Rhetorical devices in President Obama’s Fiscal 2014 Budget Speech

(As usual, the rhetorical devices used are in bold with their names (IN CAPITALS). If you’re unsure about any of the terms, visit Rhetorical Devices for a full explanation with lots of examples)

“Good morning, everybody. Please, please have a seat. Well, as President, my top priority is to do everything I can to reignite what I consider to be the true engine of the American economy: a rising, thriving middle class. That’s what I think about every day. That’s the driving force behind every decision that I make (ANAPHORA & SCESIS ONOMATON).

And over the past three years, our businesses have created nearly 6.5 million new jobs. But we know we can help them create more. Corporate profits are at an all-time high. But we have to get wages and incomes rising, as well. Our deficits are falling at the fastest pace in years. But we (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA) can do more to bring them down in a balanced and responsible way.

The point is, our economy is poised for progress — as long as Washington doesn’t get in the way. Frankly, the American people deserve better than what we’ve been seeing: a shortsighted, crisis-driven decision-making, like the reckless, across-the-board spending cuts that are already hurting a lot of communities out there — cuts that economists predict will cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs during the course of this year.

If we want to keep rebuilding our economy on a stronger, more stable foundation, then we’ve got to get smarter about our priorities as a nation. And that’s what the budget I’m sending to Congress today represents — a fiscally responsible blueprint for middle-class jobs and growth.

For years, the debate in this town has raged between reducing our deficits at all costs, and making the investments necessary to grow our economy. And this budget answers that argument, because we can do both. We can grow our economy and shrink our deficits. In fact, as we saw in the 1990s, nothing shrinks deficits faster than a growing economy. That’s been my goal since I took office. And that should be our goal going forward.

At a time when too many Americans are still looking for work, my budget begins by making targeted investments in areas that will create jobs right now, and prime our economy to keep generating good jobs down the road. As I said in my State of the Union address, we should ask ourselves three questions every day: How do we make America a magnet for new jobs? How do we give our workers the skills they need to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?

To make America a magnet for good jobs, this budget invests in new manufacturing hubs to help turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. We’ll spark new American innovation and industry with cutting-edge research like the initiative I announced to map the human brain and cure disease. We’ll continue our march towards energy independence and address the threat of climate change. And our Rebuild America Partnership will attract private investment to put construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads, our bridges and our schools (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA), in turn attracting even more new business to communities across the country.

To help workers earn the skills they need to fill those jobs, we’ll work with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. And we’re going to pay for it by raising taxes on tobacco products that harm our young people. It’s the right thing to do.

We’ll reform our high schools and job training programs to equip more Americans with the skills they need to compete in the 21st century economy. And we’ll help more middle-class families afford the rising cost of college.

To make sure hard work is rewarded, we’ll build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for anybody who is willing to work hard to climb them. So we’ll partner with 20 of our communities hit hardest by the recession to help them improve housing, and education, and business investment (TRICOLON). And we should make the minimum wage a wage you can live on — because no one who works full-time should have to raise his or her family in poverty.

My budget also replaces the foolish across-the-board spending cuts that are already hurting our economy. And I have to point out that many of the same members of Congress who supported deep cuts are now the ones complaining about them the loudest as they hit their own communities. Of course, the people I feel for are the people who are directly feeling the pain of these cuts — the people who can least afford it. They’re hurting military communities that have already sacrificed enough. They’re hurting ( ANAPHORA) middle-class families. There are children who have had to enter a lottery to determine which of them get to stay in their Head Start program with their friends. There are seniors who (ANAPHORA) depend on programs like Meals on Wheels so they can live independently, but who are seeing their services cut.

That’s what this so-called sequester means. Some people may not have been impacted, but there are a lot of folks who are being increasingly impacted all across this country. And that’s why my budget replaces these cuts with smarter ones, making long-term reforms, eliminating actual waste and programs we don’t need anymore.

So building new roads and bridges, educating our children from the youngest age, helping more families afford college, making sure that hard work pays. These are things that should not be partisan. They should not be controversial. We need to make them happen (TRICOLON & SCESIS ONOMATON -ish). My budget makes these investments to grow our economy and create jobs, and it does so without adding a dime to our deficits.

Now, on the topic of deficits, despite all the noise in Washington, here’s a clear and unassailable fact: our deficits are already falling. Over the past two years, I’ve signed legislation that will reduce our deficits by more than $2.5 trillion — more than two-thirds of it through spending cuts and the rest through asking the wealthiest Americans to begin paying their fair share.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have more work to do. But here’s how we finish the job. My budget will reduce our deficits by nearly another $2 trillion, so that all told we will have surpassed the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that independent economists believe we need to stabilize our finances. But it does so in a balanced and responsible way, a way that most Americans prefer.

Both parties, for example, agree that the rising cost of caring for an aging generation is the single biggest driver of our long-term deficits. And the truth is, for those like me who deeply believe in our social insurance programs, think it’s one of the core things that our government needs to do (SCESIS ONOMATON), if we want to keep Medicare working as well as it has, if we want to preserve the ironclad guarantee that Medicare represents (ANAPHORA & SCESIS ONOMATON), then we’re going to have to make some changes. But they don’t have to be drastic ones. And instead of making drastic ones later, what we should be doing is making some manageable ones now (ANTITHESIS).

The reforms I’m proposing will strengthen Medicare for future generations without undermining that ironclad guarantee that Medicare represents. We’ll reduce our government’s Medicare bills by finding new ways to reduce the cost of health care — not by shifting the costs to seniors or the poor or families with disabilities (ANTITHESIS). They are reforms that keep the promise we’ve made to our seniors: basic security that is rock-solid and dependable, and there for you when you need it. That’s what my budget represents.

My budget does also contain the compromise I offered Speaker Boehner at the end of last year, including reforms championed by Republican leaders in Congress. And I don’t believe that all these ideas are optimal, but I’m willing to accept them as part of a compromise — if, and only if, they contain protections for the most vulnerable Americans.

But if we’re serious about deficit reduction, then these reforms have to go hand-in-hand with reforming our tax code to make it more simple and more fair, so that the wealthiest individuals and biggest corporations cannot keep taking advantage of loopholes and deductions that most Americans don’t get. That’s the bottom line.

If you’re serious about deficit reduction, then there’s no excuse to keep these loopholes open. They don’t serve an economic purpose. They don’t grow our economy. They don’t put people back to work (TRICOLON, ANAPHORA & SCESIS ONOMATON). All they do is to allow folks who are already well-off (ANTITHESIS) and well-connected game the system. If anyone thinks I’ll finish the job of deficit reduction on the backs of middle-class families or through spending cuts alone that actually hurt our economy short-term, they should think again.

When it comes to deficit reduction, I’ve already met Republicans more than halfway. So in the coming days and weeks, I hope that Republicans will come forward and demonstrate that they’re really as serious about the deficits and debt as they claim to be.

