Analysis of Obama’s Speeches
Eleven days before Christmas a child is usually happy, energetic, excited, and anxious to see what kinds of pleasant gifts are underneath the tree from “Santa.” No one in Newtown, Connecticut had a clue that 20 of Sandy Hook Elementary School’s students and six adults wouldn’t be seeing that precious day. Unfortunately on this peaceful Friday, December 14th , 2012, Adam Lanza took their lives. His motive is unknown. As police arrived to the scene, Lanza committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
This was the second-deadliest shooting in US history, after the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. This shooting really hurt the nation and they wanted answers. President Barack Obama then delivered three speeches following this tragedy. The first speech was only a few hours after the incident. His second speech was in Newtown, Connecticut at a prayer vigil for the community. The last speech was held in the White House concerning gun control. In the speeches, he used rhetoric to appeal to his various audiences using purpose, audience, context, logos, ethos, and pathos.
Before we start, let’s define these concepts. Purpose, audience, and context are a few of the major concepts in a rhetoric essay.
They help analyze the paper, and the meaning behind it. They ask the questions, ‘Who, What, Why?’ Primarily, purpose signifies the goal, or goals, of an argumentative text, in this case, the three speeches President Barack Obama gave. The purpose tells the reason why the text is composed and what it hopes to accomplish by the end of the reading. The purpose can be varied but is often used to inform or persuade. For example, the purpose of a STOP sign is to warn you of incoming danger. Secondly, audience means just what it says – the audience of the paper, who you’re writing to. There are three different types of audiences, judicial, deliberative, and epideictic. A judicial audience looks to the past to see how things happened. On the other hand, a deliberative audience looks to the future to inspire action. Lastly, epideictic is a little different from the first two. Its primary focus is of the now, the present. This is non-oppositional, whereas judicial and deliberative were the opposite. As you see, there are many different audiences, but there should be one target audience. This will influence how the text is composed. Thirdly, context refers to the way something is written. Context is the situation or circumstances of either the reader or writer.
This affects the way in which listeners respond to the texts as well as the way the writers construct the texts. Also, context refers to the technological environment in which a text is designed to be read by the intended audience. For example, is it a television commercial? A print magazine article? These are the things to take into consideration when reading, or listening to a speech. On the other hand, ethos, pathos, and logos are modes of persuasion used to convince audiences. Primarily, ethos means to convince an audience of the writer’s credibility or character. A writer would use ethos to show to his audience that he is a credible source and is worth listening to. You don’t want to listen to someone who doesn’t know anything about what he’s talking about, right? Ethos helps the writer eliminate that confusion. Secondly, pathos is the emotional appeal. It means to persuade an audience by appealing to their emotions. For example,” Feed the Hungry” uses a lot of pathos, ranging from the sickly children, to the sad music played in the background.
They are trying to persuade you to send money for the children and families in need. Pathos is used to invoke sympathy from an audience. Thirdly, logos means to convince an audience by use of logic or reason. To use logos would be to cite facts and statistics to help persuade the audience to better know and understand what you’re talking about. Now that you know what purpose, audience, context, logos, ethos, and pathos is, we can now see how President Barack Obama used these rhetoric appeals in his three speeches following the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting. In his first speech, President Barack Obama’s purpose was to simply offer support, warmth, and to console the Americans in this time of tragedy. He wanted to tell his fellow Americans that he was there to support them. There are two sets of audiences that President Barack Obama was speaking to. Primarily, he was speaking to the press about the tragedy that had just occurred a few hours prior, but his main audience was the Americans shocked by what happened. Imagine sitting in your living room, hearing all these different reports about a massive shooting that killed 20 little children and not knowing what really happened.
I was in a clothing store when I heard of the incident, so for the president, only a few hours later, to come on the television and explain what had happened was a slight relief. The technological context of this speech was that this was a press conference, held in the White House in Washington, D.C on December 14, 2012. The extended scene was for the television and the internet world wide. The logos, ethos, and pathos of the first speech are apparent. President Barack Obama uses logos by explaining the shooting, using facts to better help the Americans understand what had just happened. He uses ethos by very much showing that he is the President of the United States. Just by his professional dress you would assume that he was someone worth listening to. He has the Presidential Seal visible, as well as the presidential flags in the back. The flag pin he’s wearing and the White House text behind him is a clear indication that he is the president. Not only does he show that he’s the president, he also shows that he is a parent, gaining him more ethos.
