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).”

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

Rhetorical devices used in Mitt Romney’s 2013 CPAC speech

(The rhetorical devices used in the speech are highlighted in bold, with the name of the device immediately following in CAPITALS. If you’re unsure about the meaning of any of the devices, see Rhetorical devices for a full explanation with examples.)

“What an honor to be introduced by Governor Nikki Haley, a woman of uncommon courage and conviction; whose principles have guided her governance (ALLITERATION). We need more governors like her!

I’ve also had the honor of your support from the very beginning. You gave my campaign an early boost. You worked on the front lines—promoting my campaign, turning out voters. Thank you.

With help from so many of you, I had the honor of becoming my party’s nominee for president. I was given the privilege of experiencing America in ways Ann and I had never imagined. Across this great country, our fellow citizens opened up their homes and hearts to us.

Of course, I left the race disappointed that we didn’t win. But I also left honored and humbled to have represented values we believe in and to speak for so many good and decent people. We’ve lost races before, and in the past, those setbacks prepared us for larger victories. It is up to us to make sure that we learn from my mistakes, and from our mistakes (ANTISTROPHE), so that we can win the victories those people and this nation depend upon.

It’s fashionable in some circles to be pessimistic about America, about conservative solutions, about (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA) the Republican Party. I utterly reject that pessimism. We may not have carried the day last November 7th, but we haven’t lost the country we love, and we haven’t lost (ANAPHORA) our way. Our nation is still full of aspirations and hungry for new solutions. We’re a nation of invention and of reinventing. My optimism about America wasn’t diminished by my campaign; no, it grew – It grew (ANADIPLOSOS) as I came to know more of our fellow Americans.

I’ve seen American determination in people like Debbi Sommers. She runs a furniture rental business for conventions in Las Vegas. When 9/11 hit and again when the recession tanked the conventions business, she didn’t give up, close down, or lay off her people (TRICOLON). She taught them not just to rent furniture, but also to manufacture it.

I’ve seen perseverance. Harold Hamm drove a truck for ten years so that he could afford to go to college. He majored in Geology. Studying geological surveys, he concluded that there should be oil in North Dakota. He went there and drilled a well. It was dry. I’m told that it costs about $2 million to drill a dry hole. But he kept on drilling. 16 dry holes later, they called it Harold’s folly. That changed with the 17th. The Bakken range he discovered is estimated by some to hold as much as 500 billion barrels of oil.

I’ve seen (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA) risk taking. The flagging lumber business and mounting losses convinced International Paper Corporation that they needed to shut down their lumber mill in Ossipee, New Hampshire. Into the breech stepped Jim Smith and Kim Moore, the plant manager and sales manager. They borrowed and invested everything they could, to buy the broken business. They saved their jobs and 30 other peoples’ jobs, growing sales from $5 million a year to $50 million.

I met people of great faith. I sat in the home of Billy Graham and in the residence of Cardinal Dolan and prayed with these men of God.

I met heroes in our armed forces: men and women who re-signed with the National Guard after multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan, knowing that in all probability, they would be going back again.

I met heroes (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA) in the homes of the nation: single moms who are working two jobs so that their kids will have clothes like those that the other kids wear, dads who almost forget what a weekend is, because of all the jobs they’ve taken on to keep the house.

We are a patriotic people (ALLITERATION). The heart of America is good. Our land is blessed by the hand of God; may we as a people always be worthy of His grace, and His protection.

Like you, I believe a Conservative vision can attract a majority of Americans and form a governing coalition of renewal and reform. As someone who just lost the last election, I’m probably not the best person to chart the course for the next election. That said, I do have advice. Perhaps because I am a former governor, I would urge you to learn the lessons that come from some of our greatest success stories: the 30 Republican governors.

Yes, they are winning elections, but more importantly, they are solving problems. Big problems. Important problems (TRICOLON & ANTISTROPHE). Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia secured a constitutional amendment to expand charter schools. Governor Rick Snyder signed Right to Work legislation—in Michigan! Several secured tort reform. Many turned huge deficits into surpluses. Republican governors reached across the aisle, offered innovative solutions and have been willing to take the heat (TRICOLON) to make tough decisions.

We need the ideas and leadership of each of these governors. We particularly need to hear from the Governors of the blue and purple states, like Bob McDonnell, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Susanna Martinez, Chris Christie, and Brian Sandoval because their states are among those we must win to take the Senate and the White House.

We can also learn from the examples of principle, passion and leadership that we have seen during these last several weeks from fellow conservatives here in Washington. I may be a little biased, but I applaud the clear and convincing voice of my friend, Paul Ryan.

If I were to offer advice to any president of the United States, it would be this: do whatever you can do to keep America the most prosperous and free and powerful nation on earth.

It is no secret that the last century was an American century. And it is no secret that over the span of the 21st century, America’s pre-eminent position is far from guaranteed. The consequence if America were to be surpassed would be devastating. Why? (HYPOPHORA) Because among the primary rivals for world leadership – China, Russia, and the Jihadists (TRICOLON) – not one believes in the freedoms we take for granted. Freedom depends on American leadership.

American leadership depends on a military so strong, so superior (ALLITERATION, ASYNDETON & ANAPHORA), that no one would think to engage it. Our military strength depends on an economy so strong that it can support such a military. And our economy depends on a people so strong (TRICOLON & MESODIPLOSIS), so educated, so resolute, so hard working, so inventive, and so (ANAPHORA) devoted to their children’s future, that other nations look at us with respect and admiration.

That is the America we grew up in, and it is the America our children deserve.

What other nation would have enjoyed hegemonic military power for a quarter of a century, and never have used it to seek revenge against its former foes or to seize precious natural resources from the weak?

What nation is the most philanthropic in the world, the first to bind up the wounds of the injured from hurricanes, tsunamis, and war?

What nation (TRICOLON, ANAPHORA & HYPOPHORA) is the largest contributor to the fight against AIDS in Africa?

Who came to the rescue of Europe when it faced its darkest hour and came to the rescue of (ANAPHORA & HYPOPHORA) others under the threat of tyranny, in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Bosnia, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq? Whatever you think of these interventions, the impulse behind them was liberation, not conquest (ANTITHESIS). In all of human history, there has never been a great power that has so often used its power to liberate others from subjugation, to set the captives free. This we must teach our children, and never ourselves forget.

I’m inspired by a people who believe in and live for something greater than themselves—whether their faith, their country, their family, their school (ANAPHORA & ASYNDETON).

I marvel at the prescience, the brilliance and the sacrifices (TRICOLON) made by the nation’s Founders.

I’m proud of our immigrant heritage, proud that so many of us and of our ancestors came here because they wanted to be here, to build a better future for their children here, to worship their God here (TRICOLON & ANTISTROPHE).

At a campaign stop in Texas, I met a Cambodian-American named Sichan Siv. Sichan came here in 1976, escaping the killing fields of Cambodia. His first job was picking fruit, then he drove a cab in New York City. He later volunteered on the campaign of George H.W. Bush. Thirteen years after coming to America he went to work in the White House. And then, he was appointed as a United States Ambassador to the United Nations. He said that whenever he stood to speak in behalf of America, his emotions choked, and he asked himself in what other nation could an impoverished Cambodian refugee have become its Ambassador.

America began with an idea, a noble one. That idea was that every person is endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights. Freedom flows in American veins (METAPHOR). It invigorates our many enterprises, it inspires us to live beyond ourselves, it calls us (TRICOLON, ANAPHORA, PARALLELISM & ASYNDETON) to care for the suffering and downtrodden. It has made us a great nation.

Today, history and duty summon us again. The country is imperiled by mounting debt, by failing institutions, by families stressed beyond their limits, by schools that fail to make the grade, and by (ANAPHORA) public servants who are more intent on scoring political points than on national renewal.

Each of us in our own way will have to step up and meet our responsibility. I am sorry that I will not be your president – but I will be your co-worker and I will stand shoulder to shoulder with you. In the end, we will win just as we have won before, and for the same reason: because our cause is right…and just.

