A quick test to test your knowledge of #Obama’s language

  1. Obama uses the pronoun ‘we’. What is the effect of using this pronoun?
  2. Obama sometimes uses the pronoun ‘I’, why does he do this?
  3. Obama addresses a number of different audiences in the Bin Laden speech and Presidential debate. Who does he address and why?
  4. Obama’s speech has a number of different purposes. What are these?
  5. Obama is very careful about his diction, use of body language, and his accent. When and why?
  6. It is very important to understand the context of all Obama says. Why?
  7. Obama uses “exaggeration” at certain points in his speeches. When and why?
  8. Obama uses “tripling” or the use of threes, when and why?
  9. Obama deploys a number of poetic devices such as alliteration and repetition. Give one or two examples of this.
  10. Obama uses personal testimony. When and why?

How does Obama use persuasive devices in the context of a presidential debate?

A very short compilation of highlights of this debate is here:

A longer version of the highlights is here:

The complete debate is here:

For the purposes of this coursework we are only going to look at Obama’s use of persuasive speech when he talks about bin Laden, terrorism and al Qaeda.

The Third Presidential Debate between President Obama and Republican nominee for President, Mitt Romney, November 2012

IMPORTANT: This is the SECOND speech you will analyse for your coursework. Your first piece is his bin Laden speech…You will join your two pieces of analysis together to form ONE essay on Barack Obama. ANY OTHER REFERENCES to Barack Obama’s speeches will be REWARDED! You get TOP MARKS for being ORIGINAL!!!

CONTEXT: This is the last debate that appears on TV between the two contenders. It aims to focus upon foreign policy. Obama was widely seen as doing badly in the first debate. It was important that he did well in this one. The death of bin Laden is of great assistance to Obama in this debate, but is it enough to help him “win” the debate?


The Daily Mail’s summary of this debate is very lively and worth looking at here.



  1. Make detailed notes on this speech, writing on the sheet in reply to the questions or writing them in your book
  2. Write the SECOND part of your coursework essay in ROUGH in which you answer



 How does Barack Obama establish and sustain a rapport with an audience in this context?

Sustain means:

Rapport means:

Contexts means:

To gain a top mark you must: (out of 20)


show perception and originality

                show analytical understanding of language variation and language choices, supported by cogent and precise references to texts/data

                make subtle and discriminating comments on the detail of texts/data

Candidates show perception and originality when analysing

                how they and others choose and adapt features and functions of spoken language to achieve specific outcomes in different situations

                how speech and interaction patterns vary with different groups and contexts


To gain an A-B grade you must show “insight and engagement when analysing the data” (+ all categories above)


To gain a C grade you must show “sound understanding when analysing the data” (+ all categories above)


A PDF of this debate can be found here:

A Word document of this debate can be found here: 3rd Presidential Debate highlights and notes Romney vs Obama1




MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. President.[FG1] 

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, my first job as commander in chief, [FG2] Bob, is to keep the American people safe, and that’s what we’ve done over the last four years. We[FG3]  ended the war in Iraq, refocused our attention on those who actually killed us on 9/11. And as a consequence, al-Qaida’s core leadership has been decimated[FG4] .

In addition, we’re now able to transition out of Afghanistan in a responsible way, making sure that Afghans take responsibility for their own security, and that allows us also to rebuild alliances and make friends around the world to combat future threats.


ROUGHLY 57 mins in the full debate.

The candidates talk about a series of foreign policy issues: Libya and Syria.

MR. ROMNEY: They asked him, please repair the tension — Democrat senators — please repair the damage in his — in his own party.[FG5] 

MR. SCHIEFFER (?): All right.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Governor, [FG6] the problem is, is that on a whole range of issues, whether it’s the Middle East, whether it’s Afghanistan, whether it’s Iraq, whether it’s now Iran, you’ve been all over the map[FG7] . I mean, I’m pleased that you now are endorsing our policy of applying diplomatic pressure and potentially having bilateral discussions with the Iranians to end their nuclear program. But just a few years ago you said that’s something you’d never do, in the same way that you initially opposed a time table in Afghanistan, now you’re for it, [FG8] although it depends; in the same way that you say you would have ended the war in Iraq, but recently gave a speech saying that we should have 20,000 more folks in there[FG9] ; the same way that you said that it was mission creep to go after Gadhafi.