From the tears he’s possessing, and the slight dramatic pauses he takes, he’s also showing that he’s a real human being. President Obama never cries and for him to shed a few tears is showing great pathos. President Barack Obama exemplifies pathos in this speech a great deal. He uses the fact that the children had their entire lives ahead of them – birthdays, graduations, weddings, etc. He also emphasized the fact that parents should hug their children a little tighter because the families of the children who were killed weren’t able to do that anymore. President Obama’s second speech is slightly the same, but a little different. This took place in the actual vicinity of the shooting. President Obama held a prayer vigil at Newtown High School on December 16, two days after the tragedy. His purpose for this speech was to address the families and the community of the shooting. His purpose was also to offer love and prayers of a nation.
President Obama wanted to let the Newtown community know that they aren’t alone, and they, in many ways, inspired the nation. The audience of this second speech was for the families, first responders, and the community of Newtown. He primarily targeted this speech to the families of the shooting. This press conference was televised, as well as shown on the internet. As shown in President Obama’s first speech, there are many signs of ethos. For one, he has an American flag behind him, acknowledging that he’s the President of the United States. To add, he also has a flag pin on his jacket, and also there’s a presidential seal on his podium. Through various ways, he’s also showing that he’s a parent and he has a heart. He’s a representation of the nation, letting them know that they are not alone. With the many different references to the Bible, President Obama then gained ethos from the Christian audience. One way President Obama is showing logos is when he talks about the fact that this is the fourth time we, as a nation, has come together to comfort a grieving community by a mass shooting.
He also states that he will use whatever power his office holds to engage the citizens to prevent more tragedies as this one. President Obama uses pathos throughout this whole speech. For one, he reminds us that they are gathered there for the memory of twenty beautiful children and six fearless adults. He also states that there are really no words to match the sorrow of the community, but he and the nation will do all to help. President Obama uses pathos by emphasizing that the world has been torn from the recent shooting. He then compares a child to having your heart outside your body. He also showed pathos by reminding the parents that as a child grows older, they are separating from them, letting them know that they can’t always be there for them. Lastly, President Obama uses pathos when he states the children’s names at the end of the speech and the adults’ names in the beginning of the speech. This speech is pretty different from the first two.
This speech isn’t epideictic as the first two. In President Obama’s last speech regarding the Sandy Hook shooting, his purpose was simply to inform Americans on future plans his office will be taking in regards to the rising gun violence of the United States. He wants to propose a means to reduce the gun violence and prevent tragedies from happening again. He’s using all his power to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. He’s specifically targeting the American gun owners and potential gun owners. He’s letting them know about what protocol will be taken in regards to owing and purchasing a gun. His immediate audience is the press. President Obama held this speech on the 19th of December at the White House in the James S. Brady Briefing Room. The technological context was that this was a press conference aired on television and through the web. He used logos by primarily telling us that the vice president, Joe Biden, will be leading the effort because he wrote the 1994 Crime Bill that helped law enforcement bring down the rate of violent crime in the country.
He also went on to give examples of how majority of Americans are supporting the banning of the sale of high capacity ammunition clips, military style assault weapons, and enforcing laws requiring background checks before all gun purchases. He also stated the differences in how people use guns, whether it is for hunting, sport shooting, collection, or protection. . Then, President Obama gave a few examples of how after the shooting, gun violence was still on the rise. He stated how since the Friday morning after the massacre a police officer was gunned down in Memphis, leaving four children without a mother. Also, a woman was shot and killed inside a Vegas casino. Additionally, three people were killed in an Alabama hospital. Lastly, a four year old was caught in a drive by. President Obama didn’t use much pathos in this speech because his mood changed from grieving to irate. However, in the beginning of the speech, President Obama reiterated the tragedy by describing it as “heartbreaking.”
The ethos President Obama used was the White House sign behind him, his flag pin, and the presidential seal on his podium. He also had Vice President Joe Biden standing beside him, reminding us that he, President Obama, is president. The purpose, audience, and context in the three speeches vary. The purpose of speech one and two are slightly similar. In the first speech, the purpose was to inform, as well as comfort Americans from the tragedy that transpired only a few hours before. In the second speech, his purpose was to pray for the families of the killing, and also remind them that as a nation we are all grieving. However, the purpose of the third speech was to inform the United States of the future procedures that will be enacted towards gun violence.
The audiences of the speeches are different. In the first speech, Obama was addressing all Americans, whereas in the second speech, he was addressing the community of Newtown, specifically the families of the shooting. In his third speech, President Obama’s audiences were the American gun owners, as well as the potential gun owners. The contexts of all three speeches were pretty different. Obama gave the first speech in the White House press room a few hours after the shooting. Two days later, he was in Newtown at the local high school, just a few miles away from the original shooting. Three days later, on the 19th, President Obama was back in the White House in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. In conclusion, ethos, logos, and pathos are used in rhetoric analysis that can help writers make their argument appeal to readers. President Obama did just that in his three speeches to appeal to his audiences.
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