Thank you again for your help and support along our journey. Ann and I will treasure these memories all the days of our lives. God bless you, and God Bless the United States of America.”

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.”

Marco Rubio’s reply to the SOTU

A few years ago during Obama’s first Presidential election campaign, many of his opponents (even those within his own party) criticized him for his use of rhetoric. Hilary Clinton famously said that “You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose.” Unfortunately, both she and John McCain ignored this and chose to campaign almost entirely in prose, leaving the poetry field wide open and uncontested to their opponent.

Fast forward four years, and how things had changed. Mitt Romney wasn’t going to make that mistake, no sir. Knowing he was up against possibly his generation’s most effective orator, the Republican candidate was as poetic as the next man.

His use of rhetoric in many speeches really impressed me and I thought they were just as good as the President’s. His delivery was never going to match Obama’s – let’s face it, few people can match him on his day – but the rhetorical content was just as good (read a rhetorical analysis of a handful of his speeches).

And the same can be said about Marco Rubio’s ‘official’ (as opposed to Rand Paul’s ‘unofficial’ one) response to the President’s SOTU speech. A full transcript of the speech is given below, with all of the rhetorical devices and figures of speech highlighted. It’s a good speech, carefully written by someone who knows his (or her) rhetoric.

The official response is always a tricky speech to give (few recent deliverers have covered themselves in glory – remember Bobby Jindal?) . You’re beginning to speak just as the majority of America is reaching for the TV remote, and you’re doing it from an office without an adoring live audience to give you standing ovations. Plus … it has to sound like it’s a response to what the President’s just said, but has to be written before he says it.

Having said that, it isn’t as hard as it sounds. Rubio and his speechwriters had a pretty good idea what Obama would say (let’s face it, he says pretty much the same things in most of his speeches) and as an exposition of the Republican case for smaller government and growing the economy out of recession, I’d say the speech had a nice, logical flow.

The Opening

First off … a negative. I thought the opening was weak. I’m a constant critic of the way President Obama opens with what seems to be individual thanks to every single person in the audience, but I guess when you’re POTUS you’re pretty much guaranteed that people will listen to you (for a while, anyway) so you don’t really need a great opening. Plus, getting a name-check from the Prez gives these people political capital with their local constituents. So he can be forgiven.

But Marco Rubio’s not POTUS, and his audience would already have listened to a lengthy speech and not really be in the mood for another. So he really needed a powerful opening to make them sit up, put the TV remote down, and listen in, i.e. he needed to give them a very good reason to give him the next 15 minutes of their life (read 6 ways to grab ’em by the throat here).

Not many people motivated to watch the speech would have been unaware of who he was, but how did he spend that first invaluable couple of minutes? With a self-introduction and  meaningless waffle – “Good evening. I’m Marco Rubio. I’m blessed to represent Florida in the United States Senate. Let me begin by congratulating President Obama on the start of his second term. Tonight, I have the honor of responding to his State of the Union address on behalf of my fellow Republicans. And I am especially honored …..” (yadda, yadda, yadda …)

The first words out of my mouth would have been something like, “Tonight you’ve just heard a speech from a President who thinks …..” and then finished the sentence with something powerful that would have made headlines the next day, and made people want to listen to what I had to say. Score: 4/10

The Body

If you’re ever having to counter someone else’s argument, a great way to do it is to use a rhetorical device called Antithesis. This puts two contrasting or opposing ideas back-to-back, effectively saying, “It’s not X …. it’s Y.” I reckon Rubio used this device more than any other in the speech.

For example:

  • “(The opportunity to make something of yourself) “… isn’t bestowed on us from Washington. It comes from a vibrant free economy.”
  • “More government isn’t going to help you get ahead. It’s going to hold you back.
  • “More government isn’t going to create more opportunities. It’s going to limit them.
  • “And more government isn’t going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private sector jobs. It’s going to create uncertainty.”
  • “Hard-working middle class Americans … don’t need us to come up with a plan to grow the government. They want a plan to grow the middle class

So I thought the bit on the economy was strong. There were no real disagreements on immigration, as both parties are now singing (for once) from a similar hymn sheet. (The only real difference is the GOP has to try and sound ‘hard ass’ about border control while Obama claims that battle is already virtually won.)

