Compare Barak Obama’s and Martin Luther King’s persuasive speeches
Barak Obama and Martin Luther King are two very important historical people that helped America return to it ideals. Obama is the first black president of the United States, elected in 2008. King was the moral leader of the civil rights movements; he was fighting for legal equality for black people. King was addressing the 1963 March on Washington to the black and white supporters in favour of civil rights. His profession as a pastor and his pacifist beliefs influenced his speech; also he was a preacher and strongly believed in non violence.
The result of his speech and the movement he led was a direct turning point and change of law, which soon lead to the end of segregation. Later on, indirectly it led to the election of the first black president. Barak Obama was addressing his supporters after the election in 2008, when he made his speech. A few things influenced Obama’s speech, including his election as the first black president and his need to unite all parties. Also, this was the time of the credit crunch and many people were losing their jobs, this was a big influence.
In Martin Luther King’s speech he uses a range of persuasive techniques to engage his audience. For example, he uses similes and metaphors to illustrate points he talks about that are more difficult to understand, so his audience always recognizes what he is trying to get across. For instance, King quotes “we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” This makes King’s point very clear about how he wants justice to flow as if it were normal and with discretion.
He also uses references to the declaration of independence and emphasises the idea of equality. King quotes “this note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This is showing that equality is not just an opinion, but a right that everyone has and it should be accepted and pursued because it is a state of law.
King has used emotive language also to capture the audience’s attention. He quotes “we are free at last”; he repeats this line many times because it really impacts on how you look at segregation, as if it’s slavery or punishment. King really absorbs his audience into what he’s saying by using emotive language because it connects with them and controls their emotions.
There is much more persuasive language and rhetoric manipulated in King’s speech but another of the main features is the sound patterns he uses, for example, onomatopoeia and alliteration. He quotes “by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.” The ‘c’s alliterate here, and ‘c’ is a percussive consonant that really impacts the message, the ‘b’s also have this affect. He uses this because it gives the speech a rhythm and makes it more interesting to listen to.
In President Barak Obama’s speech he also uses a range of persuasive techniques to engage his audience. Like King, he uses many similes and metaphors to help describe or make a point, also to encourage the audience to draw a link between two obviously unrelated things, and find similarities between them. Obama quotes ‘Every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms’ meaning, “Every so often the oath is taken amidst a political situation as brutal as a gathering storm” or “Every so often the oath is taken when the money has run out.” Obama uses a clear, powerful metaphor that allows the audience to completely realize that “gathering clouds and raging storms” refers to the current US recession.
Obama also used references to the declaration of independence like King did but in a slightly different way. He quotes ‘America has carried on… because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.’ He refers back to this to remind and mainly thank his audience for remaining loyal and essentially following the ways of the declaration of independence and Martin Luther King.
Something that both Obama and King too both used a great deal was the rule of three. This is when the speaker narrows a subject down to three major points which all link. Obama quotes ‘Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered.’ He uses these three because they are very strong and important. Using this rule makes a powerful impression to the audience on the topic, showing that it is a key issue.
Repetition and imperative commands are core techniques used in all great speeches, it really highlights what, in this case, Obama and also King are trying to convey. In Obama’s speech, he repeats the words ‘Yes We Can’ quite a few times after talking about change or progress. This shows that he trying to imply that anything is achievable if you have the determination and strength to carry on and accomplish what you set out for. He uses this as a sort of catch phrase for the speech as a whole, as the main focus.
The two speeches I have discussed are very much linked, with Martin Luther King being a direct impact on the banning of segregation and Barack Obama being the first black president they and their speeches relate. There are many similarities between the two, such as they both refer back to the declaration of independence and both use most of the same persuasive language and rhetoric in their speeches. The difference is that they aren’t exactly giving their speech on the same precise topic.
The purpose of Martin Luther King’s speech was to explain to why black people should have rights along with white people, in which he called racial equality and end to discrimination. Whereas Barack Obama’s speech’s focused on the subjects of racial tensions, white privilege, and race and inequality in the United States, discussing black “anger,” white “resentment,” and other issues, his speech closed with a request to move beyond America’s “racial stalemate” and concentrate on shared social problems.
Both these speeches are very powerful, influential and convincing, they really explain their points well and make the audience aware of the problem or situation, they have a very persuasive tone, as a speech should have.