Barack Obama’s keynote speech given at the 2004 Democratic National Convention is said to be the beginning of his journey toward President of the United States. I watched, listened to, and read the transcript of his speech so that I could analyze the president’s use of the rhetorical triangle. President Barack Obama was effective in his use of the ethos, pathos, and logos to persuade the American people in his 2004 address at the Democratic National Convention.
From the start of the speech it was clear to see that Obama was using trying to convince his listeners of his credibility as a fellow American. He was using ethos. Americans value hard work, rising from rags to riches, military families. Obama knew that when he spent a large portion at the beginning of his speech speaking about his past and his family’s past. Obama shared the story of his father, “Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place: America, which stood as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before.” This is the kind of story Americans love to hear because it perpetuates the idea of the ‘American dream’. He referenced many different ways this was important to him. This gave him great credibility with the American people.
Pathos was used many times throughout President Obama’s speech. He used this technique from the very beginning of his address, but one example was particularly emotionally moving. He talked about what the American people need to do to make a change. He said we have, “More to do for the father I met who was losing his job and choking back tears, wondering how he would pay $4,500 a month for the drugs his son needs without the health benefits he counted on. More to do for the young woman in East St. Louis, and thousands more like her, who has the grades, has the drive, has the will, but doesn't have the money to go to college.” These appealed to emotions because these situations are ones that many can relate to themselves. Another one of his inspiring comments was when he referred to the American people saying, “But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all.” The words were chosen carefully to powerfully portray a message.
When Obama refers to John Kerry, whom he is trying to introduce, he uses logos to do so. He states, “And John Kerry believes that in a dangerous world, war must be an option, but it should never he the first option.” This was his way of stating that you should think logically when it comes to foreign affairs. War should not be the first option, but it is not always avoidable. Logos persuades the audience by reason and so did Barack Obama.
Barack Obama’s keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in 2004 was powerful in many ways. This put his name out there and showed the Democrats who he was. The most powerful tool he used was pathos. He knew his audience well and was aware of the types of things that could affect their emotions. He was also quite effective at using the tools of ethos and logos.