The weakest part, though, was about gun control, where he didn’t even try to put forward a serious counter-argument. Perhaps because he’d been less sure what Obama was actually going to say, perhaps because he felt his argument was weak, perhaps because the President saved his full rhetorical prowess for that topic. I don’t know. But simply saying, “We must effectively deal with the rise of violence in our country. But unconstitutionally undermining the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans is not the way to do it” and then moving on to something else is not even trying to argue the case. It’s giving up. It’s surrendering the field to your opponent without a fight.

Score: 8/10.

The Close

A weak (ish) call to action, as in: “Each time our nation has faced great challenges, what has kept us together was our shared hope for a better life. Now, let that hope bring us together again. To solve the challenges of our time and write the next chapter in the amazing story of the greatest nation man has ever known.” It could have been far more powerful.

BUT … I like the final (and now seemingly obligatory) ‘God bless‘ bit. Mitt Romney normally closed with something along the lines of  “May God bless you! May god bless the American people, and may God bless the United States of America!” and Obama generally does similar (on Wednesday it was “Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.”).

Rubio added a twist by adding a blessing for the President. He said, “May God bless all of you. May God bless our President. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.” Including this was surprising per se, especially as he’d already congratulated him during his opening on winning the election.

In doing it he used a rhetorical device called Climax, which arranges several words or phrases in order of increasing importance or emphasis. Whether he did it deliberately or not I don’t know, but putting America after the President is subtly reminding the audience that the country is more important than the post. Score: 6/10

(NB: You might think that all politicians end their speeches with a variation of ‘God bless America’, but Richard Nixon was the first to do so in 1973. None of his successors did until Ronald Regan, who said it at the end of every speech for 8 years, and now it’s become de riguer.)

The Delivery

Rubio’s delivery was fluent and confident, with lots of vocal inflection. And he managed to sound as conversational as it’s possible to do when speaking direct to camera. BUT … he does let his body language betray his nerves on big occasions. Last time it was not knowing what to do with his hands. (Read my blog about his recent immigration speech:How your body language shows your nervousness even before you present.)

This time it was reaching off-screen for a bottle of water to hydrate his dry throat (watch it on video here), something that was tweeted about endlessly. Two things if you worry about having a dry throat. Have a glass of water in view and don’t be afraid to sip from it quite openly; his faux pas here was reaching off-screen for a bottle out of shot because it was obviously unplanned. Second, rub a small amount of Vaseline on your teeth; run your tongue over this when your mouth feels dry and you’ll automatically salivate. Score: 7/10

Speech Transcript

(The speech transcript is below. As usual, I’ve identified the rhetorical devices used and highlighted them in bold with their names in brackets and (CAPITALS). If you’re unsure about what any of them mean, visit Rhetorical Devices for full explanations and examples.)

“Good evening. I’m Marco Rubio. I’m blessed to represent Florida in the United States Senate. Let me begin by congratulating President Obama on the start of his second term. Tonight, I have the honor of responding to his State of the Union address on behalf of my fellow Republicans. And I am especially honored to be addressing our brave men and women serving in the armed forces and in diplomatic posts around the world. You may be thousands of miles away, but you are always in our prayers (ANTITHESIS).

The State of the Union address is always a reminder of how unique America is. For much of human history, most people were trapped in stagnant societies, where a tiny minority always stayed on top, and no one else even had a chance. But America is exceptional because we believe that every life, at every stage, is precious, and that everyone everywhere has a God-given right to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them.

Like most Americans, for me this ideal is personal. My parents immigrated here in pursuit of the opportunity to improve their life and give their children the chance at an even better one. They made it to the middle class, my dad working as a bartender and my mother as a cashier and a maid. I didn’t inherit any money from them. But I inherited something far better (ANTHITHESIS) – the real opportunity to accomplish my dreams.

