Critical Analysis Essay on President Obama's Inaugural Speech

Published: 2022-12-15
Critical Analysis Essay on President Obama's Inaugural Speech
Essay type:  Critical analysis essays
Categories:  Politics Political science Barack Obama
Pages: 3
Wordcount: 686 words
6 min read

On 20th January 2009, the US inaugurated Barack Obama as the first black president in the nation's history. The president-elect gave a speech of hope, change, and unity to millions of people in the nation's capital Washington D.C while millions of others watched on television. The message of his speech was clear that there was a difficult task ahead the nation and Americans would overcome the obstacles. Obama uses the pronouns "we" and "us" to show the unity of all Americans irrespective of their political party affiliations. A presidential inaugural speech is an address to the nation by the president-elect in a ceremony that marks the commemoration of a term in office.

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President Obama uses his worldview of what it means to be American to reclaim the political discourse from the dominance of conservatives. Therefore, he uses the patriotic language to fit in the ideals behind the nation's founding fathers. In his speech, Obama states "...We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents" (Best Speeches of Barack Obama Through His 2009 Inauguration, n.d). On the other hand, the speech portrays multiculturalism in America. He uses the term "scripture" to show inclusivity of all religions and cultures in his discourse. Most importantly, the sentiments "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth" portray the fruits of multiculturalism in the mainstream American culture. Obama used an articulate word and sentence choices to touch the heart of every American and promote a sense of unity.

Professor Lakoff stipulates that metaphors structure our understanding and perception as well as make our thoughts interesting and vivid (Y N, 2017). Obama uses cognitive metaphors throughout his speech to illustrate his worldview. The metaphor "...rising tides of prosperity and still waters of peace" (Best Speeches of Barack Obama Through His 2009 Inauguration, n.d) shows the state at which American presidents have taken office; some in prosperity and peace and others during the turmoil. Obama commenced office during an economic crisis when American resources were exhausted by war during the previous administration. Coupled with the metaphor "...programs will end," Obama aimed that showing the nation that American presidents since George Washington strived to develop the American economy. However, to achieve prosperity, good political support from the nation was essential for the nation.

Obama uses parallelism and repetition to emphasize the message of his speech. For instance, Obama's choice of using multi-verb words "pick up" and "dust off" to emphasize the need for action since they are associated with impulse and movement. Moreover, he uses the pronouns we, us and our repetitively to impose a lasting impression on the minds and hearts if his audience. Essentially, the repetition creates a sense of unity in that Americans are in the same fight together. Rhetorical devices are also used in the speech to ensure clarity in the message. Obama uses allusion to remind the nation about the American heritage and values such as using the scripture and the hardships faced by the ancestors (Wang, 2010).

In summation, discourse and ideology are intertwined in Obama's speech. The president's rhetoric spreads a message of hope and unity by using a persuasive language for the people to support forthcoming political reforms. Throughout the speech, Obama talked about the problems America faced and the need for the citizens to overcome the challenges as one. Therefore, Obama showed courage and strength by creating an atmosphere of confidence without showing uncertainty or weakness during the rough period the country faced. The speech captured carefully chosen words, phrases, and metaphors to uplift the American spirit by using historical, political and religious references to support Obama's worldview.


Best Speeches of Barack Obama Through His 2009 Inauguration. (n.d.). Obama inaugural address: 20th January 2009. Retrieved from

Y N. (2017, August 5). Professor Lakoff, metaphors we live by [Video file]. Retrieved from

Wang, J. (2010). A Critical Discourse Analysis of Barack Obama's Speeches. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 1(3). doi:10.4304/jltr.1.3.254-261

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