Obama's Inaugural 2013 Essay

Submitted By bnortonm
Words: 559
Pages: 3

second inaugural, as far as rhetoric goes, was the equivalent of a greatest hits album knocked out in time for Christmas. All his favourite oratorical devices were on display, and all at once, as if someone had knocked a candle into the firework box.
At a sentence-by-sentence level, it was filled with a device to which Obama is practically addicted: syntheton. That is, never say one thing when you can inflate the sentence with two: "effort and determination", "passion and dedication", "security and dignity", "hazards and misfortune", "initiative and enterprise", "fascism or communism", "muskets and militia" and so, unceasingly, on.
At the larger level of organisation we were seeing some other old favourites – in particular anaphora, where a phrase is repeated at the beginning of successive sentences. This speech was an anaphoric relay race: "Together, we" gave way to "We, the people", which temporarily ceded the track to "Our journey is not complete until", before "You and I, as citizens" staggered to the tape with the baton.
Also on show was his nifty way of shifting timescale, zipping between the grand sweep of history and the individual moment. "It will be up to those who stand here in four years, and 40 years, and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall." That climax – the rising series of terms, given extra force with epistrophe (repeating "years") – is saved from bombast by bringing it down to a moment in history. "Spare" is a lovely touch.
As far as the ethos appeal goes – that is, the way an orator positions himself with the audience – Obama stuck to what he does best: aligning himself with the founding fathers and with Martin Luther King. The former was, well, pro forma, and given that the inauguration coincided with King's birthday, the latter perhaps irresistible.
The former was accomplished by what may have been his number one soundbite: that none-too-subtle repetition of the phrase that opens the US constitution: "We, the people." He added his own tricolon to that of the Declaration of Independence when he declared it "our generation's task