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American National Identity In Presidential Rhetoric: Rhetorical Analysis

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Describe about the American National Identity In Presidential Rhetoric for Rhetorical Analysis?



Rhetorical Analysis of the Speech delivered by President Barrack Obama in Prague, April 5, 2009

The rhetorical analysis is the process by which an analyst defines, analyzes, evaluates and interprets the artifacts (Dam, Holmgreen and Strunck). The speech made by the US President Barrack Obama in Prague in 2009 is analyzed on rhetoric grounds with various approaches of ethos, pathos, logos and kairos. The presidential speech was aimed at bearing a moral responsibility for the launch of a new age of nuclear disarmament and thereby eliminating the nuclear stocks. The paper deals in analyzing the rhetoric situation and then implementing the different approaches to the analysis.

The main focus of the speech made by Barrack Obama in Prague was aimed at the addressing the challenge of atomic power to which he assures that the advent and the use of nuclear weapons would be banned during his reign. There was urgency in the speech in order to maintain political stability as it was the expiration of the Treaty of Moscow (SORT). The speech was not on political grounds as there was no persuasion on a particular event or a situation where the audience would be required to vote for or against the restoration of the treaty (Weigand). The venue of this speech was selected to be Prague mainly because of two reasons. Firstly, it was the NATO anniversary at Czech and secondly, President Obama has recognizes the support by Czech regarding the military mission in Afghanistan.

The narration of the President includes his pathos and rhetoric behavior which is lead to the achievement of his persuasive goals (Zagacki, Kenneth S). The ethos of the speech is reflected in the beginning of exordium. The ethos forms the ethical appeal which is described as the act of convincing the audience by the character of the speaker. The US President Barrack Obama holds that authoritative position where he is able to deliver his speech to tens of thousands of audience gathered in Prague. Some aspects of the ethos are fulfilled as the President had tried to convey the series of incidents, the characters in those incidents to make the audience understand his arguments for building nations free of nuclear weapons. The president clearly stated the long term goal to establish his motives.

“First, the United States will take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons. To put an end to Cold War thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same.”

 Out of three categories of ethos stated by Aristotle, eunoia fits this type of speech where the aim of the President is to render goodwill towards the audience as America tried to establish the commitment to ensure peace and security of a world by eliminating nuclear weapons (Whately and Ehninger). While there are many critics who expressed their review that this commitment could not be achieved considering the resistance imposed by seven countries that possess nuclear arms. As the president had been skeptical about this strategy when he stated that;

“Now, I know that there are some who will question whether we can act on such a broad agenda. There are those who doubt whether true international cooperation is possible, given inevitable differences among nations. And there are those who hear talk of a world without nuclear weapons and doubt whether it's worth setting a goal that seems impossible to achieve.”

This is in the form of a logical fallacy as it falls under the categories of Circular Reasoning and Bandwagon effect. The circular reasoning states that an argument that the speaker states something without any evidences as in the case of the resistance that would be imposed from the seven nations that have nuclear weapons. President Obama had stated to free the world from nuclear weapons which is also falls under bandwagon appeal as the statement is a result of the importance of large number of people who supports the argument (Stuckey, Mary E).

The pathos of the speech by President Obama is represented by the constitutive rhetoric and rhetorical devices with the use of metaphors and repetitions. He induces and instills emotional responses through fear and anger by stating the unavoidable threat to nuclear attack. The president also states that the small nations never considered the international stages regarding the nuclear. The pathos is the emotional aspect of rhetoric analysis which occurs when the speaker is able to persuade the audience by appealing at the emotional level. The president is able to influence the audience by rendering them with plausible solution to the challenge of nuclear weapons and war. In this way, the audience is able to be under the control of President Obama and he is able to attain his persuasive goal of disarmament and joining forces with the US (

The notion of the speech emphasizes the importance of the eliminating nuclear weapons in a logical way. President Obama addresses his argument with the help of the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the time of the Second World War along with the rocket testing in North Korea. Obama is quite clear with his ideologies and have stated that the Iran and terrorist groups would have to face dire consequences if they do not abide by the norms set by the US. This is best explained by the Toulmin model where Obama has used logos (Fahnestock, Jeanne). The logos refer to the logical persuasion of the audience using appropriate reasoning (McCrisken, Trevor) which appears in his speech.


“Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons.”

Obama’s reasoning for his disarmament decision was supported by the logical reasoning that nuclear weapons are destructive and dangerous and its existence meant elimination of living beings on earth. However, Obama also feared about the issue of terrorism and stated that if terrorist possess these harmful nuclear weapons then that will be the end of mankind. This would help US not only to achieve the persuasive goal of eliminating nuclear weapons but also to drive away the threat of terrorism.

According to Aristotle’s rhetoric analysis, Kairos considers the time and space context in which the speech must be delivered. Obama has correctly utilized the time context of the speech delivery as the treaty of Moscow was on the verge of expiry as well as the ensuring the political stability. So basically the notion of Kairos has been represented by the very occurrence of the events that is regarded to be opportune moment (Rowland, Robert C., and John M. Jones).

President Obama has also used various rhetorical devices and tools in the form of parallelism, personification and metaphor. The parallelism has been depicted when the president has expressed his global concern regarding safety, security of the society and the economy as a whole for the ultimate survival. The personification is represented when president stated that through the global effort the United States is ready to be the moral leader which implies that the country is personified like a character (Vanessa Beasley). Obama has also used metaphor like the “single flash of flash” by explaining the notion of explosion in a more dramatic way. Also the verb “to combat” is an evidence of the metaphorical language Thus, this analysis has proved that the goal of Obama in instilling the issue of disarmament in the minds of the audience has proved to be a sensitive issue. From line 207 to 209 President uses many metaphors which are addressed to Czech:

“Those are the voices that still echo through the streets of Prague. Those are the ghosts of 1968. Those were the joyful sounds of the Velvet Revolution. Those were the Czechs who helped bring down a nuclear-armed empire without firing a shot.”

“The voices” are like the forces of freedom of the Czechs during the reign of the Soviet Union; The Prague Spring is also referred to as “the ghosts of 1968”. In the words of President Obama, promises towards a secured world has been kept as America was the host of the first International Nuclear Security Summit in April 2010 which almost aimed at the notion of President Obama had stated in his speech in Prague. The rhetoric analysis yields that the three proofs of rhetoric which are ethos, pathos and logos along with kairos are established.



Beasley, Vanessa B. You, the people: American National Identity In Presidential Rhetoric. No. 10. Texas A&M University Press, 2011.

Dam, Lotte, Lise-Lotte Holmgreen, and Jeanne Strunck. Rhetorical Aspects Of Discourses In Present-Day Society. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2008. Print.

Fahnestock, Jeanne. Rhetorical style: The uses of language in persuasion. Oxford University Press, 2011.

McCrisken, Trevor. "Ten years on: Obama's war on terrorism in rhetoric and practice." International Affairs 87.4 (2011): 781-801.

Rowland, Robert C., and John M. Jones. "One dream: Barack Obama, race, and the American dream." Rhetoric & Public Affairs 14.1 (2011): 125-154.

Stuckey, Mary E. "Rethinking the Rhetorical Presidency and Presidential Rhetoric 1." Review of Communication 10.1 (2010): 38-52.

Weigand, Edda. Dialogue And Rhetoric. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2008. Print.

Whately, Richard, and Douglas Ehninger. Elements Of Rhetoric. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 2010. Print.,. 'Remarks By President Barack Obama In Prague As Delivered'. N.p., 2009. Web. 29 July 2015.

Zagacki, Kenneth S. "Constitutive rhetoric reconsidered: Constitutive paradoxes in GW Bush's Iraq war speeches." Western Journal of Communication 71.4 (2007): 272-293.


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