When it comes to going after Osama bin Laden, you said, well, any president would make that call. But when you were a candidate in 2008 — as I was — and I said, if I got bin Laden in our sights, I would take that shot, you said we shouldn’t move heaven and earth to get one man, and you said we should ask Pakistan for permission.[FG10] 

And if we had asked Pakistan for permission, we would not have gotten it. And it was worth moving heaven and earth to get him.

You know, after we killed bin Laden, I was at Ground Zero for a memorial and talked to a — a — a young woman who was 4 years old when 9/11 happened. And the last conversation she had with her father was him calling from the twin towers, saying, Peyton (sp), I love you, and I will always watch over you. And for the next decade she was haunted by that conversation. And she said to me, you know, by finally getting bin Laden, that brought some closure to me.

And when we do things like that, when we bring those who have harmed us to justice, that sends a message to the world, and it tells Peyton (sp) that we did not forget her father.[FG11] 

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: And — and I make that point because that’s the kind of clarity of leadership — and those decisions are not always popular. Those decisions generally are not poll-tested. [FG12] And even some in my own party, including my current vice president, had the same critique as you did. But what the American people understand is, is that I look at what we need to get done to keep the American people safe[FG13]  and to move our interests forward, and I [FG14] make those decisions.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. Let’s go — and that leads us — this takes us right to the next segment, Governor, America’s longest war, Afghanistan and Pakistan.


MR. SCHIEFFER: Governor, you get to go first.

MR. ROMNEY: You can’t — you can’t — well, OK, but you can’t have the president just lay out a whole series of items without giving me a chance to respond.

MR. SCHIEFFER: With respect, sir, you had laid out quite a program there.

MR. ROMNEY: Well, that’s probably true. (Chuckles.)

MR. SCHIEFFER: And we’ll — we’ll give you —

PRESIDENT OBAMA: We’ll agree [FG15] (with that ?).

MR. SCHIEFFER: We’ll catch you up.

The United States is scheduled to turn over responsibility for security in Afghanistan to the Afghan government in 2014.

At that point we will withdraw our combat troops, leave a smaller force of Americans, if I understand our policy, in Afghanistan for training purposes. It seems to me the key question here is what do you do if the deadline arrives and it is obvious the Afghans are unable to handle their security? Do we still leave? And I believe Governor Romney, it — you go first.

MR. ROMNEY: Well, we’re going to be finished by 2014. And when I’m president, we’ll make sure we bring our troops out by the end of 2014. The commanders and the generals there are on track to do so. We’ve seen progress over the past several years. The surge has been successful, and the training program is proceeding apace. There are now a large number of Afghan security forces, 350,000, that are — are ready to step in to provide security. And — and we’re going to be able to make that transition by the end of — of 2014. So our troops’ll come home at that point.

I — I can tell you, at the same time, that — that we will make sure that we — we look at what’s happening in Pakistan and recognize that what’s happening in Pakistan is going to have a major impact on the success in Afghanistan. And — and I say that because I know a lot of people just feel like we should just brush our hands and walk away. And I don’t mean you, Mr. President, but some people in the — in our nation feel that Pakistan (doesn’t ?) — being nice to us and that we should just walk away from them.

