Sunday, October 12, 2014

Obama's Speeches...when the last line tells it all!

by Norman E. Hooben
Not a whole lot of folks bother to analyze Barack Hussein Obama’s speeches; they either dismiss them or eat them right up. And with that said we should be careful of what choice we make.
Back in 2008 Charlotte Higgins wrote a column for the Guardian and attempted to compare Obama with the historically great orator, Marcus Tullius Cicero…Cicero for short. Higgins writes:
“More than once, the adjective that has been deployed to describe Obama's oratorical skill is "Ciceronian". Cicero, the outstanding Roman politician of the late republic, was certainly the greatest orator of his time, and one of the greatest in history. A fierce defender of the republican constitution, his criticism of Mark Antony got him murdered in 43BC.
During the Roman republic (and in ancient Athens) politics was oratory. In Athens, questions such as whether or not to declare war on an enemy state were decided by the entire electorate (or however many bothered to turn up) in open debate. Oratory was the supreme political skill, on whose mastery power depended. Unsurprisingly, then, oratory was highly organised and rigorously analyzed. The Greeks and Romans, in short, knew all the rhetorical tricks, and they put a name to most of them.
It turns out that Obama knows them, too. One of the best known of Cicero's techniques is his use of series of three to emphasize points: the tricolon. (The most enduring example of a Latin tricolon is not Cicero's, but Caesar's "Veni, vidi, vici" - I came, I saw, I conquered.) Obama uses tricola freely. …”
Personally I don’t like the comparison of someone as notable as Cicero with a previously unknown Community Organizer who obviously is making inroads on his promise to fundamentally change America. I will concede to Higgins’ observation that his successes are due to the use of the tricolon, a term that is not used too frequently. That is unless you are a grammar and composition expert.

We find such an expert over at by the name of Richard Nordquist who also describes Obama’s speeches as ‘tricolon’. Nordquist expresses that notion here:
Have you ever wondered how Barack Obama does it?
I mean, how he uses words--for the most part simple words--to inspire a crowd the way he did in Chicago's Grant Park on the night he was elected president in November 2008?
Barack Obama's secret--or one part of it, at least--is the magic number three. In rhetorical terms, that's a tricolon: a series of three parallel words, phrases, or clauses. Words such as, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Phrases such as, "government of the people, by the people, for the people." Obama's victory speech was teeming with tricolons--as indicated in this excerpt:
“If there is anyone out there [1] who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; [2] who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; [3] who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”
Nordquist uses altogether too many excerpts to get his point across (I condensed it to the one above). But he also reverts to the comparison with Cicero…he summarizes his essay with:
About 2,000 years ago, Cicero taught us that what makes or breaks a speech is effective delivery, which includes the qualities of dignity and grace:
All these parts of oratory succeed according as they are delivered. Delivery . . . has the sole and supreme power in oratory; without it, a speaker of the highest mental capacity can be held in no esteem; while one of moderate abilities, with this qualification, may surpass even those of the highest talent. (De Oratore)
So to the list of Obama's persuasive skills add standing tall, speaking forcefully, and exuding confidence.
Again, I wholeheartedly disagree with any such comparison when the above authors do not mention Obama’s Alinskyisms…to say one thing but do another. And you don’t have to be an expert at anything to notice Obama’s hypocrisy (See: What is an Alinskyism?). So for all those who ate up Obama’s speeches (I warned you above), be careful what you swallow… We all know what comes out of a colon!

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