Rhetorical devices in Obama’s 2013 Israel speech

(The rhetorical devices used are in bold with their name in brackets (CAPITALS). If you’re unsure about the meaning of any of the device, got to rhetorical devices for a full explanation with examples)

“Shalom. It is an honor to be here with you in Jerusalem, and I am so grateful for the welcome that I have received from the people of Israel. I bring with me the support of the American people, and the friendship that binds us together.

Over the last two days, I have reaffirmed the bonds between our countries with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres. I have borne witness to the ancient history of the Jewish people at the Shrine of the Book, and I have seen (TRICOLON, ANAPHORA & PARALLELISM) Israel’s shining future in your scientists and entrepreneurs. This is a nation of museums and patents, timeless holy sites and ground-breaking innovation. Only in Israel could you see the Dead Sea Scrolls and the place where the technology on board the Mars Rover originated. But what I’ve looked forward to the most is the ability to speak directly to you, the Israeli people, especially so many young people, about the history that brought us here today, and the future that you will make in the years to come.

Now I know that in Israel’s vibrant democracy, every word and gesture is carefully scrutinized. But just so you know, any drama between me and my friend Bibi over the years was just a plot to create material for Eretz Nehederet.

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I also know that I come to Israel on the eve of a sacred holiday – the celebration of Passover. And that is where I would like to begin today. Just a few days from now, Jews here in Israel and around the world will sit with family and friends at the Seder table, and celebrate with songs, wine and symbolic foods. After enjoying Seders with family and friends in Chicago and on the campaign trail, I’m proud to have brought this tradition into the White House. I did so because I wanted my daughters to experience the Haggadah, and the story at the center of Passover that makes this time of year so powerful.

It is a story of centuries of slavery, and years of wandering in the desert; a story of perseverance amidst persecution, and faith in God and the Torah. It is a story about finding freedom in your own land. For the Jewish people, this story is central to who you have become. But it is also a story that holds within it the universal human experience, with all of its suffering and salvation. It is a part of the three great religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – that trace their origins to Abraham, and see Jerusalem as sacred. And it is a story (ANAPHORA) that has inspired communities around the globe, including me and my fellow Americans.

In the United States – a nation made up of people who crossed oceans to start anew – we are naturally drawn to the idea of finding freedom in our land. To African-Americans, the story of the Exodus told a powerful tale about emerging from the grip of bondage to reach for liberty and human dignity – a tale that was carried from slavery through the civil rights movement. For generations, this promise helped people weather poverty and persecution (ALLITERATION), while holding on to the hope that a better day was on the horizon. For me personally, growing up in far-flung parts of the world and without firm roots, it spoke to a yearning within every human being for a home.

Of course, even as we draw strength from the story of God’s will and His gift of freedom expressed on Passover, we know that here on Earth we must bear our responsibilities in an imperfect world. That means accepting our measure of sacrifice and struggle (ALLITERATION), and working – through generation after generation – on behalf of that ideal of freedom. As Dr. Martin Luther King said on the day before he was killed – “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know that… we, as a people, will get to the promised land.” So just as Joshua carried on after Moses, the work goes on – for justice and dignity; for opportunity and freedom.

For the Jewish people, the journey to the promise of the State of Israel wound through countless generations. It involved centuries of suffering and exile, prejudice, pogroms and even genocide. Through it all, the Jewish people sustained their unique identity and traditions, as well as a longing to return home. And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea – to be a free people in your homeland.

That is why I believe that Israel is rooted not just in history and tradition, but also in a simple and profound idea: the idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own. And over the last 65 years, when Israel has been at its best, Israelis have demonstrated that responsibility does not end when you reach the promised land, it only begins.

And so Israel has been a refuge for the diaspora – welcoming Jews from Europe to the former Soviet Union; from Ethiopia to North Africa.

Israel has built a prosperous nation – through kibbutzeem that made the desert bloom, business that broadened the middle class, and innovators who reached new frontiers (TRICOLON) – from the smallest microchip to the orbits of space (ANTITHESIS).

Israel has established a thriving democracy – with a spirited civil society, proud political parties, a tireless free press, and a lively public debate – lively may even be an understatement.

