five canons of rhetoric including invention, arrangement, style, delivery, and memory.
First, Barack Obama’s speech echoes the rhetorical canon of invention. The latter, according to Aristotle, involves the discovery of the best means of persuasion. Although the rhetorical canon of invention sounds simple, it is one of the most difficult phases in speech writing because it must lay the groundwork for other phases. The primary purpose of invention is to ensure that the audience is well aware of how and what the speaker is going to say during his speech. Invention is evident in the use of the rhetorical concepts of ethos, pathos, and logos. It should be noted that in the speech, Obama focuses on giving factual information, gives interjections of historical references, and explains to the audience the extent of his family tree. At some point in his speech, he says, “I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas” (Sharpley-Whiting 237). Ideally, this statement is given in an attempt to persuade the audience, the canon of invention is highlighted in the speech.
Second, the rhetorical canon of arrangement is also echoed in the speech. Arrangement simply refers to how a given speech or writing is organized with the aim of ensuring maximum persuasion. In this case, Obama introduces the speech when he says that “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.” He goes ahead to state facts affiliated to his topic of racism. For instance, he says that “Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety…” Moreover, throughout the speech, Obama divides his arguments and opinions effectively, and this makes it understood easily. Also, he gives proofs and refutation throughout his speech and concludes his speech effectively.
Effective speech delivery depends on how the speaker presents his or her ideas, and what he does to make people want to listen more, and this is referred to as style. It is should be noted that the canon of style is echoed in Obama’s speech “A more perfect union.” Throughout the speech, Obama correctly follows the rules of grammar and syntax, and thus, clear and precise communication is ensured throughout his speech. His message about the need to eliminate the practice of racism is also clear. He says that “I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles, and cousins from every race and hue, scattered across continents” (Sharpley-Whiting 237). Moreover, the use of style in the speech is underlined by the fact that he gives evidence to what he says. He quotes the American Constitution on several occasions, and thus, the audience is easily convinced or persuaded.
The canon of memory is also echoed in Obama’s speech. The choice of words and phrases makes the speech memorable, and can be remembered by the audience several years later. The statement “I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas” (Sharpley-Whiting 237) is memorable. Most of the statements given in the entire speech can be remembered by the audience later, and thus, the fact that the canon of memory is echoed in the speech is highlighted. Besides, it is argued that Obama memorizes most of his speeches and delivers them eloquently, the speech titled “A more perfect union” included.
The fact that the canon of delivery is echoed in the speech “A more perfect union” cannot be ignored. Arguably, unlike style that concentrates on what language is used by a speaker, delivery concentrates on the mechanics and strategies that a speaker uses to impart his or her message. Many a times, speakers use body language, hand gestures, and tonal variation to deliver their message. In the video recordings of this speech, it is evident that Obama used hand gestures to impart his message on the audience. On various occasions, he pauses and is applauded by the audience, and this is common in most of his speeches.
In conclusion, the speech “A more perfect union” is excellent in every perspective and this is because all the five canons of rhetoric are echoed. With its primary objective to give a response to the racially charged comments made by Reverend Jeremiah Wright, which were strongly against Israelites and Americans, Obama achieves the objective. It remains one of the most appreciated speeches of Obama, who currently is the President of the United States.
Sharpley-Whiting, T D. The Speech: Race and Barack Obama’s “a More Perfect Union”. , 2009. Internet resource.