So growing our economy, creating jobs, shrinking our deficits (TRICOLON & PARALLELISM). Keeping our promise to the generation that made us great, but also investing in the next generation (ANTITHESIS) — the next generation (AMPLIFICATION) that will make us even greater. These are not conflicting goals. We can do them in concert. That’s what my budget does. That’s why I’m so grateful for the great work that Jeff Zients and his team have done in shaping this budget. The numbers work. There’s not a lot of smoke and mirrors in here (SCESIS ONOMATON).

And if we can come together, have a serious, reasoned debate — not driven by politics — and come together around common sense and compromise, then I’m confident we will move this country forward and leave behind something better for our children. That’s our task.

Thank you, God bless you. God bless the United States of America (ANAPHORA & CLIMAX).”

Advertisements

Rhetoric devices used in President Obama’s remarks at the dedication of Rosa Park’s statue

“Mr. Speaker, Leader Reid, Leader McConnell, Leader Pelosi, Assistant Leader Clyburn; to the friends and family of Rosa Parks; to the distinguished guests who are gathered here today.

This morning, we celebrate a seamstress, slight in stature but mighty in courage (ANTITHESIS). She defied the odds, and she defied (ANAPHORA) injustice. She lived a life of activism, but also a life of dignity and grace. And in a single moment, with the simplest of gestures, she helped change America — and change the world.

Rosa Parks held no elected office. She possessed no fortune; lived her life far from the formal seats of power (TRICOLON & SCESIS ONOMATON). And yet today, she takes her rightful place among those who’ve shaped this nation’s course. I thank all those persons, in particular the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, both past and present, for making this moment possible.

A childhood friend once said about Mrs. Parks, “Nobody ever bossed Rosa around and got away with it.” That’s what an Alabama driver learned on December 1, 1955. Twelve years earlier, he had kicked Mrs. Parks off his bus simply because she entered through the front door when the back door was too crowded. He grabbed her sleeve and he pushed her off the bus. It made her mad enough, she would recall, that she avoided riding his bus for a while.

And when they met again that winter evening in 1955, Rosa Parks would not be pushed. When the driver got up from his seat to insist that she give up hers, she would not be pushed (ANTISTROPHE). When he threatened to have her arrested, she simply replied, “You may do that.” And he did.

A few days later, Rosa Parks challenged her arrest. A little-known pastor, new to town and only 26 years old, stood with her — a man named Martin Luther King, Jr. So did thousands of Montgomery, Alabama commuters. They began a boycott — teachers and laborers, clergy and domestics, through rain and cold and sweltering heat, day after day, week after week, month after month (PARALLELISM, SCESIS ONOMATON & CLIMAX) walking miles if they had to, arranging carpools where they could, not thinking about the blisters on their feet, the weariness after a full day of work — walking for respect, walking for (ANAPHORA) freedom, driven by a solemn determination to affirm their God-given dignity.

Three hundred and eighty-five days after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, the boycott ended. Black men and women and children re-boarded the buses of Montgomery, newly desegregated, and sat in whatever seat happen to be open. And with that victory, the entire edifice of segregation, like the ancient walls of Jericho (SIMILE), began to slowly come tumbling down.

It’s been often remarked that Rosa Parks’s activism didn’t begin on that bus. Long before she made headlines, she had stood up for freedom, stood up for (ANAPHORA)equality — fighting for voting rights, rallying against discrimination in the criminal justice system, serving in the local chapter of the NAACP (TRICOLON & PARALLELISM). Her quiet leadership would continue long after she became an icon of the civil rights movement, working with Congressman Conyers to find homes for the homeless, preparing disadvantaged youth for a path to success, striving (TRICOLON & PARALLELISM) each day to right some wrong somewhere in this world.

And yet our minds fasten on that single moment on the bus — Ms. Parks alone in that seat, clutching her purse, staring out a window, waiting (TRICOLON & PARALLELISM) to be arrested. That moment tells us something about how change happens, or doesn’t happen; the choices we make, or don’t make. “For now we see through a glass, darkly,” Scripture says, and it’s true. Whether out of inertia or selfishness, whether out of (ANAPHORA) fear or a simple lack of moral imagination, we so often spend our lives as if in a fog (SIMILE), accepting injustice, rationalizing inequity, tolerating (TRICOLON & PARALLELISM) the intolerable.

Like the bus driver, but also like the passengers on the bus, we see the way things are — children hungry in a land of plenty, entire neighborhoods ravaged by violence, (TRICOLON) hobbled by job loss or illness — and we make excuses for inaction, and we say to ourselves, that’s not my responsibility, there’s nothing I can do (SCESIS ONOMATON).

Rosa Parks tell us there’s always something we can do. She tells us that we all have responsibilities, to ourselves and to one another. She reminds us (ANAPHORA & PARALLELISM) that this is how change happens — not mainly through the exploits of the famous and the powerful, but through the countless acts of often anonymous courage (ANTITHESIS) and kindness and fellow feeling and (POLYSYNDETON) responsibility that continually, stubbornly, expand our conception of justice — our conception of (ANAPHORA) what is possible.

Rosa Parks’s singular act of disobedience launched a movement. The tired feet of those who walked the dusty roads of Montgomery helped a nation see that to which it had once been blind. It is because of these men and women that I stand here today. It is because of (ANAPHORA) them that our children grow up in a land more free and more fair (ALLITERATION); a land truer to its founding creed.

And that is why this statue belongs in this hall — to remind us, no matter how humble or lofty our positions, just what it is that leadership requires; just what it is that citizenship requires (SYMPLOCE). Rosa Parks would have turned 100 years old this month. We do well by placing a statue of her here. But we can do no greater honor to her memory than to carry forward the power of her principle and a courage born of conviction (ALLITERATION).

May God bless the memory of Rosa Parks, and may God bless (ANAPHORA) these United States of America.

Rhetoric used in Obama’s remarks on the sequester (02/19/13)

President Obama made some remarks at the White House recently about the forthcoming sequester, and I’ve done the usual and identified all the rhetorical devices used; they’re highlighted in bold and their names are in capitals and brackets, e.g. (ANAPHORA). If you’re unsure about any of the terms, visit rhetorical devices for full explanations of each with examples.

Every speech or presentation should have a clear, consistent theme, and the theme here is about being fair and reasonable, and (in Obama’s opinion) expecting the ‘top 1%’ to share more of the burden. Churchill once said:

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.”

