They say that education is the most important thing for society. That education is the way out of trouble, poverty, unemployment and many other things. But all of this is hard to understand for children, and that is a problem, for it is them who are in the education system. So how do you get kids and youngsters to understand the importance of education and hard work? That is what Barrack Obama – the president of the United States of America – has tried to do.
He gave the speech “Back to School” to students of all ages in the school system trying to evoke in them a feeling of responsibility when it comes to school and education. This paper analyzes and comments on that speech, and it partly focuses on how he addresses his audience, and what feelings he evokes in them. When you talk about rhetoric there is a classic way of building it up: The opening comes first. Here Obama says hello and talks about the first day in a semester day, such as that exact day.
Then the narrative which is some background information. Here he talks about his own experience as a schoolboy. After that comes the argumentation. In this part all the main weight of the speech is. He talks about responsibility, opportunities and so on. Then normally comes the refutation, but that part it not present in this speech, so at no point does he come with any arguments against his proposition, but on the other hand that would also be stupid in this case. In the end is of cause the ending.
Here he concludes what he expects from all the students. This makes it all very easy understandable and easy to follow, which is important when he is addressing kids and youngsters. The main point he is making is that all the students should work hard in school so they can get a good education. As a ground for this main statement he says that a good education is needed if one wants to become something in life, and that jobs and money does not come from nothing. He uses different kinds of rhetorical techniques when he argues his points.
He starts off by addressing the audience personally in the very first line, “Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? ” (l. 1). This makes the audience pay much more attention than if he had just said something such as ‘welcome’ for instance. Throughout the speech he often repeats a word or the beginning of a sentence such as it is seen in lines 164-165. Here he repeats the phrase “I expect …”. This gives his words more substance. When you read or hear it you really focus on the things that are repeated. So when it is used here you really understand exactly what it is he wants the students to do.
Another thing that he does to really capture his audience is to give them examples that they can relate to or compare themselves to. This is done in line 92 to 107. This is also good, because it is a quite young audience he is addressing in this speech and it makes the whole thing easier accessible for them. He also tells his own story, and thereby makes himself more relatable. That is important, because when kids see Obama they see a famous person but none the less a stranger, and therefore an adult whom they do not know how to relate to.
All these things make him more unrelatable for the young people. So when he reveals details about his own childhood he creates a trust bond between himself and his audience, and in that way makes the kids want to listen and more likely agree with him. In America national sentiment is very common, and responsibility towards the country is often used as a means to encourage and motivate people. This feeling is something that Obama also takes advantage of, “If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country” (ll. 63-64).
The country and the responsibility to it are mentioned several times. The feeling that the students have to do well in school not just for themselves, but for their country, is then built up through the speech to a degree where it almost causes bad continence for those who does not take their school seriously. Obama addresses his audience with a great deal of empathy, “Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork. [Here is a line break in the text] I get it.
I know what that’s like. ” (ll. 65-67). This is another thing that minimizes the distance between Obama and his audience. This empathy causes people to respect him more because they feel they are somewhat on the same page. It makes the audience want to listen because they now can see that he is not unaware or indifferent of the obstacles in their lives. Throughout the speech Obama uses pathos as the main way of persuasion. “And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself.
Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country. ” (ll. 147-149), here it is the feelings and emotions he appeals to. This is a very strong way of appealing to appealing to people, because it makes people more likely to agree, because they are emotional. In lines 158 to 160 he gives a line of questions. Those questions are meant so the audience will be encouraged to do something with their lives and therefore focus on their education. It is not questions about whether or not they will achieve something in life, it is questions about what that will achieve in life.
That way he tricks the audience into feeling that they have to achieve something, something for their country. Through the use of different rhetorical techniques, such as repetition, appeal to emotions, a line of questions and leveling himself with his audience, he achieves a convincing argumentation. He addresses his young audience with empathy, and reveals his own story to them which makes the distance between him and his audience smaller. So maybe Barrack Obama has found the right way to address a young audience, and convince them to work harder in the schools.
Courtney from Study Moose
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