But Pakistan is important to the region, to the world and to us, because Pakistan has 100 nuclear warheads, and they’re rushing to build a lot more. They’ll have more than Great Britain sometime in the — in the relatively near future. They also have the Haqqani network and — and the Taliban existent within their country. And so a — a Pakistan that falls apart, becomes a failed state would be of extraordinary danger to Afghanistan and us. And so we’re going to have to remain helpful in encouraging Pakistan to move towards a — a more stable government and — and rebuild a relationship with us. And that means that — that — that our aid that we provide to Pakistan is going to have to be conditioned upon certain benchmarks being met.

So for me, I look at this as both a — a — a need to help move Pakistan in the right direction and also to get Afghanistan to be ready. And they will be ready by the end of 2014.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, when I came into office, we were still bogged down [FG16] in Iraq, and Afghanistan had been drifting for a decade. We ended the war in Iraq, refocused our attention on Afghanistan. And we did deliver a surge of troops. That was facilitated in part because we had ended the war in Iraq.

And we are now in a position where we have met many of the objectives that got us there in the first place. Part of what had happened is we’d forgotten why we’d gone. We went because there were people who were responsible for 3,000 American deaths[FG17] . And so we decimated al-Qaida’s core leadership in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan[FG18] . We then started to build up Afghan forces. And we’re now in a position where we can transition out, because there’s no reason why Americans should die when Afghans are perfectly capable of defending their own country.


MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you, Governor, because we know President Obama’s position on this, what is — what is your position on the use of drones?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, I believe that we should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world. And it’s widely reported that drones are being used in drone strikes, and I support that entirely and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology and believe that we should continue to use it to continue to go after the people who represent a threat to this nation and to our friends.

Let me also note that, as I said earlier, we’re going to have to do more than just going after leaders and — and killing bad guys, important as that is. We’re also going to have to have a far more effective and comprehensive strategy to help move the world away from terror and Islamic extremism.

We haven’t done that yet. We talk a lot about these things, but you look at the — the record. You look at the record of the last four years and say, is Iran closer to a bomb? Yes. Is the Middle East in tumult? Yes. Is — is al-Qaida on the run, on its heels? No. Is — are Israel and the Palestinians closer to — to reaching a peace agreement? No, they haven’t had talks in two years. We have not seen the progress we need to have, and I’m convinced that with strong leadership and an effort to build a strategy based upon helping these nations reject extremism, we can see the kind of peace and prosperity the world demands.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, keep in mind our strategy wasn’t just going [FG19] after bin Laden. We’ve created partnerships throughout the region to deal with extremism [FG20] — in Somalia, in Yemen, in Pakistan. And what we’ve also done is engage these governments in the kind of reforms that are actually going to make a difference in people’s lives day to day, to make sure that their government aren’t corrupt, to make sure that they are treating women [FG21] with the kind of respect and dignity that every nation that succeeds has shown, and to make sure that they’ve got a free market system that works.

So across the board, we are engaging them in building capacity in these countries and we have stood on the side of democracy. One thing I think Americans should be proud of — when Tunisians began to protest, this nation, me, my administration stood with them earlier than just about any other country. In Egypt we stood on the side of democracy. In Libya we stood on the side of the people. And as a consequence there is no doubt that attitudes about Americans have changed.

But there are always going to be elements in these countries that potentially threaten the United States.

And we want to shrink those groups and those networks, and we can do that, but we’re always also going to have to maintain vigilance when it comes to terrorist activities. The truth, though, is that al-Qaida is much weaker than it was when I came into office, and they don’t have the same capacities to attack the U.S. homeland and our allies as they did four years ago.


MR. ROMNEY: I just want to take one of those points. Again, attacking me is not talking about an agenda for getting more trade and opening up more jobs in this country. But the president mentioned the auto industry and that somehow I would be in favor of jobs being elsewhere. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m a son of Detroit. I was born in Detroit. My dad was head of a car company. I like American cars. And I would do nothing to hurt the U.S. auto industry. My plan to get the industry on its feet when it was in real trouble was not to start writing checks. It was President Bush that wrote the first checks. I disagree with that. I said they need — these companies need to go through a managed bankruptcy, and in that process they can get government help and government guarantees, but they need to go through bankruptcy to get rid of excess cost and the debt burden that they’d — they’d built up.