The President has certainly taken this advice to heart. I’ve counted seven references to ‘the rich’. I’ve italicised them in the transcript to make them easier to spot:

  • tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans
  • increased tax rates on the top 1 percent
  • tax loopholes and deductions for the well off and well connected
  • makes sure that billionaires can’t pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries
  • the Republicansask nothing of the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations
  • (Republicans don’t want to close) a single tax loophole for the wealthiest Americans
  • a few special interest tax loopholes that benefit only the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations
  • a special tax interest loophole that the vast majority of Americans don’t benefit from

Transcript

“As I said in my State of the Union address last week, our top priority must be to do everything we can to grow the economy and create good, middle-class jobs. That’s our top priority. That’s our North Star. That drives every decision we make (TRICOLON, ANAPHORA & SCESIS ONOMATON). And it has to drive every decision that Congress and everybody in Washington makes over the next several years.

And that’s why it’s so troubling that just 10 days from now, Congress might allow a series of automatic, severe budget cuts to take place that will do the exact opposite. It won’t help the economy, won’t create jobs, will visit hardship on a whole lot of people (TRICOLON).

Here’s what’s at stake. Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce our deficits by more than $2.5 trillion. More than two-thirds of that was through some pretty tough spending cuts. The rest of it was through raising taxes — tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. And together, when you take the spending cuts and the increased tax rates on the top 1 percent, it puts us more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.

Now, Congress, back in 2011, also passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach that $4 trillion goal, about a trillion dollars of additional, arbitrary budget cuts would start to take effect this year. And by the way, the whole design of these arbitrary cuts was to make them so unattractive and unappealing that Democrats and Republicans would actually get together and find a good compromise of sensible cuts as well as closing tax loopholes and so forth. And so this was all designed to say we can’t do these bad cuts; let’s do something smarter. That was the whole point of this so-called sequestration.

Unfortunately, Congress didn’t compromise. They haven’t come together and done their jobs, and so as a consequence, we’ve got these automatic, brutal spending cuts that are poised to happen next Friday.

Now, if Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach (METAPHOR) to take place, it will jeopardize our military readiness; it will eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research (TRICOLON). It won’t consider whether we’re cutting some bloated program that has outlived its usefulness, or a vital service that Americans depend on (ANTITHESIS) every single day. It (ANAPHORA) doesn’t make those distinctions.

Emergency responders like the ones who are here today — their ability to help communities respond to and recover from disasters will be degraded. Border Patrol agents will see their hours reduced. FBI agents will be furloughed. Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go. Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country. Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off. Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find childcare for their kids. Hundreds of thousands (CLIMAX) of Americans will lose access (PARALLELISM & MESODIPLOSIS) to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings.

And already, the threat of these cuts has forced the Navy to delay an aircraft carrier that was supposed to deploy to the Persian Gulf. And as our military leaders have made clear, changes like thisnot well thought through, not (ANAPHORA) phased in properly — changes like this (DIACOPE) affect our ability to respond to threats in unstable parts of the world.

So these cuts are not smart. They are not (MESODIPLOSIS )fair. They will hurt our economy. They will (ANAPHORA) add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls. This is not an abstraction — people will lose their jobs. The unemployment rate might tick up again.

And that’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists, they’ve already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as sequestration, are a bad idea. They’re not good for our economy. They’re not (ANAPHORA) how we should run our government.

And here’s the thing: They don’t have to happen. There is a smarter way to do this –- to reduce our deficits without harming our economy. But Congress has to act in order for that to happen.

Now, for two years, I’ve offered a balanced approach to deficit reduction that would prevent these harmful cuts. I outlined it again last week at the State of the Union. I am willing to cut more spending that we don’t need, get rid of programs that aren’t working. I’ve laid out specific reforms to our entitlement programs that can achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms that were proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission. I’m willing to save hundreds of billions of dollars by enacting comprehensive tax reform that gets rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well off and well connected, without raising tax rates.

I believe such a balanced approach that combines tax reform with some additional spending reforms, done in a smart, thoughtful way is the best way to finish the job of deficit reduction and avoid these cuts once and for all that could hurt our economy, slow our recovery, put people out of work (TRICOLON). And most Americans agree with me.

The House and the Senate are working on budgets that I hope reflect this approach. But if they can’t get such a budget agreement done by next Friday — the day these harmful cuts begin to take effect (DIACOPE) — then at minimum, Congress should pass a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms that would prevent these harmful cuts — not to kick the can down the road (METAPHOR), but to give them time to work together (ANTITHESIS) on a plan that finishes the job of deficit reduction in a sensible way.

I know Democrats in the House and in the Senate have proposed such a plan — a balanced plan, one that pairs more spending cuts with tax reform that closes special interest loopholes and makes sure that billionaires can’t pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries.

And I know that Republicans have proposed some ideas, too. I have to say, though, that so far at least the ideas that the Republicans have proposed ask nothing of the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations, so the burden is all on first responders or seniors or (POLYSYNDETON) middle-class families (TRICOLON).They double down, in fact, on the harsh, harmful (ALLITERATION) cuts that I’ve outlined. They slash Medicare and investments that create good, middle-class jobs. And so far at least what they’ve expressed is a preference where they’d rather have these cuts go into effect than close a single tax loophole for the wealthiest Americans. Not one.

Well, that’s not balanced. That would be like (SIMILE) Democrats saying we have to close our deficits without any spending cuts whatsoever. It’s all taxes. That’s not the position Democrats have taken. That’s certainly not the position I’ve taken (SYMPLOCE). It’s wrong to ask the middle class to bear the full burden of deficit reduction. And that’s why I will not sign a plan that harms the middle class.

So now Republicans in Congress face a simple choice: Are they willing to compromise to protect vital investments in education and health care and national security (TRICOLON) and all the jobs that depend on them? Or would they (HYPOPHORA X2) rather put hundreds of thousands of jobs and our entire economy at risk just to protect a few special interest tax loopholes that benefit only the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations? That’s the choice.

Are you willing to see a bunch of first responders lose their job because you want to protect some special interest tax loophole? Are you willing to (ANAPHORA) have teachers laid off, or kids not have access to Head Start, or (POLYSYNDETON) deeper cuts in student loan programs just because you want to protect a special tax interest loophole that the vast majority of Americans don’t benefit from? That’s the choice. That’s the question (ANAPHORA & SCESIS ONOMATON).

And this is not an abstraction. There are people whose livelihoods are at stake. There are communities that are going to be impacted in a negative way. And I know that sometimes all this squabbling in Washington seems very abstract, and in the abstract, people like the idea, there must be some spending we can cut, (ANAPHORA) waste out there. There absolutely is. But this isn’t the right way to do it.

So my door is open (METAPHOR). I’ve put tough cuts and reforms on the table. I am willing to work with anybody to get this job done. None of us will get 100 percent of what we want. But nobody should want these cuts to go through, because the last thing our families can afford right now is pain imposed unnecessarily by partisan recklessness and ideological rigidity here in Washington.

As I said at the State of the Union, the American people have worked too hard, too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause yet another one. And it seems like every three months around here there’s some manufactured crisis. We’ve got more work to do than to just try to dig ourselves out of these self-inflicted wounds (2 x [very mixed] METAPHORS).

