The Power of Rhetoric

Our TV screens were full of pictures of President Obama’s state visit to the UK last week. Most memorable was the speech he gave to both houses of parliament from St Stephen’s Hall. This was the first time any American president had done that apparently – and a jolly good job he made of it too!

There’s no denying Obama is impressive in his ability to deliver a great speech – or what sounds like a good speech. A political observer on BBC 2’s ‘Newsnight’ said you need to read Obama’s speeches before listening to them, otherwise you’ll get the impression he’s saying a lot more than he actually is.

I’m told that he employs a young assistant to write his speeches for him – if that’s true, whoever it is certainly knows all about the Art of Rhetoric. The Greek philosopher Cicero defines different rhetorical styles: repetition of a word or phrase at either the start or finish of that phrase as epiphora or anaphora; a group of three as tricolon e.g, veni, vidi, vici; and praeteritio, which is the ability to draw the audience’s attention to a subject, by not talking about it!

“Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation, not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy…”

Clever huh?  So add an impressive clout to your talks with a touch of the Obama’s

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