And fortunately the president picked —

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Governor Romney, that’s not what you said.

MR. ROMNEY: Fortunately, the president — you can take — you can take a look at the op-ed.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Governor, you did not —

MR. ROMNEY: You can take a look at the op-ed.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You did not say that you would provide, Governor, help.

MR. ROMNEY: You know, I’m — I’m still speaking. I said that we would provide guarantees and — and that was what was able to allow these companies to go through bankruptcy, to come out of bankruptcy. Under no circumstances would I do anything other than to help this industry get on its feet. And the idea that has been suggested that I would liquidate the industry — of course not. Of course not.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Let’s check the record.

MR. ROMNEY: That’s the height of silliness.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Let’s — let’s check the record.[FG22] 

MR. ROMNEY: I have never said I would — I would liquidate the industry. I want to keep the industry growing and thriving.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Governor, the people in Detroit don’t forget.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Governor, the fact of the matter is —

MR. ROMNEY: I’m still speaking.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well — (chuckles) —[FG23] 

MR. ROMNEY: So I want to make sure that we make — we make America more competitive —


MR. ROMNEY: — and that we do those things that make America the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs, innovators, businesses to grow. But your investing in companies doesn’t do that. In fact it makes it less likely for them to come here —

PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right, Governor —

MR. ROMNEY: — because the private sector’s not going to invest in a — in a — in a solar company if —

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’m happy [FG24] — I’m — I’m — I’m happy to respond —

MR. ROMNEY: — if you’re investing government money and someone else’s.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You’ve held the floor for a while. The — look, I think anybody out there can check the record. Governor Romney, you keep on trying to, you know, airbrush history here.


Gentlemen, thank you so much for a very vigorous debate. We have come to the end. It is time for closing statements. I believe you’re first, Mr. President.

1.29mins in the speech

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, thank you very much Bob, Governor Romney, and to Lynn University.

You know, you’ve now heard three debates, months of campaigning and way too many TV commercials[FG25] . (Laughter.) And now you’ve got a choice. You know, over the last four years, we’ve made real progress digging our way out of policies that gave us two prolonged wars, record deficits and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression[FG26] .

And Governor Romney wants to take us back to those policies: a foreign policy that’s wrong and reckless[FG27] ; economic policies that won’t[FG28]  create jobs, won’t reduce our deficit, but will make sure that folks[FG29]  at the very top don’t have to play by the same rules that you do.

And I’ve got a different vision for America. I want to build on our strengths. And I put forward a plan to make sure that we’re bringing manufacturing jobs back to our shores by rewarding companies and small businesses that are investing here not overseas. I want to make sure we’ve got the best education system in the world and we’re retraining our workers for the jobs of tomorrow.

I want to control our own energy by developing oil and natural gas, but also the energy sources of the future. Yes, I want to reduce our deficit by cutting spending that we don’t need, but also by asking the wealthy to do a little bit more so that we can invest in things like research and technology that are the key to a 21st century economy.

As commander in chief, I will maintain the strongest military in the world, keep faith with our troops and go after those who would do us harm. But after a decade of war, I think we all recognize we got to do some nation building here at home, rebuilding our roads, our bridges and especially caring for our veterans who’ve sacrificed so much for our freedom.

You know, we’ve been through tough times, but we always bounce back because of our character, because we pull together. And if I have the privilege of being your president for another four years, I promise you I will always listen to your voices, I will fight for your families and I will work every single day to make sure that America [FG30] continues to be the greatest nation on earth. Thank you.

 [FG1]The host has let Mitt Romney speak first, he then turns to Obama for this “foreign policy” debate.

 [FG2]Obama emphasizes his position as head of the military. Why is this a persuasive technique? What sort of connotations does the phrase “commander in chief” convey?

