Last Updated 06 Jul 2020

How Does Barack Obama Engage His Audience

Category Barack Obama, Speech
Essay type Research
Words 1335 (5 pages)
Views 445

Barack Obama engages his audience through means of promoting inclusivity, an informal friendly stance and a family appeal. The non-verbal communication and rhetorical devices Obama uses adds up to a very engaging speech. I will be comparing Obama’s race speech in Philadelphia with the David Letterman interview. The structure of Obama’s Speech is very important. The words are made to flow from beginning to end, without break. The speech starts by Obama placing himself in history with the 1787 US Constitution – this factual evidence establishes Obama’s authenticity.

The main body of the speech has a recurring theme of a ‘perfect’ America that ‘could be and should be’ perfected over time. He claims that America ‘may never be perfect’ but it can ‘always be perfected’. This encourages hope for the future generations within the audience. This repetition is memorable and has emphasis on the future generation, gaining the support of the families. Another key feature of the structure is the rule of three. Obama uses many words repeatedly, for example, ‘constitution’.

A union between the government and its people is also a repetitive theme, as it tightens the bondage with all the people, ‘black or white’. The end of the speech is simple but blunt to the point – ‘but this is where we start’. This again places him in history, and gives the speech a circular form. Establishing rapport with the audience is a key in any speech. Obama’s main method is using non-verbal communication (NVC’s). A simple ‘chop’ gesture is often used throughout Obama’s interview and sometimes speeches.

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It separates selected points to emphasise them to the audience, and is a subtle gesture to show Obama’s organisation. Eye contact is also essential, as it will engage individual crowd members, making them feel enlightened or special. Stories are used to engage the audience on a more personal level, especially if they are about children. This was the case about the end of Obama’s speech, where he speaks about Ashley, a young girl who brought together black and white people. The single phrase’ I’m here because of Ashley’ indicates a pause where Obama consolidates and the audience take in the whole story.

Just because this story was a bout a child the supporters are engages on so much of a more personal level, and the moment of recognition between the ‘young white girl and the old black man’ is magnified in its glory. Then Obama slowly flows into the end paragraph – ‘this is where we start’. The whole speech is very serious, unlike Obama’s interview with David letterman, where humour was the main method to win support of the audience. Small things like Obama’s clothes, posture or background made a huge difference in both the speech and the interview.

For example, Obama is very relaxed and moves his hands a lot during the letterman interview. On the other hand, Obama is very static during the speech, the background is also important, as in the race speech the background is embellished with lots of huge American flags. This shows Obama’s authenticity and patriotism. In the interview, there was a more relaxed cosmopolitan New York background. Obama uses many forms of non-verbal communication (NVC’s) to establish a strong rapport with his audience. Firstly, Obama begins with his hands pointing at the crowd, signalling the start.

He uses this o calm down the crowd and to attract their attention. During the speech he often holds his hands out in a ‘welcoming embrace’. This is more personal and shows that he is an open, friendly person. He also holds his hands out straight out to emphasise a point or idea - this catches the audience’s attention, making them remember the point. Obama went on the David Letterman show to reveal his more relaxed side to America. It was his opportunity to reach a different type of audience. Very like his speeches he kept to a strict timing, where he has pauses for the audience –except that he left time for letterman to reply.

For example, after being asked a question, Obama would pause and let the question sink in. While telling a joke on the show, he would never laugh at it and would keep a ‘dead pan’ face. This is because he then counts on the audience to laugh for him. He also used many filler words, such as ‘basicly’ to space out questions and awnsers evenly. Similarly to the race speech, Obama placed himself in history, mentioning JFK, FDR; similar to when he mentioned the 1787 Philadelphia conference. However, unlike the race speech; Obama was excellent at making good eye contact with the audience.

This was because the audience at the race speech was much larger than the one at the David Letterman show. He also showed good willingness to joke – which engaged the audience into his conversation with Letterman. This is how the speech was similar with the interview; in both Obama was keen to establish a strong rapport with the audience. Unlike the race speech, Obama uses many slang or friendly words during the interview. He describes people as ‘folks’ and his family as ‘goofs’; showing the audience that underneath the fancy tie and suit he is just a normal guy.

Obama uses many rhetorical devices to engage his audience during his race speech. The first three words in Obama’s speech are: ‘four years ago’. This is the start of a story (anecdotes) and is also used as an icebreaker. It calms the audience down –they might not hear it, but it signifies the start of the speech. The personal story gets the audience interested and focused. Then the collective pronoun, ‘you’ is used: ‘I stood before you and…’ This addresses the crowd as one and is used so every body feels included – it is inclusive.

Phrases such as ‘our children and grandchildren’ promotes the feeling of inclusivity and again wins the support of families – it makes everyone feel that they are in on the ‘Obama deal’. Along with the collective pronouns Obama strings together emotive language, such as ‘victims of racial abuse’ instead of just people. This makes the speech feel very personal. One of the most important rhetorical devices he used was the rule of 3. This is the repeating of 3 certain phrases or words so they catch the audience’s attention and make it memorable.

In the 5th paragraph he uses the rule of 3 to emphasise a ‘more caring, more equal and more prosperous America’. This slogan stays in the heads of the supporters. Another example of the rule of three is where Obama says ‘ordinary men and women, students and soldiers, farmers and teachers’. As well as the three pairs, he starts with ordinary men and women. This is used so he can relate with the audience, creating a better rapport. Also in that sentence was alliteration: ‘students and soldiers’. This also is easily remembered. Obama also has a repeating theme of the ‘American promise’.

This repeating theme is used so it will stick in the audience’s head. Timing is essential within a speech. There is strong modulation within the context of the speech, as Obama will pause to evaluate after a lengthy paragraph or strong point. This separates certain points and gives the audience time to take in the speech. The tone of voice also sets a background atmosphere to his speech – for example, during a theoretical or metaphorical sentence; Obama would get louder in a crescendo before almost shouting at the end of the sentence.

This is always followed by a huge applause and long pause. Obama pauses after his icebreaker: ‘Four years ago’ – this gives his audience time to calm and let them know that is his turn to speak. In conclusion, Obama uses many unconventional and interesting techniques as well as hand gestures to engage his audience, to appear either more friendly or serious. In comparison between the race speech and the Letterman interview, in the speech Obama is much more static and serious, while in the interview he is more relaxed and friendly.

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How Does Barack Obama Engage His Audience. (2018, Oct 15). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/how-does-barack-obama-engage-his-audience/

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