And Israel has achieved (TRICOLON, ANAPHORA & PARALLELISM|) this even as it has overcome relentless threats to its security – through the courage of the Israel Defense Forces, and a citizenry that is resilient in the face of terror.Image

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President Obama’s speech at the 2013 Gridiron Dinner

(For non-American readers, the Gridiron Dinner is an annual event hosted by the Gridiron Club, a long-established (1885) and prestigious journalistic association, at which the US president gives a self-deprecating and humorous speech.)

“Before I begin, I know some of you have noticed that I’m dressed a little differently from the other gentlemen.  Because of sequester, they cut my tails.  (Laughter.)  My joke writers have been placed on furlough.  (Laughter.)  I know a lot of you reported that no one will feel any immediate impact because of the sequester.  Well, you’re about to find out how wrong you are.  (Laughter.)

Of course, there’s one thing in Washington that didn’t get cut — the length of this dinner.  (Laughter.)  Yet more proof that the sequester makes no sense.  (Laughter.)

As you know, I last attended the Gridiron dinner two years ago.  Back then, I addressed a number of topics — a dysfunctional Congress, a looming budget crisis, complaints that I don’t spend enough time with the press.  It’s funny, it seems like it was just yesterday.  (Laughter.)

We noticed that some folks couldn’t make it this evening.  It’s been noted that Bob Woodward sends his regrets, which Gene Sperling predicted.  (Laughter.)  I have to admit this whole brouhaha had me a little surprised.  Who knew Gene could be so intimidating?  (Laughter.)  Or let me phrase it differently — who knew anybody named Gene could be this intimidating?  (Laughter.)

Now I know that some folks think we responded to Woodward too aggressively.  But hey, when has — can anybody tell me when an administration has ever regretted picking a fight with Bob Woodward?  (Laughter.)  What’s the worst that could happen?  (Laughter and applause.)

But don’t worry.  We’re all friends again in the spirit of that wonderful song.  As you may have heard, Bob invited Gene over to his place.  And Bob says he actually thinks that I should make it too.  And I might take him up on the offer.  I mean, nothing says “not a threat” like showing up at somebody’s house with guys with machine guns.  (Laughter.)

Now, since I don’t often speak to a room full of journalists — (laughter) — I thought I should address a few concerns tonight.  Some of you have said that I’m ignoring the Washington press corps — that we’re too controlling.  You know what, you were right.  I was wrong and I want to apologize in a video you can watch exclusively at whitehouse.gov.  (Laughter.)

While we’re on this subject, I want to acknowledge Ed Henry, who is here — who is the fearless leader of the Washington press corps now.  (Applause.)  And at Ed’s request, tonight I will take one question from the press.  Jay, do we have a question?  (Laughter.)  Surprisingly, it’s a question from Ed Henry.  (Laughter.)  “Mr. President, will you be taking any questions tonight?”  (Laughter.)  I’m happy to answer that.  No, Ed, I will not.  (Laughter.)

I also want to recognize David Corn.  He’s here from Mother Jones magazine.  He brought his iPhone.  So Bobby Jindal, if you thought your remarks were off the record, ask Mitt Romney about that.  (Applause.)

I have to say, I thought Bobby was incredibly funny this evening.  (Applause.)  I thought he was terrific.  Amy Klobuchar was sparkling and fantastic and fabulous.  (Applause.)  I am worried about Al Franken though.  (Laughter.)  How do you start off being one of the original writers for Saturday Night Live and end up being the second-funniest Senator in Minnesota?  (Laughter and applause.)  How the mighty have fallen.  (Laughter.)

Now I’m sure that you’ve noticed that there’s somebody very special in my life who is missing tonight, somebody who has always got my back, stands with me no matter what and gives me hope no matter how dark things seem.  So tonight, I want to publicly thank my rock, my foundation — thank you, Nate Silver.  (Laughter.)

Of course as I begin my second term, our country is still facing enormous challenges.  We have a lot of work to do — that, Marco Rubio, is how you take a sip of water.  (Laughter and applause.)

As I was saying, we face major challenges.  March in particular is going to be full of tough decisions.  But I want to assure you, I have my top advisors working around the clock. After all, my March Madness bracket isn’t going to fill itself out.  (Laughter.)  And don’t worry — there is an entire team in the situation room as we speak, planning my next golf outing, right now at this moment.  (Laughter.)