 [FG3]Obama uses the first person plural, “we”, why? What is the effect of using this pronoun throughout his talk?

 [FG4]Obama uses a powerful dynamic verb to describe what has happened to al-Qaida. Why? What is the effect of this verb?

 [FG5]Romney tries to suggest that Obama’s own political party at war with each other.

 [FG6]Obama addresses Romney in a respectful way, but also emphasizes his “inferior” political position.

 [FG7]Obama employs a colloquial phrase to describe how contradictory and puzzling Romney’s views are. Why? What’s the effect of his use of his phrase?

 [FG8]This sentence highlights how Romney has kept changing his mind…

 [FG9]Highlights more of Romney’s changes of mind. Why? What’s the effect? What language does he use that is persuasive?

 [FG10]What is the effect of this sentence?

 [FG11]Obama uses a personal anecdote to highlight a key point. Why is this personal anecdote persuasive? When, where and why does Obama use emotive language?

 [FG12]Uses a short, clear sentence. Why? What’s the persuasive effect of what he is saying?

 [FG13]Uses a powerful adjective. Why is this adjective persuasive? What is Obama’s purpose here?

 [FG14]Uses the personal pronoun I, why? What’s the effect?

 [FG15]What’s the effect of this phrase? How is the circumstance and context of this debate different from his bin Laden address?

 [FG16]What’s the effect of using this verbal phrase?

 [FG17]Why does Obama refer to the number of deaths in 9/11 again?

 [FG18]Obama repeats a point he made earlier? Why?

 [FG19]What’s the persuasive effect of this phrase?

 [FG20]Why does Obama say this?

 [FG21]Why does Obama refer to women? Why might this be persuasive with his audience?

 [FG22]What’s the effect of this exchange?

 [FG23]Analyse Obama’s body language here.

 [FG24]Why is this persuasive?

 [FG25]Why does Obama use humour here?

 [FG26]Why does Obama refer to this?

 [FG27]What’s the persuasive effect of these adjectives?

 [FG28]Why does he repeat this verb?

 [FG29]Why does he use this colloquial phrase?

 [FG30]Obama uses the rule of threes here and a technique called “anaphora”; repeating key phrases for persuasive effect. Analyse this statement…

How does Obama sustain a rapport with his audience during his bin Laden speech?

Context: On May 2nd, 2011 Obama announced that bin Laden was dead, nearly ten years after 9/11. George Bush had set as one of his key policies objectives to get bin Laden “dead or alive”. He failed to capture the terrorist, despite going to war with two countries, Iraq and Afghanistan. George Bush made a famous speech in 2002 after 9/11 saying that there was an “axis of evil”. He said: “States like these (Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea), and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger.” Bush said that there were terrorists in Pakistan: “Pakistan is now cracking down on terror, and I admire the strong leadership of President Musharraf.” Obama does not say that there is terrorism in Pakistan, even though bin Laden was captured there.

Obama’s speech could be seen as a reply to this speech because Obama refuses to name countries as terrorist states and is at pains to say that everyone in the world is united in the fight against bin Laden. Bush’s speech is worth reading because it informs Obama’s speech in an indirect way. It can be found here: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/stateoftheunion2002.htm

Bush attempts to stoke up people’s fears about certain countries, thus justifying his decision to go to war with Iraq. Obama does the opposite. He EXPLICITLY avoids condemning specific countries for their involvement with terrorism, avoiding criticising Pakistan for “harbouring” bin Laden. Bush’s rhetoric had a very firm purpose: to justify war with Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama’s rhetoric has a different purpose. He aims to AVOID war with specific states. He seeks to “allay” (damp down) fears about terrorist attacks. Where Bush encouraged people to feel afraid and under attack, Obama tries to say that people can feel safer now. Look carefully at Obama’s language and pick out HOW he manages to persuade people not to feel afraid, and that people should feel united against terrorism.


