US President-elect Barack Obama’s rhetorical skill, his ability to captivate and inspire audiences with his powerful speeches, has led some writers to describe him as the greatest orator of his generation.
By Stephanie Holmes
What is the secret of his success – the words themselves, the way he delivers them, or the historical change he represents?
“I believe Barack Obama embodies, more than any other politician, the ideals of American eloquence,” says Ekaterina Haskins, professor of rhetoric at the University of Iowa.
His speeches, she argues, are shaded with subtle echoes of great speeches past, consciously creating a sense of history, purpose and continuity.
“He has certainly studied all of his predecessors, he is quite aware of the rhetorical heritage that he draws on,” Ms Haskins explains. “He clearly sees himself as a descendant of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King.”
“He is summoning the ghosts of previous leaders and presidents who Americans have learnt to revere.”
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