And while a plan to reduce our deficit has to be part of our agenda, we also have to remember deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. We learned in the 1990s, when Bill Clinton was President, nothing shrinks the deficit faster than a growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs. That should be our driving focus — making America a magnet for good jobs. Equipping our people with the skills required to fill those jobs (TRICOLON & ANTISTOPHE). Making sure their hard work leads to a decent living. Those are the things we should be pushing ourselves to think about and work on every single day. That’s what the American people expect. That’s what (ANAPHORA) I’m going to work on every single day to help deliver.

So I need everybody who’s watching today to understand we’ve got a few days. Congress can do the right thing. We can avert just one more Washington-manufactured problem that slows our recovery, and bring down our deficits in a balanced, responsible way. That’s my goal. That’s what would do right by these first responders. That’s what would do right by America’s middle class. That’s what (ANAPHORA) I’m going to be working on and fighting for not just over the next few weeks, but over the next few years (ANTITHESIS).

Thanks very much, everybody. Thank you, guys, for your service.”

Rhetorical devices used in Obama’s Immigration speech

A good speech in Las Vegas, I thought, from President Obama on immigration. Let’s look at the rhetorical devices used. As usual, I’ve highlighted them in bold and put the name of the device in capitals in brackets. If you’re unsure about the meaning of any of them, visit Rhetorical devices.

“…. last week, I had the honor of being sworn in for a second term as President of the United States. And during my inaugural address, I talked about how making progress on the defining challenges of our time doesn’t require us to settle every debate or ignore every difference that we may have, but it does require us to find common ground (ANTITHESIS) and move forward in common purpose. It requires us to act.

I know that some issues will be harder to lift than others. Some debates will be more contentious (ANAPHORA & PARALLELISM). That’s to be expected. But the reason I came here today is because of a challenge where the differences are dwindling (ALLITERATION), where a broad consensus is emerging; and where (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA) a call for action can now be heard coming from all across America.

I’m here today because the time has come for common-sense, comprehensive (ALLITERATION) immigration reform. The time is now. Now is the time. I’m here because most Americans agree that it’s time to fix a system that’s been broken for way too long. I’m here because (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA) business leaders, faith leaders, labor leaders, law enforcement, and leaders from both parties are coming together to say now is the time to find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as the land of opportunity. Now is the time to (ANAPHORA) do this so we can strengthen our economy and strengthen our (ANAPHORA) country’s future.

Think about it — we define ourselves as a nation of immigrants. That’s who we are — in our bones. The promise we see in those who come here from every corner of the globe, that’s always been one of our greatest strengths. It keeps our workforce young. It keeps our (ANAPHORA) country on the cutting edge. And it’s helped build the greatest economic engine the world has ever known.

After all, immigrants helped start businesses like Google and Yahoo!. They created entire new industries that, in turn, created new jobs and new prosperity for our citizens. In recent years, one in four high-tech startups in America were founded by immigrants. One in four (ANAPHORA) new small business owners were immigrants, including right here in Nevada — folks who came here seeking opportunity and now want to share that opportunity with other Americans.

But we all know that today, we have an immigration system that’s out of date and badly broken; a system that’s holding us back instead of helping us grow (ANTITHESIS) our economy and strengthen our middle class.

Right now, we have 11 million undocumented immigrants in America; 11 million men and women from all over the world who live their lives in the shadows. Yes, they broke the rules. They crossed the border illegally. Maybe they overstayed their visas (TRICOLON, ANAPHORA & PARALLELISM) Those are facts. Nobody disputes them. But these 11 million men and women are now here. Many of them have been here for years. And the overwhelming majority of these individuals aren’t looking for any trouble. They’re contributing members of the community. They’re looking out for their families. They’re looking out for their neighbors. They’re (ANAPHORA) woven into the fabric of our lives.

Every day, like the rest of us, they go out and try to earn a living. Often they do that in a shadow economy — a place where employers may offer them less than the minimum wage or make them work overtime without extra pay. And when that happens, it’s not just bad for them, it’s bad for the entire economy (ANTITHESIS). Because all the businesses that are trying to do the right thing — that are hiring people legally, paying a decent wage, following the rules (EXPLETIVE) — they’re the ones who suffer. They’ve got to compete against companies that are breaking the rules. And the wages and working conditions of American workers are threatened, too.

So if we’re truly committed to strengthening our middle class and providing more ladders of opportunity to those who are willing to work hard to make it into the middle class, we’ve got to fix the system.

We have to make sure that every business and every worker in America is playing by the same set of rules. We have to (ANAPHORA) bring this shadow economy into the light so that everybody is held accountable — businesses for who they hire, and immigrants for getting on the right side of the law. That’s common sense. And that’s why we need comprehensive immigration reform.

There’s another economic reason why we need reform. It’s not just about the folks who come here illegally and the effect they have on our economy. It’s also about the folks  who try to come here legally (ANTITHESIS) but have a hard time doing so, and the effect that has on our economy

Right now, there are brilliant students from all over the world sitting in classrooms at our top universities. They’re earning degrees in the fields of the future, like engineering and computer science. But once they finish school, once they earn that diploma, there’s a good chance they’ll have to leave our country. Think about that.

Intel was started with the help of an immigrant who studied here and then stayed here. Instagram was started with the help of an immigrant who studied here and then stayed here (ANTISTROPHE). Right now in one of those classrooms, there’s a student wrestling with how to turn their big idea — their Intel or Instagram (EXPLETIVE) — into a big business. We’re giving them all the skills they need to figure that out, but then we’re going to turn around and tell them to start that business and create those jobs in China or India or Mexico or (POLYSYNDETON) someplace else? That’s not how you grow new industries in America. That’s how you give new industries to our competitors (ANTITHESIS). That’s why we need comprehensive immigration reform.

Now, during my first term, we took steps to try and patch up some of the worst cracks in the system.

First, we strengthened security at the borders so that we could finally stem the tide of illegal immigrants. We put more boots on the ground on the southern border than at any time in our history. And today, illegal crossings are down nearly 80 percent from their peak in 2000.

Second, we focused our enforcement efforts on criminals who are here illegally and who endanger our communities. And today, deportations of criminals is at its highest level ever.

And third (TRICOLON), we took up the cause of the DREAMers the young people who were brought to this country as children, young people who have grown up here, built their lives here, have futures here (TRICOLON, PARALLELISM, ASYNDETON, ANTISTROPHE). We said that if you’re able to meet some basic criteria like pursuing an education, then we’ll consider offering you the chance to come out of the shadows so that you can live here and work here legally, so that you can finally have the dignity of knowing you belong.

But because this change isn’t permanent, we need Congress to act. We need Congress to act (ANADIPLOSIS) on a comprehensive approach that finally deals with the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are in the country right now. That’s what we need.

