The Use of Pathos and Ethos in Obama's "A More Perfect Union" Speech

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 820 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Sep 1, 2020

Words: 820|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Sep 1, 2020

As President of the United States, you are expected to carry out a multitude of jobs and duties. Presidents are not only expected to lead the country and its people to succeed but also motivate and encourage them along the way. There are many ways to do this, but the most effective strategy is by giving speeches. Speeches are used to make a connection and motivate listeners so that they can reflect and hopefully take away something that will positively affect their lives. Barack Obama, the forty-fourth president of the United States, was arguably one of the best speakers to reside in the Oval Office. President Obama delivered many speeches such as the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Marches, Naturalization Ceremony Speech and A More Perfect Union Speech. All of these speeches provide evidence that Obama delivers meaningful and effective speeches. Obama delivered the “A More Perfect Union” speech at the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nomination, in which he addressed the subject of racial tensions, white privilege, and racial injustices in the United States. The effectiveness of Barack Obama's speech is due to the strong use of the rhetorical appeals of pathos and ethos.

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President Obama effectively demonstrates the use of the appeal pathos throughout his More Perfect Union speech. Pathos is a strategy that will typically appeal to readers and the listeners’ emotions, along with creating imagery that will appeal to those emotions. Obama presents his use of the appeal to emotion, speaking about the examples of racial injustices that are within our nation. Obama highlights these injustices when he describes, “Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students”. By identifying an example of racial inequalities from our past, Obama has effectively appealed to the emotions of the audience. These emotions will cause the audience to understand and hopefully work toward a more unified country, instead of being separated by racial discrimination. Obama continues with, “A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families”. This excerpt effectively uses emotions to exemplify the racial inequalities that African Americans face in society. This appeals to readers’ emotions because they are able to sympathize with the people who are the sole provider for their families. Obama effectively appeals to pathos as he uses the emotions of the audience to further prove the need for a more unified nation.

As Obama continues to unify the country through his address, he also demonstrates the rhetoric appeal of ethos. Ethos establishes credibility through authority created through logical support, research, and in Obama’s case evidence. He continually brings up the racial history of America. Obama, who is of mixed races, was constantly exposed to racial injustices throughout his life, understands these struggles first hand. Having experienced these things Obama justifies himself with, “embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past”. Having encountered these things, Obama can establish his credibility and relate to his audience. But instead of being stopped by these things he continued to strive, and he believes that other people being oppressed should do the same. Obama highlights, in particular, the discrimination that the African American community faced. He exemplifies this prejudice with, “Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners.” This excerpt shows the hardships that African Americans faced in the past. But Obama doesn’t want these things to stop these people in the present. But instead, use this as a motivation factor and also to call for change in today’s society. Obama establishes his appeal to ethos by using his own experiences with racial inequalities. With these struggles, Obama establishes his credibility. Obama uses his appeal to emotions to express the need for change not as individuals but as a country.

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As Obama delivers his “A More Perfect Union” speech, he effectively uses the rhetoric appeals ethos and pathos. Obama dissects the emotions of the audience and uncovers the empathetic side of them. He successfully does this by bringing to light the struggles that people face when providing for their families. But he also highlights the struggles of the countries segregated past. As he continues through the address he also delivers some aspects of the appeal ethos. He efficiently does by highlighting his own experiences with racial inequalities as a young black man growing up in America. But Obama doesn’t only highlight his own experiences, he also provides credibility by illustrating Americas past. Obama effectively demonstrates the need for changes to be made in the United States through the use of the rhetoric appeal pathos and ethos.

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The Use of Pathos and Ethos in Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” Speech. (2020, September 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 22, 2024, from
“The Use of Pathos and Ethos in Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” Speech.” GradesFixer, 01 Sept. 2020,
The Use of Pathos and Ethos in Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” Speech. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 May 2024].
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