A RHETORICAL AND COMPARATIVE STUDY
OF THE VICTORY SPEECHES OF BARACK OBAMA AND MIRCEA GEOANĂ
Babeş Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
The present study sets out to examine the political discourses of two presidential candidates, Barack Obama and Mircea Geoană (the Romanian Social Democrat party leader), in a comparative study which also seeks to remind the reader of the overwhelming and manipulative influence of both PR and media on society.
As an interdisciplinary insight, the present analytical study was built on linguistic concepts like: genre, (political) discourse, politics and democratic overtones, and psychological contributions to civil political speech. The scholars and researchers whose remarkable works informed the present inquiry are: Bhatia (1993); Swales (1981, 1985, 1990); Bakhtin (1981, 1986); Bitzer (1968); Devitt (2004); Fairclough (2003); Jamieson (1975), Miller (1984); Charaudeau & Maingueneau (2002); Johnson, David & Johnson, Roger (2000). The primary sources used for the analysis of speeches were: Carr (2010), The Pew Research Centre’s data and online newspaper articles.
The two discourses looked at in the study are: Obama’s Victory speech presented in Chicago on 5th November 2008 and the Romanian presidential candidate’s (Mircea Geoană’s) eight-minute speech of his delusive glory delivered on the night of the elections, when he falsely declared himself the elect president. Whereas Obama’s speech turned out to be a model speech, which will continue to instigate to further rhetorical inquiries in the decades to come, Geoană’s speech, which looked pathetically thin and followed Obama’s speech very closely in several respects, soon fell into oblivion.
After a brief discussion of political discourse in general, the study focuses on the rhetorical convergence of issues in other American presidential election speeches, illustrated by the 2000 presidential elections which opposed G.W. Bush to Al Gore, each allegedly standing for the same cause but representing different positions and strategies. The study then pursues an analysis of the two discourses or genre texts (Obama’s and Geoană’s) along Halliday’s concepts of field, mode and tenor. It equally undertakes to highlight the similarities of the two speeches and to interpret the collected data. Next, the study moves on to an in-depth examination of what makes the two speeches resemble each other so much, starting with the delivery moment and ending up with the promises of the new administration and the final wish, whereby every quotation of the rhetorical ‘import’ phenomenon is commented on.
The findings reveal that Obama’s speech exerted a great influence on Geoană’s oratorical performance. However, the study does not attempt to cast any doubts on Geoană’s rhetorical skills, nor to praise the uniqueness of his speech. Finally, it does not come as a surprise that the Romanians who were unaware of the monumental American original held their candidate in high esteem and praised him as a caring, new president who distinguished himself as a master of oratory.
Key words: Political discourse; Discourse analysis; Rhetorics; Rhetorical convergence; Oratorical performance.
Bakhtin, M.M. (1981). The dialogic imagination: Four essays. Austin and London: University of Texas Press.
Bakhtin, M.M. (1986). Speech genres and other late essays. Austin Tx: University of Texas Press.
Bhatia, V.K. (1993). Analysing genre. London: Longman. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0272263100013668
Brady, H., & Sniderman, P. (1985). Attitude attribution: A group basis for political reasoning. American Political Science Review, 79, 1061-1078. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/1956248
Bitzer, L.F. (1968). The rhetorical situation. Philosophy and Rhetoric, 1(1), 1-14.
Carr, D. (2008, November 9). How Obama tapped into social networks’ power. NY Times. Retrieved January, 29th, 2010, from http://nytimes.com/2008/11/10/business/media/10carr.html
Charaudeau, P., Maingueneau, D., & Adam, J. (2002). Dictionnaire d’analyse du discours. Paris: Seuil.
Devitt, A.J. (2004). A theory of genre. Writing genres. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
Elder, C.D., & Cobb, R.W. (1983). The political use of symbols. New York: Longman.
Fairclough, N. (1995). Media Discourse. London: Arnold.
Fairclough, N. (2003). Analysing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. Abingdon and New York: Routledge.
Foner, E. (1994). The meaning of freedom in the age of emancipation. Journal of American History, 81 (September 1994), 435-60. DOI: 10.2307/2081167
Halliday, M.A.K., & Hasan, R. (1989). Language, context, and text: Aspects of language in a social-semiotic perspective. Oxford: OUP.
Hart, R. (2000). Campaign talk: Why elections are good for us. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Jacobs, L., & Shapiro, R. (2000). Politicians don't pander: Political manipulation and the loss of democratic responsiveness. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Jamieson, K.M. (1975). Antecedent genre as rhetorical constraint. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 61, 406-415. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00335637509383303
Johnson, D.W., & Johnson, R.T. (2000). Civil political discourse in a democracy: The contribution of psychology. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 6(4), 291-317. Retrieved May, 3rd, 2000, from http//www.co-operation.org/pages/contro-pol.html.
Leuchtenburg, W.E. (1988). Franklin D. Roosevelt: The first modern president. In F.I. Greenstein (Ed.), Leadership in the modern presidency. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Miller, C.R. (1984). Genre as social action. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 70, 151-67. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00335638409383686
Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence (October 22, 2008). Winning the media campaign. Retrieved January, 29th, 2010, from http://www.journalism.org/analysis_report/winning_media_campaign.
Rodgers, D.T. (1987). Contested truths: Keywords in American politics since independence. New York: Basic Books.
Swales, J.M. (1990). Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI: 10.1075/z.184.513swa
West, P. (October 24, 2000). For Gore, a battle for green territory Pacific Northwest is cool to reputed environmentalist. The Baltimore Sun, p.1.A.
How to cite this article: Irimiea, S. (2010). A rhetorical and comparative study of the victory speeches of Barack Obama and Mircea Geoană. Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education – JoLIE, 3, 41-54. DOI: https://doi.org/10.29302/jolie.2010.3.3
For details on subscription, go to: