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Analysis of President Obama's Inauguration Speech

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					                                     ENGLISH 4200 DR. LOPEZ




         Analysis of President
         Obama’s Inauguration
               Speech
                                Kairos and Proofs
                                          Angela G. Johnson
                                             2/12/2009




This analysis of President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech is an attempt to evaluate the words he
used in his speech for their value to kairos, an important rhetorical strategy and the three proofs:
ethical, logical and pathetic.
        There are probably not many people who would argue that President Obama is an eloquent

speaker. It was said during his campaign that his speeches had a way of captivating the masses in ways

that had not happened in a long time. People were moved and mesmerized by his oratorical ability.

Clinton had a similar effect on people except it was his personality and presence that made him unique.

President Obama possesses some rhetorical stategies that help make him the gifted speaker he is today.

It could be argued that his use of kairos as the three proofs in rhetoric: ethical, logical and pathetic

appeals- contribute to his success has a speaker.


        One of the most important functions of a great speaker is the effective use of kairos, saying the

right thing at the right time or seizing the moment. Obama’s use of words like “jobs, peace, America,

new, hope and better” are evidence of his use of kairos in his inauguration speech. These words are

important to Americans at this particular time in our history and his usage of such words demonstrates

the fact that he is in tune with his country. A specific example of kairos was when he said, “Today I say

to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met

easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America-they will be met”. We needed to hear that on

Inaugruation Day and it was the perfect time for him to say it. It assured some that they had made the

right choice and that a new era of leadership had indeed arrived.


        Thus far, Obama has been able to maintain credibility in his arguments and in his inauguration

speech. He is well educated, polished and has shown a great amount of integrity. His opening line from

the inauguration speech, “I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you

have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors,” is an awesome example of his ethos

and character. It shows that he is cognizant of his new responsibility and realizes how he got his new

job; it was bestowed upon him rather than given to him by the Supreme Court. Good character and

crediblity are powerful rhetorical tools and they are even more becoming when the new president of
the United States shares them because the previous president clearly did not! Unfortunately, some of

us had become accustomed to lies from the previous administration.


        His use of logical proofs, arguments found in the issue at hand, is also evident in his inaugration

speech. He began, “That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war,

against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred…” It makes perfect sense that Obama would

mention these issues because some of these are issues are why he was elected as President. It is logical

and reasonable for Americans to expect that he would mention these problems in our nation because

this was premise of his argument to become president of the United States. Throughout the president’s

campaign last year, he offered clearly defined plans for how he would attack our pre-exisiting condition

in America and his speech further explained and highlighted his plan of action. He made it abundantly

clear to everyone listening that he was in tune with America’s wants and needs and his ability to delivery

them.


        And finally one of Obama’s most powerful appeals used on inauguration day was pathetic

proofs. The facts that his election was a historical event and a pivotal moment in our country are two

reasons why so many people felt so emotional about his election. Furthermore his poetic use of lines

reminded us of our past and helped us embrace our future. Obama said, “For us, they fought and died,

in places like Concord and Gettysburg: Normandy and Khe Sanh” as a tribute to America’s past. He

added as a reminder of our greatness,”For they have forgotten what this country has already done;

what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to commom purpose and necessity

to courage.” But what was probably most pathetic was his pledge to non-Americans when he said, “To

the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean

waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.”
        In conclusion, I would venture to say while all of the proofs are important in an inauguration

speech; the ethical appeal is the most important. Ethics is an important factor, but it is even more

important right now to us because so many Americans felt mislead by our past administration. I think

people are beginning to feel like they can trust government again with Obama’s administration.

However, his use of kairos throughout his campaign and beyond can not be ignored either. His specific

knowledge of names, fact and numbers as they related to terrorism, the budget deficit, and

unemployment demonstrated that he knew what was on America’s mind Inauguration Day. Kairos is a

strategy he must continue to employ every chance he gets. His failure to do so may make many begin to

think he is out of touch with the people who elected him into office.

				
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