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Barack Obama – Persuading

In a speech Thursday (2. July) at Cairo University, President Obama called for a new beginning between Muslims and the US. See it here: http://www.dr.dk/Forms/Published/PlaylistGen.aspx?qid=1039671&bitrate=medium

Obama spoke at a seat of Islamic learning, his 55-minute address suffused with respect for touchstones of the religion. He said the time had come to "speak the truth" and "seek a new beginning."

"America and Islam are not exclusive," he said, "and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings."

A new beginning, and the whole world talking about his speech.

Obama made no specific references to his predecessor in the White House during his Cairo University speech, but others quickly did.

The political content is interesting, but more interesting is Obama ability to convince.
I am impressed with his abilities as a speaker, more people have compared him with Martin Luther King speech “I have a dream…”. It is very interesting how Obama is building these persuasive speeches?

I have read an article about Persuading from the book ”Say It Like Obama”. It is about Obama’s extraordinary capability to persuade in his speeches and his rhetorical skills.

Barack Obama has a lot of tools in his toolbox to persuade. Some of the most powerful is his skill to deliver a striking number of momentum-building, election-winning speeches. (Underlying this success is his power to persuade and his special technique to persuade in his speeches, by saying the same thing in both part of the sentence.)

He has, as I mention, a number of tools, he using to perfection. I will mention some of them; just to summarize his toolbox of speechmaking:

Sequencing ideas
He provides information about something that happened in the past. One of the most important ways to link ideas is to sequence them. Sequencing means ordering idears or events in which they happened.

One example:
“We have real enemies in the world. These enemies must found. They must be pursued, and the must be defeated.”

Addressing Nonrhetorical questions

A way to enhance persuasion is by addressing Nonrhetorical questions. Asking a Nonrhetorical question – one you intend to answer – is a valuable way to replicate a sense of two-way conversation
Obama is using this technique in many ways.

Addressing Objection
This technique, known as procatalepsis is a figure of speech in which the speaker raises an objection to his own argument and then immediately answers it. By doing so, he hopes to strengthen his argument by dealing with possible counter-arguments before his audience can raise them.One example:“Some of my opponents appear scornful of the world; they thing it speaks of naiveté, passivity, and wishful thinking.But that’s not what hope is. Hope is……………”

Using Juxtaposition and antithesis – comparing and contrasting
One of the hallmarks of Obama’s powerful oration is his outstanding use of Juxtaposition. Juxtaposition is two texts or ideas that oppose one another.

When contrasting ideas he frequently uses antithesis, a technique placing two ideas side by side in a sentence or paragraph, often using balance or parallel structures. Antithesis enable a speaker to present “counter propositions”, clarifying differences in ideas and contrasting opposite ideas or belief.

Some examples:“We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in….”
“And so while I know hopelessness, I also know hope”

These are examples of succinct use of antithesis that bring clarity of thought and aid persuasion. Obama is also highly skilled in using a longer antithesis and contrast structure to extend his clarification of ideas, and he is very good at it.

For instance
“our party - the Democratic party - has been at its best when we’ve let not by polls, but by principle; not by calculation, but by conviction; when we’ve called all Americans to common purpose – a higher purpose”


Juxtaposition and tricolon
Obama also combines juxtaposition with other rhetorical techniques such as triadic extension to bring precision to his contrast of ideas. A tricolon is a sentence with three clearly defined parts of equal length, usually independent clauses and of increasing power.


Extended Juxtaposition
Another of the hallmarks of Barack Obama's effective communication is his use of creative variations of juxtaposition. Sometimes he structures whole paragraphs around opposing ideas.
Broad-stroked JuxtapositionAnother key technique Obama employs to sharpen the persuasive power of his communication is an "idea-pivot-contrasting idea” structure for presenting contrary ideas. He uses it for devotes ample space for the discussion of an initial view, usually the view with which he disagrees.

There are a lot of examples on Obama’s use of Juxtaposition and enough to make a book. In the book ”Say It Like Obama” there is a lot of good phrases there are really inspiring and instructive.

Read the book and see how Obama has mastered an ability to persuade others eliciting a nod, a glimmer in the eye and by saying the “yes”. Leaders and many others who making speeches and need to persuade people, can glean many lessons from his successful techniques.

In their many variations, comparison and contrast, juxtaposition and antithesis give remarks greater potency, as excellent communicators sharpen the differences between their ideas and opposing views, in order to persuade listeners that their ideas are best.

So read ”Say It Like Obama” or see some of his speeches at youtube.com

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