  1. Make detailed notes on this speech, writing on the sheet in reply to the questions or writing them in your book
  2. Write the first part of your coursework essay in ROUGH in which you answer

 How does Barack Obama establish and sustain a rapport with an audience in this context?

Sustain means:

Rapport means:

Contexts means:

To gain a top mark you must: (out of 20)


show perception and originality

                show analytical understanding of language variation and language choices, supported by cogent and precise references to texts/data

                make subtle and discriminating comments on the detail of texts/data

Candidates show perception and originality when analysing

                how they and others choose and adapt features and functions of spoken language to achieve specific outcomes in different situations

                how speech and interaction patterns vary with different groups and contexts


To gain an A-B grade you must show “insight and engagement when analysing the data” (+ all categories above)


To gain a C grade you must show “sound understanding when analysing the data” (+ all categories above)


A Word version of the speech together with my annotations (as review comments) can be downloaded here Bin Laden speech questions for analysis FGI. The speech below has my comments/questions in the form of indexed notes at the end.

The speech itself

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.[F1] 

It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our histo­­ry. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory — hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky[F2] ; the Twin Towers collapsing [F3] to the ground;[F4]  black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction[F5] .

And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. [F6] Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace[F7] . Nearly 3,000 citizens [F8] taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.[F9] 

On September 11, 2001, in our [F10] time of grief[F11] , the American people came together. We [F12] offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country. On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were[F13] , we were united as one American family.

We were also united[F14]  in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda — an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies[F15] .

Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides [F16] [F17] in that effort. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense. In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support. And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.

Yet[F18]  Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.

And so shortly after taking office, I[F19]  directed[F20]  Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat [F21] his network.

Then, last August, after years of painstaking[F22]  work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined [F23] that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team [F24] of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability[F25] . No Americans were harmed[F26] . They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement [F27] to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.

Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must — and we will — [F28] remain vigilant at home and abroad.

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not — and never will be — at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims[F29] . Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise [F30] should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan [F31] helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day [F32] for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The American people did not choose [F33] this fight. It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice[F34] , we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.

So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.

Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly[F35]  to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names[F36] . But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.

We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage [F37] of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.

Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 [F38] that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.

And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11[F39] . I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.

The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity[F40]  for our people, or the struggle for equality[F41]  for all our citizens; our commitment[F42]  to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices[F43]  to make the world a safer place.

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation[F44] , under God, indivisible, with liberty[F45]  and justice[F46]  for all.

Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.[F47] 

 [F1]Obama opens with a short sentence and then a long complex sentence. Why does Obama use a number of clauses to describe what bin Laden did?

 [F2]Using poetic imagery to conjure a vivid visual image. Why does Obama do this?

 [F3]Obama uses the present continuous tense here. Why does he do this? Why does it make his speech more persuasive?

 [F4]Obama breaks up his asyndetic list here with semi-colons in the transcript, but how does he “read” these semi-colons, and why does he use them?

 [F5]Obama deploys syntheton here. What is this, and why does he deploy it here?

 [F6]Obama deploys vivid visual imagery to suggest the awful effects of the deaths of 9/11. Why does he do this? Can you find other examples of his use of vivid visual imagery, and explain its effect?

 [F7]Obama uses powerful emotive imagery in the speech. What is the effect of this phrase here? Can you find other examples of emotive imagery in the speech

 [F8]Obama says “nearly 3000” but does not say the exact number, why?

 [F9]Obama deploys a powerful but familiar metaphor here. Explain what this metaphor is and why he uses it.

 [F10]Why does Obama use this possessive plural pronoun?

 [F11]Obama uses a number of powerful abstract nouns in his speech such as ‘grief’ and ‘justice’.

 [F12]Why does Obama repeat the pronoun ‘we’ throughout this speech?

 [F13]Obama is at pains to say that our religion or ethnicity doesn’t matter. Why does he do this? Why is this a powerful persuasive technique?