Now, the good news is that for the first time in many years, Republicans and Democrats seem ready to tackle this problem together. Members of both parties, in both chambers, are actively working on a solution. Yesterday, a bipartisan group of senators announced their principles for comprehensive immigration reform, which are very much in line with the principles I’ve proposed and campaigned on for the last few years. So at this moment, it looks like there’s a genuine desire to get this done soon, and that’s very encouraging.

But this time, action must follow. We can’t allow immigration reform to get bogged down in an endless debate. We’ve been debating this a very long time. So it’s not as if we don’t know technically what needs to get done. As a consequence, to help move this process along, today I’m laying out my ideas for immigration reform. And my hope is that this provides some key markers to members of Congress as they craft a bill, because the ideas I’m proposing have traditionally been supported by both Democrats like Ted Kennedy and Republicans like President George W. Bush. You don’t get that matchup very often. So we know where the consensus should be.

Now, of course, there will be rigorous debate about many of the details, and every stakeholder should engage in real give and take in the process. But it’s important for us to recognize that the foundation for bipartisan action is already in place. And if Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away.

So the principles are pretty straightforward. There are a lot of details behind it. We’re going to hand out a bunch of paper so that everybody will know exactly what we’re talking about. But the principles are pretty straightforward.

First, I believe we need to stay focused on enforcement. That means continuing to strengthen security at our borders. It means (ANAPHORA) cracking down more forcefully on businesses that knowingly hire undocumented workers. To be fair, most businesses want to do the right thing, but a lot of them have a hard time figuring out who’s here legally, who’s not. So we need to implement a national system that allows businesses to quickly and accurately verify someone’s employment status. And if they still knowingly hire undocumented workers, then we need to ramp up the penalties.

Second, we have to deal with the 11 million individuals who are here illegally. We all agree that these men and women should have to earn their way to citizenship. But for comprehensive immigration reform to work, it must be clear from the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship.

We’ve got to lay out a path — a process that includes passing a background check, paying taxes, paying a penalty, learning English, and then going to the back of the line, behind all the folks who are trying to come here legally. That’s only fair, right?

So that means it won’t be a quick process but it will be a fair process (ANTISTROPHE & ANTITHESIS). And it will lift these individuals out of the shadows and give them a chance to earn their way to a green card and eventually to citizenship.

And the third principle is we’ve got to bring our legal immigration system into the 21st century because it no longer reflects the realities of our time. For example, if you are a citizen, you shouldn’t have to wait years before your family is able to join you in America.

If you’re a foreign student (ANAPHORA) who wants to pursue a career in science or technology, or a foreign entrepreneur who wants to start a business with the backing of American investors, we should help you do that here. Because if you succeed, you’ll create American businesses and American jobs. You’ll help us grow our economy. You’ll help us (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA) strengthen our middle class.

So that’s what comprehensive immigration reform looks like: smarter enforcement; a pathway to earned citizenship; improvements in the legal immigration system (TRICOLON) so that we continue to be a magnet for the best and the brightest (ALLITERATION) all around the world. It’s pretty straightforward.

The question now is simple: Do we have the resolve as a people, as a country, as a government (TRICOLON, ASYNDETON & ANAPHORA) to finally put this issue behind us? (HYPOPHORA) I believe that we do. I believe we are finally at a moment where comprehensive immigration reform is within our grasp.

But I promise you this: The closer we get, the more emotional this debate is going to become. Immigration has always been an issue that inflames passions. That’s not surprising. There are few things that are more important to us as a society than who gets to come here and call our country home; who gets the privilege of becoming a citizen of the United States of America. That’s a big deal.

When we talk about that in the abstract, it’s easy sometimes for the discussion to take on a feeling of “us” versus “them.” And when that happens, a lot of folks forget that most of “us” used to be “them.” We forget that.

It’s really important for us to remember our history. Unless you’re one of the first Americans, a Native American, you came from someplace else. Somebody brought you.

Ken Salazar, he’s of Mexican American descent, but he points that his family has been living where he lives for 400 years, so he didn’t immigrate anywhere.

The Irish who left behind a land of famine. The Germans who fled persecution. The Scandinavians who arrived (TRICOLON, ANAPHORA & PARALLELISM) eager to pioneer out west. The Polish. The Russians. The Italians. The Chinese. The Japanese. The West Indians. The huddled masses (ASYNDETON) who came through Ellis Island on one coast and Angel Island on the other. All those folks, before they were “us,” they were “them.”

And when each new wave of immigrants arrived, they faced resistance from those who were already here. They faced hardship. They faced racism. They faced ridicule (TRICOLON, ANAPHORA & PARALLELISM). But over time, as they went about their daily lives, as they earned a living, as they raised a family, as they built a community, (ANAPHORA & PARALLELISM) as their kids went to school here, they did their part to build a nation.

They were the Einsteins and the Carnegies. But they were also the millions of women and men whose names history may not remember, but whose actions helped make us who we are (ANTITHESIS) who built this country hand by hand, brick by brick. They all came here knowing that what makes somebody an American is not just blood or birth, but allegiance to our founding principles and the faith in the idea (ANTITHESIS) that anyone from anywhere can write the next great chapter of our story.

And that’s still true today. Just ask Alan Aleman. Alan is here this afternoon — where is Alan? He’s around here — there he is right here. Alan was born in Mexico. He was brought to this country by his parents when he was a child. Growing up, Alan went to an American school, pledged allegiance to the American flag, felt American in every way (TRICOLON) — and he was, except for one: on paper.

In high school, Alan watched his friends come of age — driving around town with their new licenses, earning some extra cash from their summer jobs at the mall. He knew he couldn’t do those things. But it didn’t matter that much. What mattered to Alan was earning an education so that he could live up to his God-given potential.

Last year, when Alan heard the news that we were going to offer a chance for folks like him to emerge from the shadows — even if it’s just for two years at a time (EXPLETIVE) — he was one of the first to sign up. And a few months ago he was one of the first people in Nevada to get approved. In that moment, Alan said, “I felt the fear vanish. I felt accepted.”

So today, Alan is in his second year at the College of Southern Nevada. Alan is studying to become a doctor. (Applause.) He hopes to join the Air Force. He’s working hard every single day to build a better life for himself and his family. And all he wants is the opportunity to do his part to build a better America.

So in the coming weeks, as the idea of reform becomes more real and the debate becomes more heated (PARALLELISM), and there are folks who are trying to pull this thing apart, remember Alan and all those who share the same hopes and the same dreams. Remember that this is not just a debate about policy. It’s about people (ANTITHESIS). It’s about men and women and young people who want nothing more than the chance to earn their way into the American story.

