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The Use of Ethos and Pathos in The Appeal of President Barack Obama

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The Use of Ethos and Pathos in The Appeal of President Barack Obama essay
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Without a doubt, one of the most prolific speakers in recent memory is President Barack Obama. His influence as a speaker largely relates back to his ability to resonate with audiences of all kinds and appeal to them in various ways. One of the most prominent representations of this is the speech that he gave while running for the Illinois state Senate position in 2004. Obama takes many opportunities to appeal to the audience in ways that resonate with their core American being and he establishes a connection with this throughout. His logos, ethos and pathos appeals are built around the preservation of American identity as well as the construct of a unified America, which he references and highlights throughout the speech.

Obama instantly establishes ethos with the audience by referencing Illinois as the “land of Lincoln” in the introductory portion of the speech. He exudes humility and he connects the welcoming nature of America to the experience that his father had as a child, wishing to enter into the country which he called “a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before.” Instantly, Obama addresses the audience with many of the welcoming conditions that America is known for, while admitting that his father was from humble, immigrant origins. This statement services two roles, in that it establishes a sense of honesty about his origin while simultaneously subjecting the audience to realize that they themselves are welcoming by nature. Another attribute of the speech that he discusses is the origins of his mother’s father, an oil rig farmer who enrolled in the army after Pearl Harbor. The emotional appeal here is patriotic, drawing to reference many of the qualities of America that would resonate with an Illinois audience.

This comprises the nature of the “American story” that Obama builds, in which he addresses his diverse background and the fact that his parents remained humble and to their roots, by naming him Barack, a traditional African name. The audience that he addresses is the bulk of America, the products of immigration and hard work and the pursuit of the American dream. Furthermore, it’s to those that built themselves up and worked through hardships– much of the hard-working, middle class. This is also the premise for his appeal to the sense of pathos. He references the jobs that are leaving Illinois while simultaneously discussing the dreams that comprise America: that peoples’ children can be safe and secure in a country where hard work allows them to grow and develop accordingly.

His appeal to pathos is rather profound here, because he connects his history to that of many others and finds a platform to discuss their qualms and contrivances at the same time. He discusses particular people such as “the father I met who was losing his job and choking back tears, wondering how he would pay $4,500 a month for the drugs his son needs” or the “woman in East St. Louis, thousands more like her, who has the grades, has the drive, has the will, but doesn’t have the money to go to college.” These appeals are geared towards the common man, and the issues that many of them likely faced while he was talking with them. From there, he discusses the fortitude of these types of people and their dexterity, reaffirming their strength as a whole.

The syllogism that Obama offers is the “choice” to not have the government solve the problems of the common man, but rather to provide them with the platform to solve their issues themselves. He compares the ideas that they stand for with the platform that John Kerry has, and the ideals of “community, faith and sacrifice” that he embodies. This syllogism is great because it connects the audience to the platform that Obama is running under and allows him a platform to further reach out to his audience. John Kerry presents another man who embodies much of what his audience is looking for: a man who served in the military and who devoted his life to the pursuit of a better America. He appeals to a hope that they have for a greater America. The most particularly resonant examples he uses are “hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs,” “the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta” and “the hope of a mill worker’s son who dares to defy the odds.”

Given the audience, the reference to the “hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores” might only resonate with those in the Chicago area but not necessarily the greater Illinois state as a whole but the appeal he uses is effective nonetheless. I feel that these appeals are highly effective, most notably those that are centered around relieving and providing for the middle class, given that middle class America is a large portion of the state of Illinois. As a whole, this speech is effective because it ties the audience together and logically appeals to all of them at once, providing the notion that they’re all what constitutes America and that this is what he is attempting to preserve. It’s evident his appeals are founded on this type of mentality and they comprise the pathos and ethos of the speech as a whole, while simultaneously establishing a platform where his own mentality can be heard by extension of the connections that he made.

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The Use of Ethos and Pathos in the Appeal of President Barack Obama. (2018, July 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 22, 2022, from
“The Use of Ethos and Pathos in the Appeal of President Barack Obama.” GradesFixer, 12 Jul. 2018,
The Use of Ethos and Pathos in the Appeal of President Barack Obama. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 May 2022].
The Use of Ethos and Pathos in the Appeal of President Barack Obama [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Jul 12 [cited 2022 May 22]. Available from:
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