 [F14]Obama employs some potent dynamic verbs in this speech such as “unite”; why does he do this and what is the effect of this?

 [F15]Here Obama ‘sums up’ the ‘war on terror’ but does not talk about the previous President Bush who declared the war on terror, nor does Obama use the phrase ‘war on terror’. Why does he leave out references to Bush, do you think? (Remember Obama opposed the war on Iraq)


 [F17]Why does Obama talk so positively about the fight against al Qaeda? Why does he use this phrase?

 [F18]Why does Obama use this connective at this point? Why does it help emphasize his key point? What is the key point he making about bin Laden here?

 [F19]Why does Obama use the first person pronoun here? Why is it particularly effective at this moment?

 [F20]Why does he use this verb? What is Obama’s expression at this point?

 [F21]Obama uses alliteration at this point. Explain what letters alliterate and what the effect of this alliteration is…

 [F22]Why does Obama use this adjective at this point.

 [F23]Once again Obama uses the first person, why?

 [F24]Why does he emphasize the smallness of the operation?

 [F25]Obama uses syntheton here. What is this persuasive technique and why is it persuasive?

 [F26]Why this short, punchy sentence to end this paragraph?

 [F27]Obama uses a superlative here. Explain what this superlative is and its effect.

 [F28]Why does Obama employ parenthesis here. What is parenthesis and what is its effect? When does he use it again and why?

 [F29]This is a powerful statement. What makes it such a potent statement? Think about Obama’s use of emotive language and alliteration…

 [F30]Obama uses a euphemism to describe bin Laden’s death here. Why does he use this word and not ‘death’?

 [F31]Obama emphasizes co-operation with Pakistan. Why?

 [F32]Explain why Obama uses the adjectives ‘good’ and ‘historic’.

 [F33]This is an interesting use of a negative; he says ‘did not’. Why does he employ the negative here?

 [F34]Obama uses the ‘rule of threes’ here; listing three key things that have marked the war on terror. Why does he deploy the rule of threes here and where else does he do this?

 [F35]This adverb is very effective. Why?

 [F36]This is a powerful sentence, making me think of superheroes like Batman etc. Why is this sentence so striking?

 [F37]Rule of threes again. What’s its effect?

 [F38]Why does he return to 9/11 at this point?

 [F39]Obama wants to think about an emotion that happened on 9/11. Who is his audience here? Why does he want to think about feelings that were felt 10 years ago?

 [F40]Abstract noun.

 [F41]Abstract noun.

 [F42]Abstract noun.

 [F43]Abstract noun.

 [F44]Why does he talk about being one nation here?

 [F45]Abstract noun.

 [F46]Abstract noun.

 [F47]Why does he use religious language at the end of the speech. Why does he end it this way?

Obama in the Presidential Debates

Watch Obama in the Presidential debate with John McCain in 2008. These are highlights, the full debates run for hours:

John McCain was the Republican nominee for president, Obama was the Democratic nominee. Joe the Plumber was the name given to Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher who had complained about the tax he would have to pay under an Obama government; he was an “ordinary” businessman who spoke out against Obama. You can find out more about him here.

Who is Joe the Plumber? Why are the candidates talking about him? How well does Obama deal with the situation do you think?
What important points does Obama make in these debates?
What persuasive techniques does he use to attract voters?

Write down FIVE short quotes or words that Obama uses in these debates and ANALYSE his use of language, explaining why his language is persuasive.

This video is highlights of the Obama and Romney debates in 2012. It is made by a Democrat so is biased. The full debates are listed below as well.

This is CNN’s highlights from the FIRST debate, in which Obama was widely perceived as FAILING to debate properly:

This is ITN’s highlights of the debates (4 mins):

Highlights from the second debate:

How is the CONTEXT different from the first presidential debate? Why does Obama have an advantage having been the President for four years? Why is he VULNERABLE (easy to attack) as well? 

What points does Obama make?

What persuasive techniques does he use?