Throughout our history, that has only made our nation stronger. And it’s how we will make sure that this century is the same as the last: an American century welcoming of everybody who aspires to do something more, and who is willing to work hard to do it, and is willing to pledge that allegiance to our flag.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

Rhetorical devices used in President Obama’s 2nd Inaugural Speech

If you’re unsure of the meaning of any of the rhetorical devices highlighted below, or just need a quick reminder, read my article Rhetorical devices

“Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA) recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names (POLYSYNDETON & PARALLELISM). What makes us exceptional — what makes us American (AMPLIFICATION) — is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”( SENTENTIA)

Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few (ANTITHESIS) or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people (SENTENTIA), entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed (ANASTROPHE).

And for more than two hundred years, we have.

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by (ANAPHORA) sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

Together, we resolved that a (TRICOLON, ANAPHORA & PARALLELISM) great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our (ANAPHORA) insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding (ALLITERATION) principles requires new responses to new challenges; that (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA) preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias (2 x ALLITERATION) No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.

This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience (PARALLELISM). A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together.

For we, the people (SENTENTIA), understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know (TRICOLON, ANAPHORA & PARALLELISM) that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal (TRICOLON, ANAPHORA & PARALLELISM) not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools (TRICOLON, ANAPHORA & PARALLELISM), and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher (TRICOLON & ASYNDETON). But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what (ANAPHORA) will give real meaning to our creed.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future (ANTITHESIS). For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.

We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away (TRICOLON & POLYSYNDETON) in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security (TRICOLON), these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us (ANTITHESIS). They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks (ANTITHESIS) that make this country great.

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity (ANTITHESIS) We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.

The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA) lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war (ANTITHESIS). Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war; who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends (ANTITHESIS) — and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.

We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will (ANAPHORA) show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully —- not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.

America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice —- not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed (ALLITERATION) describes: tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice.

We, the people (ANAPHORA), declare today that the most evident of truths —- that all of us are created equal (SENTENTIA) – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall (TRICOLON & ALLITERATION); just as it guided (ANAPHORA) all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until (ANAPHORA) all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe (TRICOLON & POLYSYNDETON) from harm.

That is our generation’s task — to make these words, these rights, these values (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA) of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness (SENTENTIA) real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time.

For now decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that (ANAPHORA) today’s victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years (TRICOLON, POLYSYNDETON & CLIMAX) hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction (ANTITHESIS). And we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.

They are the words of citizens and they represent our greatest hope. You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course. You and I, as citizens, have the (ANAPHORA) obligation to shape the debates of our time — not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift (ANTITHESIS) in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

Let us, each of us, now embrace with solemn duty and awesome joy what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common (ANAPHORA) purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.

Thank you. God bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.”

How Obama kept the Lizard caged in his 2nd Inaugural

OK, OK – I know you’re probably ‘inauguralled out’ after reading two dozen articles about the President’s second Inaugural address, but this one’s a bit different. (And yes, I realize ‘inauguralled’ isn’t a Imagereal word – I made it up. When Shakespeare couldn’t find a word that said what he wanted to say, he invented one. And what’s good enough for Shakey is good enough for me.) But I obviously can’t let an Inaugural Address go unanalyzed.

You can read the full speech in my next blog, with the various rhetorical devices highlighted and named (my slogan really should be ‘I do the work so you don’t have to ...’) but in this article I want to one real observation about it, not on its political content but on its crafting and design. It’s how the President deliberately tried not to unleash his audience’s ‘Lizards’ (if you don’t know what I mean by that, I’d recommend you read my article Getting past your audience’s Lizard brain before continuing or a lot won’t make sense).

One of the key things to do before any speech or presentation is to consider your audience. What’s motivating them, what’s scaring them, what’s worrying them, and …. is there any way they could possibly view what you’re about to say as a threat. Because if there’s the slightest possibility that their Lizards can view it as a threat … they will. So let’s look at that from Obama’s perspective.

First things first – who was his audience? Theoretically, of course, it was the entire US population, but practically I think it was much narrower than that. He had two audiences. The first was undoubtedly his own political base and supporters and the second was ‘moderate’ Republicans and independents who may be fed up with what he considers to be the unreasonable tactics of the GOP. (On the day before the speech, David Plouffe – the President’s senior political advisor – claimed that Republicans in Washington are a “barrier to progress” and “out of the mainstream“, contrasting them with “Republicans in the country who are seeking compromise, seeking balance.”)

The third potential audience – staunch Republicans – just didn’t get considered at all. He attacked both the top 1% and the Tea Party with one sentence: “The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob” and Paul Ryan’s comments about the 47% who pay no federal income tax as being ‘takers’ instead of ‘makers’ with “Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security …… do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

Although not mentioning Republicans by name, he castigated them as people who don’t want their wives, mothers and daughters to “earn a living equal to their efforts,” who would cause some citizens “to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.” They’re those who mistake “absolutism for principle”, “substitute spectacle for politics” and “treat name-calling as reasoned debate.” They’d have people’s “twilight years . . . spent in poverty” and ensure that the parents of disabled children have “nowhere to turn.” They’d reserve freedom “for the lucky”, “deny the overwhelming judgment of science” on climate change, and apparently contemplate “perpetual war.” They probably also beat up old ladies, pull the wings off flies and don’t like apple pie.

The message for his primary audience – his power base and supporters – was an unapologetic argument for ‘big government’. The difficulty facing him was how to please this audience without alienating and switching off ‘moderate’ Republicans and independents.

Because his message was unequivocal, and would probably scream ‘THREAT!’ at them. It was a powerful, muscular, almost pugnacious statement of a political philiosphy that effectively said, ‘The last three decades of Reaganite conservatism is over‘ (I know the Democrats were in power for some of that period, but even Bill Clinton said the country needed “a government that is smaller, lives within its means, and does more with less“).

It would be difficult to think of an Inaugural address other than FDR’s of 1937 that unabashedly made more of a case for a strong federal government. It was the antithesis of Ronald Reagan’s 1981 Inaugural (when he said, “It is time to check and reverse the growth of government …. It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment”):

  • The American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.”
  • “… a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers” (a better articulation of the idea he clumsily defended during the campaign, reduced to the instantly infamous slogan “You Didn’t Build That”)
  • “… a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.”
  • “… a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.”

So what can do? He knows that if he says the things that will please his supporters, he’ll lose his secondary audience. They’ll switch off, stop listening and say, “Romney was right about this guy!” The Lizards will be let loose! So to make sure this doesn’t happen, he does three things.

First, he lulls them into a false sense of security by talking as if their views are his own, as if he is actually wary of big government and is a believer in individualism: “We have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.” Nothing for moderate Republicans to disagree with there. Everyone’s singing from the same hymn sheet.

