The goal of President Obama’s January 20, 2015 State of the Union Address is to unite Americans in the quest to move forward, despite the past fifteen years of living in the “shadow of a crisis.” Obama’s speech is directed at the average citizen, the Rebekah’s and Ben’s of America. The economic crisis and the international security crisis are passed, and it is time to rebuild.
Obama’s introduction claims that America has reached a turning point that relieves us of the past fifteen years, reiterating the word “tonight” into a climax of “at the moment”: “Tonight, we turn the page…tonight, after a breakthrough…tonight, for the first time…At the moment…It’s now up to us…” (Obama). The repetition of tonight, which culminates in the phrase, at the moment, then transitions to a normative claim that it is up to us, creates a momentum that the audience gets caught up in. The audience is now prepped for the transition to the body of the speech. Obama transitions with a series of rhetorical questions about how willing is America to change itself, or are we complacent?
The body of the speech begins with his analogy of the Erler’s. They weathered the hard times and are now flourishing, just as America is doing. Obama touts the success of his middle- class economics. Obama admits that there are past failures, such as international trade deals which “haven’t lived up to the hype” (Obama). The use of casual language, prefaced with the candid “Look, …”, causes the audience to identify with Obama on a human-level, and creates an empathy with him that in turn creates support. Obama concludes with the inspirational repetition of “I want, I want…” and then brings the speech full circle by referring to the fact that we have “dusted ourselves off” after fifteen long hard years. He reiterates that the Erler’s should give everyone hope.
In Trump’s Joint Address to Congress, February 28, 2017, his aim is to create enthusiasm for his presidency by dispelling ideas that he is unconcerned about civil rights, while also satisfying those who are concerned about the economy. The audience that Trump speaks to is all of America. Trump’s introduction transitions with rhetorical questions, and then answers. Trump transitions after he uses his campaign slogan of “Make America Great Again” (Trump). Trump supports his claims by saying that there has been a resurgence of investment from huge retailers, such as Wal Mart, since his inauguration. Trump reaches out to all Americans— “your life matters” (Trump). It is likely that this phrase is an intentional reference to the popular Black Lives Matter verbiage. By using this key phrase, Trump is able to identify with portions of the audience that he has had difficulty connecting with.
Trump brings everyone up to date on his progress. The deregulations are what Trump touts: “…for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated” (Trump). Trump brings enthusiasm by creating American jobs, deregulations, and ensuring that women entrepreneurs have additional assistance making their dreams come true. Trump says that his immigration reform is working: “…Bad ones are going out as I speak…” (Trump). Trump, then outlines his plans for getting funding from congress for being able to fix everything that is wrong.
Trump then brings out actual examples of everyday Americans who have overcome hard times with the American dream. The appeal to pathos creates an ethos in his audience that anything is possible. The audience’s enthusiasm for Trump’s claims that immigration reform is working wanes noticeably in the applause that these claims receive. Trump’s transition from the body of his speech to the conclusion, by bringing us back to the 250 years that American has been prospering despite controversy. Trump wants to eliminate as much controversy as possible, for then Americans will be able to thrive.
Obama and Trump Synthesized Analysis
Both of these speakers have well-structured speeches, clearly identifiable introductions, transitions, and conclusions. Both speakers appeal to the ethos of the American Dream. The manner that the speakers relate to the average person in the audience is to provide examples of Americans who have struggled and conquered. In Obama’s speech, he uses an analogy, based on the letter of a real American. Trump brings these triumphant Americans as examples to the gallery. They are present to provide evidence of the power to overcome.
It seems that Obama is able to relate to the audience’s ethos by being relatable and candid. Trump appeals to his audience as an authority figure, one who is unafraid of criticism. Obama interjects his plan that he will be introducing new ideas which are not partisan, but practical (Obama). Obama soothes America with his ethos of hope and optimism, based on the ideal of the American spirit. Trump is not soothing, but rather he is condemning of the situation that he has inherited. However, Trump appeals to both parties when he states that there is a united front that will rebuild America.
Trump is the strict parent—Obama is the lenient parent. The audience identifies, understands, and empathizes with Obama as a leader because his speech is candid and easily understandable; however, the audience also identifies and appreciates that Trump is aggressive. The conclusions of both speeches are successful because the audience feels hope for the future, and there is a consensus of ethos between the audience and the speakers.
- Obama, Barrack. “State of the Union Address, January 20, 2015.” White House Archives, 2015, obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/01/20/remarks-president-state-union-address-january-20-2015. Accessed 13 Apr. 2017.
- Trump, Donald. “Joint Address to Congress, February 28, 2017.” Washington Post, 28 Feb. 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/video/politics/trumps-full-joint-address-to-congress/2017/02/28/1aeda31e-fe31-11e6-9b78-824ccab94435_video.html. Accessed 13 Apr. 2017.