Racism can be described as an unusual thing which misleads and classify folks based on color, caste, cultural background and religion. Barack Obama, a politician, who served as the first African American president of the United States, wanted to solve the issue of racism. “He delivered a speech ‘A More Perfect Union’ on March 18, 2008 during presidential campaigns. This speech was mainly based on race relations.” (Obama 613). “It was delivered at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania” (“A More Perfect Union (speech)” 2018). This speech was a response to controversial comments made by Reverend Jeremiah Wright (Obama’s pastor). Obama modified his response into the main issue of racism in the nation. This speech is structured in a way that his speech left a series of evidence to follow from the starting to the end. He reviewed his point of view with his own story, his upbringing and racism in the nation. He also contextualized that why and how the nation needs to be changed. He started it with the topic of slavery and race relations and ends it by making everyone understand that racism will end with growth of a strong union. This structure indicates that Obama is speaking to all the black and white Americans who have voted for him, can vote for him or being discouraged to vote him due to his Pastor’s (Reverend Jeremiah Wright) comments. Obama also used rhetorical strategy in the structure to make people understand that racism is unhealthy for their nation.
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Obama began his speech by talking about slavery and racism. He mentioned slavery as a dirty mark and an original crime of the nation which has divided the colonies. “… nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies” (Obama 613). He encouraged everyone by saying that a perfect and strong union may solve this issue. “I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our times unless we solve them together- unless we perfect our union…” (Obama 614). Then he moved on to his own life story by mentioning that the belief of a strong union comes from his own American story that he is a son of a black man and a white woman. He raised with the help of a white grandfather and a white grandmother. He is married to a black woman and has relations in every color, caste and religion. (Obama 614). Further, he referred to Wright’s controversial comments. He said that these comments were not only against injustice, but these misleads the nation as well. “They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country” (Obama 615). At the end, he stated that making a stronger union is a way to finish racism by mentioning about Ashley and an old black man. During campaign in Florence (South Carolina), Ashely (the organizer of the campaign) was sitting at a roundtable discussion where everyone was sharing their story and the reason of being in the campaign. Ashley’s reason of being in the campaign was that she wanted to help millions of children who want and need to help their parents. There was an old man who was sitting quiet during the whole discussion. When the turn comes to that old black man, he said that he was there just because of Ashley which represents a union which is growing more stronger because Ashley is a young white girl whereas that old man was a black man and a black person was supporting a white person. There was no relation between them except the relation of humanity (Obama 623).
Obama has used rhetorical strategy to make people understand and to encourage people to end racism. In the beginning, he recites, “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union” (Obama 613). It is the first line in the United States Constitution which means that the people who do not have complete knowledge regarding the issues Obama wanted to discuss, can understand that something important is being discussed with them. Afterwards, he mentioned that he is a son of a black man and a white woman. He has married a woman who carries the blood of slaves within her. Thus, he wanted to say that he is an authority on race. (Blasingame, Rhetorical Analysis of “A More Perfect Union” Speech, 2008). Moreover, he told a story of his grandfather “who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II” (Obama 614). It is obvious that no one will disrespect and ignore the person who died serving the nation and they will have emotions for that person. The words ‘Depression’, ‘Patton’s army’ and ‘World war II’ stimulates the emotional responses of self-sacrifice and devotion for the nation. It creates a biological connection with the audience.
Moving further, he talked less about his father and more about his white grandmother just to gain interest and sympathy of white people by praising about his grandmother. Moving on, he said that “inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow” (Obama 618) and also mentioned that “a view that sees the conflicts in the middles east as rooted….” (Obama 615) to show that he is aware of the history of the United States and understand the situation of present which is affecting the country. Thereafter, he also talked about the manipulation done to the people of the country to win elections which keep the folks far away from unity. Subsequently, when he said ““Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white …. the benefits they have earned” (Obama 622). From these lines, he tends to make audience understand the value of time and America realize that they must react to it. Also, Obama played with the emotions of the audience by saying that “We do not need to recite here the history…… legacy of slavery and Jim Crow” (Obama 617-618). He is using rhetorical strategy and cause-and-effect to play with the emotions of the people of the America.
Finally, he ends his speech by sharing a memory of A campaign held at Florence, South Carolina. This campaign was organized by a young white girl named Ashley Baia. During this campaign, everyone was sitting around a table and were discussing about their life stories and reason of being in the campaign. Ashley’s reason for being in the campaign was that she wanted to help millions of children who want to help their parents (Obama 623). There was an old black man who was sitting very quiet during the whole discussion. He did not utter a single word. When it comes to his turn, he stated the reason that he was just there because of Ashley. It represents humanity and unity. There was no other relation between that white young girl and that elderly black man but still there was a feeling of unity among them (Obama 623). The motive of telling this story to the audience was that Obama wanted to encourage them to get united to fight against racism and to secure their future. He also wanted to show that being a black person, he is able to rule the nation which creates a positive feeling among black people. “Obama’s position in the White House conjures the legacy of black freedom struggles because black visibility is an important signifier of the relationship between race and nationhood in the United States.” (Read-dukeupress-edu.ezproxy.kpu.ca, 2018).
Obama uses several rhetorical theories and strategies to create a feeling of dignity and unity among the audience. Obama wanted to heal America’s racial legacy. He used rhetorical strategies to clear the misunderstandings and controversies regarding his personality. He tried to have an honest conversation based on racial discriminations and unity among the people. This speech affects the emotions of the people and create a feeling of unity.
Making suggestions and finding solutions is not everything unless these are applied on the problems to solve the issues. Racism is a major issue which should not be followed in any nation. Every person is equal to the law. Written rules and law can not create a feeling of unity unless it is felt by people themselves. Unity creates happiness and freedom which spreads peace and harmony in the nation. Racism creates a society where people disrespects each other which can affect people’s wellbeing and their future regarding access to job, education etcetera. It is rightly said that Racism is good for politics and bad for health. Racism can have very bad impact on the lives of the people whether it is done intentionally or unintentionally. To get rid of this, everyone should be provided knowledge regarding human rights, children should be given knowledge regarding this so that they should be aware of being discriminated. Various workshops should be organized to make people aware of it. People who discriminate others based on race, caste and religion should be punished and warned so that they would not be able to do it again. Children should be treated equally so that they must feel free to get education in any school or institution regardless being white or black.
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