But there’s a twist. In a line that echoes Reagan’s famous “Government is nor the answer to the problem. Government is the problem“, the President says, “… preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.” It’s as if he’s saying, “Strong government isn’t an obstacle to individual freedom. It’s the way to get more individual freedom.“)

Secondly, he never actually uses the words ‘strong federal government.’ He talks about it without actually mentioning it, talking about ‘collective action’ and ‘doing things together’ instead. Instead, it’s all about ‘we’:

  • “(we) must do these things together, as one nation and one people.”
  • “We vowed to move forward together.”
  • “… we will seize (this moment) — so long as we seize it together.”
  • “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”

Hardly a sentence is spoken that doesn’t have ‘we’, ‘us’ or ‘our’ in it. I counted 54 uses of the word ‘we’ and 51 of ‘us’ or ‘our’. In contrast, the word ‘I’ is used only 4 times, and 2 of those were ‘you and I’, so that’s really 2 more instances of ‘us.’

Thirdly, he deliberately wraps his speech with the Constitution, effectively stealing one of the GOP’s (and the Tea Party’s) main tactics and pulling the rug from beneath their feet. But with a twist. He interprets it in a way that supports his central message, not theirs. After quoting directly from it, he says the country’s task is “… to bridge the meaning of these words with the realities of our time.”

  • “…our generation’s task (is) to make … these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.”
  • “… the most evident of truths —- that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still.”
  • “… fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges;… preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.”
  • “… history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing.” (The best line of the speech in my opinion.)

He draws a direct line from the language of the Founding Fathers to the case for more government by grounding it directly in the nation’s founding values. The words “We the people” start five(!) paragraphs.

As John B Judis points out in The New Republic, the use of this phrase goes back to the debates between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists over the Constitution itself. In arguing for a strong national government as opposed to the weak state-based government laid out in the Articles of Confederation, the Federalists invoked the idea of popular sovereignty and “we the people.”

. If the Federalists had openly advocated a strong national government run by a President and Senate, neither of which was elected directly by the people, they would have incurred accusations of trying to replicate Britain’s monarchy and House of Lords. So instead they talked of “we the people” (a phrase inserted by a Federalist author) and of popular sovereignty. The Federalists “expropriated and exploited the language that more rightfully belonged to their opponents.

None of the above is a criticism. In fact it’s a compliment. And an excellent example of how to deliver a ‘tricky’ message without releasing your audience’s collective Lizard.

Rhetorical Devices Used In President Obama’s Gun Control Speech

Obama gun controlA good speech this week from President Obama, I thought, on his gun control proposals, combining a nice balance of logic and emotion.  (NB: As usual, I’m commenting on his ability as an orator here, not the divisive subject of gun control itself; I’ve no desire for someone to start a petition to prevent me from coming to the States a la Piers Morgan!). Also as usual, I’ve done the hard work for you. I’ve taken a transcript of the speech, identified the rhetorical devices used, highlighting the words in bold and put the name of the device in capital letters.

No surprise to say that his favorite device, ANAPHORA, was the one used most often –  17 out of a total of 34, to be exact  (that’s starting successive phrases or sentences with the same words; if you need a reminder of what any of these devices are or further examples of them, read my article on rhetorical devices here). Add in the number of uses of ANTITHESIS and at times I felt as if his speechwriter hadn’t got past the letter ‘A’ in the ‘Beginner’s Dictionary of Rhetoric’!

A criticism I’ve made before of the President’s oratory  is that he often doesn’t start off as strong as he could. I don’t know – maybe he feels that when you’re POTUS everyone will listen to you anyway, so you don’t have to try too hard to ‘Grab ’em by the throat‘ but when you’re giving a business presentation it’s absolutely vital. There are better ways to get off to a great start than thanking Joe Biden. If he felt it necessary to thank the VP he could have done it after a powerful opening that grabbed everybody’s attention.

Personally, I’d have opened with the statistic he introduced after several paragraphs, i.e. “In the month since 20 precious children and six brave adults were violently taken from us at Sandy Hook Elementary, more than 900 of our fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of a gun — 900 in the past month.” It’s called opening with a startling statistic.

Transcript Of Speech & Rhetorical Devices

“Let me begin by thanking our Vice President, Joe Biden, for your dedication, Joe, to this issue, for bringing so many different voices to the table.  Because while reducing gun violence is a complicated challenge, protecting our children from harm shouldn’t be a divisive one.

Over the month since the tragedy in Newtown, we’ve heard from so many, and, obviously, none have affected us more than the families of those gorgeous children and their teachers and guardians who were lost.  And so we’re grateful to all of you for taking the time to be here, and recognizing that we honor their memories in part by doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again.

But we also heard from some unexpected people.  In particular, I started getting a lot of letters from kids.  Four of them are here today — Grant Fritz, Julia Stokes, Hinna Zeejah, and Teja Goode.  They’re pretty representative of some of the messages that I got.  These are some pretty smart letters from some pretty smart young people.

Hinna, a third-grader — you can go ahead and wave, Hinna. That’s you — (laughter.)  Hinna wrote, “I feel terrible for the parents who lost their children…I love my country and [I] want everybody to be happy and safe.”

And then, Grant — go ahead and wave, Grant.  (Laughter.)  Grant said, “I think there should be some changes.  We should learn from what happened at Sandy Hook…I feel really bad.”

And then, Julia said — Julia, where are you?  There you go — “I’m not scared for my safety, I’m scared for others.  I have four brothers and sisters and I know I would not be able to bear the thought of losing any of them.”

These are our kids.  This is what they’re thinking about.  And so what we should be thinking about is our responsibility to care for them, and shield them from harm, and give them (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA) the tools they need to grow up and do everything that they’re capable of doing — not just to pursue their own dreams, but to help build this country (ANTITHESIS).  This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe.  This is (ANAPHORA) how we will be judged.  And their voices should compel us to change.

And that’s why, last month, I asked Joe to lead an effort, along with members of my Cabinet, to come up with some concrete steps we can take right now to keep our children safe, to help prevent mass shootings, to (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA) reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country.

And we can’t put this off any longer.  Just last Thursday, as TV networks were covering one of Joe’s meetings on this topic, news broke of another school shooting, this one in California.  In the month since 20 precious children and six brave adults were violently taken from us at Sandy Hook Elementary, more than 900 of our fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of a gun — 900 in the past month.  And every day we wait, that number will keep growing.

So I’m putting forward a specific set of proposals based on the work of Joe’s task force.  And in the days ahead, I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality. Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no (ANAPHORA) piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there is even one  (ANAPHORA) life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.

And I’m going to do my part.  As soon as I’m finished speaking here, I will sit at that desk and I will sign a directive giving law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals and the public health community some of the tools they need to help reduce gun violence.

We will make it easier to keep guns out of the hands of criminals by strengthening the background check system.  We will help schools hire more resource officers if they want them and develop emergency preparedness plans.  We will (ANAPHORA) make sure mental health professionals know their options for reporting threats of violence — even as we acknowledge that someone with a mental illness is far more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the perpetrator.

