This analysis of Barack Obama’s Selma Speech is based on the rhetorical pentagram model. Here you will find a short overview of the main points in our analysis.
In what follows, we will will look at the topics of the speech – sacrifice and patriotism, civil rights in America, the present challenges of America, and unity - and how these relate to issues in American society at the time of the Selma to Montgomery marches and at the time of the speech.
We will present the speaker and his position as a Democrat and an African American, and how these aspects influence the way he presents himself in the speech. We will also examine the audience – both those who watched the speech delivered live and those who watched or read the speech later.
We will analyze how the speaker uses language tools to achieve his intentions: The choice of words and the speaker’s tone, how imagery, allusion, and repetition make the speech more memorable, as well as how the speaker appeals to the audience’s reason, emotions, and trust.
We will discuss the circumstances of the speech, looking at the historical importance of the Selma march and its influence on society in 1965.
Lastly, we will connect the speaker’s intention of convincing the American people to take responsibility as citizens with the language tools he uses and the circumstances and topics of the speech.
You can read the full analysis of the speech in the next pages.