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Back to School

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Barack Obama is a master of speeches. He uses a lot of techniques when he is speaking in public to create more of an emotional connection, and therefore create an impact on his audience. In this speech from Wakefield High School in Arlington, Obama is talking about the importance of getting an education.

Obama uses everyday- and intelligible language. He modifies his language to children and young people so he is easily understandable. He does not talk down to the audience, he shows them un-derstanding. Despite this he still appears as a leader when he demands the students to be serious and to put their best effort into everything they do.

Obama structures the speech in three stages, which you can categorise under the headings of understanding, responsibility and expectation. Obama opens the speech by expressing his under-standings for the students. He uses pathos to get the students' attention and he addresses the speech to both the new students and the seniors. He appeals to the students and their emotions when he acknowledges the nervousness of the new students, the good feelings of the seniors, and the fact that some of the students are wishing it were still summer. He says that he knows the feeling that it would have been nice to stay in bed just a little longer, and by that he gives the speech a personal touch by telling them about how he felt the same way when he was at their age. He appears very down to earth and this builds up a relationship between Obama and the students and inspires mutual confidence.

After this he tells the students about responsibility. He tells first about the teachers' responsibility, the parents' responsibility, and the government's responsibility, and finally the students' responsi-bility. Everybody has responsibility and this sort of speech construction serves to undermine the lecturing tone towards the students.

Finally Obama tells about his expectations for the students: "So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of...



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