And while year after year, those who oppose even modest gun safety measures have threatened to defund scientific or medical research into the causes of gun violence, I will direct the Centers for Disease Control to go ahead and study the best ways to reduce it — and Congress should fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds.  We don’t benefit from ignorance.  We don’t benefit from (ANAPHORA) not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.

These are a few of the 23 executive actions that I’m announcing today.  But as important as these steps are, they are in no way a substitute for action from members of Congress.  To make a real and lasting difference, Congress, too, must act — and Congress must act soon.  And I’m calling on Congress to pass some very specific proposals right away.

First:  It’s time for Congress to require a universal background check for anyone trying to buy a gun.  (Applause.)   The law already requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks, and over the last 14 years that’s kept 1.5 million of the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun.  But it’s hard to enforce that law when as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check.  That’s not safe.  That’s not (ANAPHORA) smart.  It’s not fair to responsible gun buyers or sellers.

If you want to buy a gun — whether it’s from a licensed dealer or a private seller — you should at least have to show you are not a felon or somebody legally prohibited from buying one.  This is common sense.  And an overwhelming majority of Americans agree with us on the need for universal background checks — including more than 70 percent of the National Rifle Association’s members, according to one survey.  So there’s no reason we can’t do this.

Second:  Congress should restore a ban on military-style assault weapons, and a 10-round limit for magazines.  (Applause.) The type of assault rifle used in Aurora, for example, when paired with high-capacity magazines, has one purpose — to pump out as many bullets as possible, as quickly as possible (EPISTROPHE); to do as much damage, using bullets often designed to inflict maximum damage.

And that’s what allowed the gunman in Aurora to shoot 70 people — 70 people (EXPLETIVE) — killing 12 in a matter of minutes.  Weapons designed for the theater of war have no place in a movie theater.  A majority of Americans agree with us on this.

And, by the way, so did Ronald Reagan, one of the staunchest defenders of the Second Amendment, who wrote to Congress in 1994, urging them — this is Ronald Reagan speaking (EXPLETIVE) — urging them to “listen to the American public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of [military-style assault] weapons.”  (Applause.)

And finally, Congress needs to help, rather than hinder (ANTITHESIS) law enforcement as it does its job.  We should get tougher on people who buy guns with the express purpose of turning around and selling them to criminals.  And we should (ANAPHORA) severely punish anybody who helps them do this.  Since Congress hasn’t confirmed a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in six years, they should confirm Todd Jones, who will be — who has been Acting, and I will be nominating for the post.  (Applause.)

And at a time when budget cuts are forcing many communities to reduce their police force, we should put more cops back on the job and back on our streets.

Let me be absolutely clear.  Like most Americans, I believe the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. I respect our strong tradition of gun ownership and the rights of hunters and sportsmen.  There are millions of responsible, law-abiding gun owners in America who cherish their right to bear arms for hunting, or sport, or protection, or collection.

I also believe most gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale.  I believe most of them agree that if America worked harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one that occurred in Newtown.  That’s what these reforms are designed to do.  They’re common-sense measures.  They have the support of the majority of the American people.

And yet, that doesn’t mean any of this is going to be easy to enact or implement.  If it were, we’d already have universal background checks.  The ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines never would have been allowed to expire.  More of our fellow Americans might still be alive, celebrating birthdays and anniversaries and graduations (TRICOLON).

This will be difficult.  There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists (TRICOLON) publicly warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty — not because that’s true, but because they want to gin up fear (ANTITHESIS) or higher ratings or revenue (TRICOLON) for themselves.  And behind the scenes, they’ll do everything they can to block any common-sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever.

The only way we will be able to change is if their audience, their constituents, their membership (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA) says this time must be different — that this time, we must (ANAPHORA) do something to protect our communities and our kids.

I will put everything I’ve got into this, and so will Joe.  But I tell you, the only way we can change is if the American people demand it.  And by the way, that doesn’t just mean from certain parts of the country.  We’re going to need voices in those areas, in those congressional districts, where the tradition of gun ownership is strong to speak up and to say this is important.  It can’t just be the usual suspects.  We have to examine ourselves and our hearts, and ask ourselves what is important.

This will not happen unless the American people demand it.  If parents and teachers, police officers and pastors, if hunters and sportsmen, if responsible gun owners, if (ANAPHORA) Americans of every background stand up and say, enough; we’ve suffered too much pain and care too much about our children to allow this to continue — then change will come.  That’s what it’s going to take.

In the letter that Julia wrote me, she said, “I know that laws have to be passed by Congress, but I beg you to try very hard.”  (Laughter.)  Julia, I will try very hard.  But she’s right.  The most important changes we can make depend on congressional action.  They need to bring these proposals up for a vote, and the American people need to make sure that they do.

Get them on record.  Ask your member of Congress if they support universal background checks to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Ask them if they support renewing a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.  And if they say no, ask them why not.  Ask (ANAPHORA) them what’s more important — doing whatever it takes to get a A grade from the gun lobby that funds their campaigns, or giving parents some peace of mind when they drop their child off for first grade? (ANTITHESIS)  (Applause.)

This is the land of the free, and it always will be.  As Americans, we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights that no man or government can take away from us.  But we’ve also long recognized, as our Founders recognized, that with rights come responsibilities.  Along with our freedom to live our lives as we will comes an obligation to allow others to do the same.  We don’t live in isolation.  We live in a society, a government of, and by, and for the people (SENTENTIA).  We (ANAPHORA) are responsible for each other.

The right to worship freely and safely, that right was denied to Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.  The right to assemble peaceably, that right was denied (SYMPLOCE) shoppers in Clackamas, Oregon, and moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado.  That most fundamental set of rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness — fundamental rights that were denied to college students at Virginia Tech, and high school students at Columbine, and elementary school students in Newtown, and kids on street corners in Chicago on too frequent a basis to tolerate, and all the families who’ve never imagined that they’d lose a loved one to a bullet — those rights are at stake.  We’re responsible.

When I visited Newtown last month, I spent some private time with many of the families who lost their children that day.  And one was the family of Grace McDonald.  Grace’s parents are here. Grace was seven years old when she was struck down — just a gorgeous, caring, joyful (TRICOLON) little girl.  I’m told she loved pink. She loved the beach.  She (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA) dreamed of becoming a painter.

And so just before I left, Chris, her father, gave me one of her paintings, and I hung it in my private study just off the Oval Office.  And every time I look at that painting, I think about Grace.  And I think about the life that she lived and the life that lay ahead of her, and most of all, I think about how, when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, we must act now — for Grace.  For the 25 other innocent children and devoted educators who had so much left to give.  For the men and women in big cities and small towns who fall victim to senseless violence each and every day.  For all the (ANAPHORA) Americans who are counting on us to keep them safe from harm.  Let’s do the right thingLet’s do the right thing (EPIZEUXIS) for them, and for this country that we love so much.  (Applause.)

Thank you.  Let’s sign these orders.”