Write down FIVE short quotes or words that Obama uses in these debates and ANALYSE his use of language, explaining why his language is persuasive.

Post your thoughts for homework in response to this post.

EXTENSION, watch the full debates!

The full debates are here for Romney and Obama:

Your work on the blog

Learning Objectives: to develop your ability to analyse Barack Obama’s persuasive techniques.

You need to reply with your analysis of Barack Obama’s persuasive techniques for:
Iowa Caucus 2008
MN 2008
Letterman 2008
Inaugural 2009
Bin Laden speech 2011
Inaugural 2013

You need to write about:

EXPLAIN THE CONTEXT of the speech:

Print out your work and STICK it in your book!!

A grid to help you analyse Barack Obama’s speeches

Analysing Barrack Obama’s speeches

Obama on Letterman:

The inauguration speech:

Language of a Public Figure(i) A study of a particular speaker selected from: Barack Obama, Eddie Izzard, Stephen Fry


The Centre may contextualise the task as illustrated below.

The Centre may select the texts/data used

The Centre may select the focus of the study, eg

how the speaker establishes a rapport with an audience

how texts are structured

how language is used to create impact (and what the impact is) eg

diction, register, rhetorical devices

the use and impact of timing, pace/pause, movement (if the text is

shared visually) and other features specific to the spoken text



Language feature/device Quotation Effect/Analysis
 Contextual factors connected with the speech


Register: formal/informal (talk about the continuum)     
 Audience. To what extent is the language adapted to the audience?


 Purpose: how well is the language adapted to its purpose, which is primarily to persuade?


 Pragmatic features: the underlying messages that are being conveyed. What messages are being promoted about family values, about America in general, about what he will do as President?


Grammatical features: how  successfully does Obama use personal pronouns, adjectives, nouns, verbs? How successful is his use of word-order (syntax)?     
 How effective is his accent?    
How effective is his tone of voice? When does he stress particular words? Why does he do this?    
How effective is his body language?     

Barack Obama’s greatest hits of rhetorical techniques — read Sam Leith excellent analysis of the inaugural

Starter activity: watch this brief video about inaugural speeches throughout history. List three things that you have learnt about inaugural speeches. What makes them so special and important?

First, listen and watch Barack Obama’s second inaugural speech as President on BBC News here. A transcript of the speech can be found here

Second, write down 5 main points he makes, and 5 techniques he uses to convey his points.

Third, read Sam Leith’s brilliant and very useful analysis of Obama’s second inaugural speech here.

Answer these questions now…

  • What is the context of this speech? Why is this an important speech for Obama to give? Who does he have to persuade?
  • What is Obama hoping to achieve in his second term as President? 
  • In your own words, explain what rhetorical techniques Obama uses to make his speech persuasive?  


Now watch his first inaugural speech:

A transcript of the speech can be found here.

Write down 5 main points he makes, and 5 techniques he uses to convey his points.

Remind yourself of the Second Inaugural. How are the two inaugural speeches similar and different in their content, and the points he makes?

How is the context similar and different?

Which speech is better and more effective and why?

Exploring the religious language of Barack Obama

Starter: what is your attitude towards religious faith? Do you ever use religious language? When and why?

Learning Objectives: to learn about how religious language is used in speeches and oratory.

1. What is a left-wing or “liberal” person? What sort of religious faith do they tend to have?
2. What is a “right wing” person? What kind of religious faith do some extreme “right-wingers” tend to have?
3. What is Christianity?
4. What is fundamentalism? What is fundamentalist Christianity?

Watch God Bless You Barack Obama?, broadcast 7:00pm on Monday 25th January 2010.

1. How has religion influenced Barack Obama?
2. What sort of religious faith does he have?
3. Why is important that he uses religious language in his speeches?
4. List 5 religious words/phrases and ideas that he uses in his speeches and explain why he uses them.


Reply to this post with your answers, and print out your answers and stick them in your book.