This opportunity – to make it to the middle class or beyond no matter where you start out in life (EXPLETIVE) – it isn’t bestowed on us from Washington. It comes from a vibrant free economy (ANTITHESIS) where people can risk their own money to open a business. And when they succeed, they hire more people, who in turn invest or spend the money they make, helping others start a business and create jobs.

Presidents in both parties – from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan – have known that our free enterprise economy is the source of our middle class prosperity.

But President Obama? He believes it’s the cause of our problems (ANTITHESIS). That the economic downturn happened because our government didn’t tax enough, spend enough and control enough (TRICOLON & ANTISTROPHE). And, therefore, as you heard tonight, his solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more (TRICOLON & ANTISTROPHE).

This idea – that our problems were caused by a government that was too small (EXPLETIVE) – it’s just not true. In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.

And the idea that more taxes and more (ANAPHORA) government spending is the best way to help hardworking middle class taxpayers – that’s an old idea that’s failed every time it’s been tried.

More government isn’t going to help you get ahead. It’s going to hold you back.

More government isn’t going to create more opportunities. It’s going to limit them.

And more government isn’t going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private sector jobs. It’s going to create uncertainty (TRICOLON, ANAPHORA & ANTITHESIS x 3)

Because more government breeds complicated rules and laws that a small business can’t afford to follow.

Because more government (ANAPHORA) raises taxes on employers who then pass the costs on to their employees through fewer hours, lower pay and even layoffs (TRICOLON).

And because many government programs that claim to help the middle class, often end up hurting them instead (ANTITHESIS).

For example, Obamacare was supposed to help middle class Americans afford health insurance. But now, some people are losing the health insurance they were happy with. And because Obamacare created expensive requirements for companies with more than 50 employees, now many of these businesses aren’t hiring. Not only that; they’re being forced to lay people off and switch from full-time employees to part-time workers.

Now does this mean there’s no role for government? (HYPOPHORA) Of course not. It plays a crucial part in keeping us safe, enforcing rules, and providing some security (TRICOLON) against the risks of modern life. But government’s role is wisely limited by the Constitution. And it can’t play its essential role when it ignores those limits.

Catch the rest of this rhetorical analysis by clicking here ……

It’s Abe’s birthday! As a tribute, here’s a look at the rhetorical devices he used in the Gettysburg Address

I just learned it’s Abraham Lincoln’s birthday today (or would have been if he’d still been alive; is there a word for the anniversary of someone’s date of birth, even after they’re dead? If there is, I don’t know it), so thought I’d do an analysis of the Gettysburg Address, possibly THE most famous speech in American history (with ‘I have a dream!‘ coming second). That despite it being only 2 minutes 270 words and 10 sentences long.

It’s proof that you don’t have to be verbose or a hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophile (someone who uses 10-dollar words when a 10-cent one will do fine) to be a great communicator. If he’d been alive today, Abe would have been a great Tweeter!

I love the opening scene in the movie ‘Lincoln’ where two ordinary, uneducated soldiers not only know the speech, but can recite it by heart.

I know you’ve all seen it in print 100 times, but I’ve included it below and highlighted the rhetorical devices he used in bold, with the name of the device in brackets and (CAPITALS). I count 20 used in 2 minutes, yet it’s not ‘forced’ or ‘hammy’ and is stirring rather than theatrical.  If you’re unsure what any of the names mean, visit my article on Rhetorical devices for a full explanation with other examples.

Four score and seven  (ANASTROPHE) years ago our fathers brought forth (ALLITERATION) on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated (ANAPHORA & PARALLELISM), can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We (TRICOLON & ANAPHORA) have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives (ANASTROPHE) that that nation might live (ANTITHESIS). It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow (TRICOLON, PARALLELISM, ANAPHORA) — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power (ALLITERATION) to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here (ANTITHESIS & EPISTROPHE)). It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us  to be here dedicated (ANAPHORA) to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we may take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion (EPISTROPHE) — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people (TRICOLON, ANTISTROPHE & ASYNDETON), shall not perish from the earth (ANASTROPHE).”

If you like this, have a look at the dozens of articles on public speaking and making presentations on my website.