But those aren’t the only issues on my mind.  As you are aware — as has been noted this evening — we’ve had to make some very tough, huge budget cuts apparently with no regard to long-term consequences, which means I know how you feel in journalism.  (Laughter.)  I’ve been trying to explain this situation to the American people, but clearly I am not perfect. After a very public mix-up last week, my communications team has provided me with an easy way to distinguish between Star Trek and Star Wars.  (Laughter.)  Spock is what Maureen Dowd calls me.  Darth Vader is what John Boehner calls me.  (Laughter.)

Of course, maintaining credibility in this cynical atmosphere is harder than ever — incredibly challenging.  My administration recently put out a photo of me skeet shooting and even that wasn’t enough for some people.  Next week, we’re releasing a photo of me clinging to religion.  (Laughter and applause.)

I’m also doing what I can to smooth things over with Republicans in Congress.  In fact, these days John McCain and I are spending so much time together that he told me we were becoming friends.  I said, “John, stop.  Chuck Hagel warned me how this ends up.”  (Laughter.)

It took a while, but I’m glad that the Senate finally confirmed my Secretary of Defense.  And I have to say, I don’t know what happened to Chuck in those hearings.  I know he worked hard, he studied his brief.  And I even lent him my presidential debate team to work with him.  (Laughter.)  It’s confusing what happened.  (Laughter.)

But all these changes to my team are tough to handle, I’ve got to admit.  After nine years, I finally said goodbye to my chief speechwriter, Jon Favreau.  I watched him grow up.  He’s almost like a son to me, he’s been with me so long.  And I said to him when he first informed me of his decision, I said, “Favs, you can’t leave.”  And he answered with three simple words — “yes, I can.”  (Laughter.)  Fortunately, he did not take the prompter on his way out.  (Laughter.)  That would have been a problem.  (Laughter.)

With all these new faces, it’s hard to keep track of who is in, who is out.  And I know it’s difficult for you guys as reporters.  But I can offer you an easy way of remembering the new team.  If Ted Cruz calls somebody a communist, then you know they’re in my cabinet.  (Laughter.)

Jack Lew is getting started on his new role as Treasury Secretary.  Jack is so low key, he makes Tim Geithner look like Tom Cruise.  (Laughter.)  Don’t worry, everybody, Jack signed off on that joke or a five year old drew a slinky.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know which.  (Applause.)

Another big change has been at the State Department.  Everybody has noticed that obviously.  And let’s face it — Hillary is a tough act to follow.  But John Kerry is doing great so far.  He is doing everything he can to ensure continuity.  Frankly, though, I think it’s time for him to stop showing up at work in pantsuits.  (Laughter.)  It’s a disturbing image.  (Laughter.)  It really is.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know where he buys them.  He is a tall guy.  (Laughter.)

And even though I’m just beginning my second term, I know that some folks are looking ahead to bigger things.  Look, it’s no secret that my Vice President is still ambitious.  But let’s face it, his age is an issue.  Just the other day, I had to take Joe aside and say, “Joe, you are way too young to be the pope.”  (Laughter.)  “You can’t do it.  You got to mature a little bit.”  (Laughter.)

Now, I do want to end on a serious note.  I know that there are people who get frustrated with the way journalism is practiced these days.  And sometimes those people are me.  (Laughter.)  But the truth is our country needs you and our democracy needs you.

In an age when all it takes to attract attention is a Twitter handle and some followers, it’s easier than ever to get it wrong.  But it’s more important than ever to get it right.  And I am grateful for all the journalists who do one of the toughest jobs there is with integrity and insight and dedication — and a sense of purpose — that goes beyond a business model or a news cycle.

This year alone, reporters have exposed corruption here at home and around the world.  They’ve risked everything to bring us stories from places like Syria and Kenya, stories that need to be told.  And they’ve helped people understand the ways in which we’re all connected — how something that happens or doesn’t happen halfway around the world or here in Washington can have consequences for American families.

These are extraordinary times.  The stakes are high and the tensions can sometimes be high as well.  But while we’ll always have disagreements, I believe that we share the belief that a free press — a press that questions us, that holds us accountable, that sometimes gets under our skin — is absolutely an essential part of our democracy.

So I want to thank everybody for not just a wonderful evening — and, Chuck, I want to thank you for your outstanding presidency — but I also just want to thank you for the work that you do each and every day.  And in the words of one of my favorite Star Trek characters — Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise — “May the force be with you.”  (Laughter and applause.)

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.