Critique of Obama’s Inauguration Speech

By admin on March 29, 2009

Following the recent Presidential election, a new face emerged as a representation of the American nation. Lately, Barack Obama has become a major figure in many public communications. As a result of the growing number of popular speeches comes praise and critique of his oral abilities and presentation. Scholars have suggested that a major task of the political officer is to communicate with his/her constituents. Therefore, it is important to understand and analyze the methods of communications by politicians, especially the one holding the highest executive office in the United States. Over the course of American history, the president’s inauguration speech, which happens every four or eight years, is one of the most highly praised public spectaculars in US politics. President Obama’s inauguration speech on January 20, 2009 focused on a number of contextual references: patriotism, history, religion and symbolism, through the innovative use of content that held strong conviction with the American people.

In the beginning of the speech, he started off thanking his predecessor, President Bush and highlighted the history of American politics, as well as providing a brief synopsis of our current economic crisis. He showed his gratitude toward the founders of our country and our ancestors who have made the American dream possible. Then, he continued showing his vision for the next four years of change.

A major theme in the speech is Patriotism. According to numerous political scientists and scholars, the President’s inauguration speech is one of the most significant forms of public communication representing new leadership in the Executive Branch. After stating the history of American politics, he emphasized “So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.” In this portion of the speech, he inferred that Americans must join him and continue the 233 years of the American democracy. He continued his speech mentioning events in American life such as the first settlers and their hard work. He also gave a lot of credit to the armed forces, past and present. In time of war, expressing gratitude to the past and present heroes of the country helped him appeal to veterans, current members of the armed forces, their friends and their family.

He emphasized numerous prominent historical facts in his speech. He had provided a history of American political life. He mentioned about famous battles like Concord (Revolutionary War), Gettysburg (Civil War), Normandy (World War II), and Khe Sanh (Vietnam War). He compared American democracy to different political ideology like fascism and communism. He talked about common defense and the peace our army has upheld in Afghanistan. With his articulate rhetoric ability and applying stories of American’s greatness in his speech, he was able to project a legendary image for the future with the successes of the past.
Another major contextual theme is religion. He used a number of religious-oriented wording and phrases. For example, in the first quarter of this speech, he had mentioned,

“We remain a young nation, but in the words of the Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”

Not only did he emphasize the religious aspects of American government, he related it back to traditional American values of democracy, in the words freedom, equality and a chance to pursue happiness. Then he lists a number of religions of people in the United States: “Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers.” Near the end of the speech, he mentioned that God’s grace will help America endure the current issues. In the very end of the speech, he finished using both a patriotic and religious saying: “Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.” His charisma when mentioning religious groups and references allowed him to relate to many Americans who are religious and who feel comfortable having a leader who believes highly in religion. Over the course of American history, each and every elected president has had a religious belief of some sort.

A final contextual theme is the use of symbolic language. He compared American history to the “rugged path.” Near the end, he had compared America’s current situation to “icy currents” and referenced it as a “storm.” He compared the positive future to the “horizon.” Using symbolic language made his speech much more dramatic. His use of metaphors helped enhance the way to present America’s economic crisis.

Overall, I had a positive impression of Obama’s inauguration speech. It encompassed major contextual themes with the creative use of content. His excellent rhetoric ability was charismatic and articulate. His speech was able to bring together many groups of Americans in terms of socioeconomics and politics. By keeping his neutral perspective in this speech whose goal was to appeal to a bipartisan audience, he was quite successful. All in all, Obama’s public communication ability was very successful. “Yes, we can!”

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