Comparative Analysis of Two Speeches: Barack Obama Versus Jimmy Carter

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The two speeches being compared in this paper are that of President Barack Obama released on January 21, 2013, and President Jimmy Carter released on January 20, 1977. Obama served as the 44th president of the United States (US) from the year 2009 to 2017 while Carter served as the 39th president of the United States from 1977 to 1981. This paper delves into both speeches, comparing how the two former US presidents implemented different literary techniques to influence change.

At first glance, I find Carter’s speech quite honest and very straightforward. It is evident that the speaker understands very well what appeals to his audiences and he delivers it in a charming way. Carter’s speech is also full of words that are really inspiring. However, I feel that the speech lacks some spark that can effectively generate excitement or move the audience. As an eloquent speaker, it is my perception that the speech is deprived of some charisma and strength that the audience craves to enable them to envision what the speaker intends. In Obama’s inaugural address, I find a speaker who is concise and owns his words in addition to being aware of what is required to work an audience. Just like Carter’s speech, Obama delivers his speech in one of the most compelling and inspiring ways. Quintessentially, there exist a plethora of rhetorical strategies that are typical of the two inaugural speeches. Some of the rhetorical devices that are implemented by the two speakers are anaphora, germinatio, anadiplosis, antitheton, and antithesis,

In the opening paragraph of the two speeches, there exists a considerable difference. Usually, a compelling speech is characterized by a flamboyant and attention-grabbing opening. Essentially, an ideal speech often begins with a story, a fact or a quote. From my own point of view, I find Jimmy Carter's opening paragraph quite compelling, however, not as enthralling as the opening by Barack Obama. Carter commences his inaugural address by stating “For myself and for our Nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he has done to heal our land.” It is really good to acknowledge your predecessor’s work, more so if you are not an incumbent, and I believe Carter gets it right at this point. In the next few lines, he recognizes the strength of the nation he is just about to serve and adds some story to the speech about his experiences as a high school student—“As my high school teacher, Miss Julia Coleman, used to say…” The story here is vital in capturing the attention of the audience. Rather than wasting his audience’s time with unnecessary small talk and blunt jokes, he offers a brief story that matches his thesis portraying a convincing message to the audience and hence captivating them. The closing paragraph was however somewhat unsatisfactory. Unless the audience is very attentive, the speech rarely calls for the attention of the audience to its close. The statement “These are not just my goals, and they will not be my accomplishments, but the affirmation of our Nation's continuing moral strength and our belief in an undiminished, ever-expanding American dream,” though very impressive in the context within which it is drafted, does not openly announce to the reader that the speaker is finalizing his speech.

President Obama, in his inaugural speech, prefers to commence by stating a fact rather than narrating a story. I find his rationale in constitutional law terms as one of the most effective ways to draw the attention of the audience. At the beginning of the speech, he states that “Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution.” In this sentence, the author not only attracts the attention of the reader but also highlights the main talking point which is the inauguration. He presents it in one of the most compelling ways which isn’t typical of any speech I have come across. Furthermore, he uses his constitutional prowess to rally the audience to his speech as well as remind them of their civic duty which is enshrined in the constitution. His impeccable comprehension of the constitution, as can be attested in the opening, help immensely in establishing and solidifying his credibility. The concept of credibility in this scenario encompasses how a speaker is perceived by his audience. No matter how competent, trustworthy a speaker may be, if he/she is not perceived as credible by the audience then his expertise and passion inadvertently go to waste. Obama’s introductory paragraph also features plenty of anaphora which I find vital in making the speech more memorable. With regards to anaphora, certain words or phrases are repeated at the beginning of sentences or successive clauses. In Obama's first few opening lines, the word we are repeatedly used at the beginning of sentences to make the introductory part more memorable—' Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that…” The conclusory remarks at the end of Obama’s speech are also effective in calling for the attention of the audience to the close of the speech. The author implements creative thinking and a compelling delivery to end his speech at a high climax. He states “Thank you. God bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.” This is an ideal way to end a speech with regards to the audience.

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Within the body paragraphs of the two speeches, a number of literary techniques are apparent. In Carter’s speech, there is the use of germinatio to add rhythm and cadence to the speech, emphasize on central ideas in the speech, and to build the speech’s intensity to a climax. Germinatio refers to a figure of speech where words or groups of words are repeated within the same sentence. In Carter’s speech, the word ‘a new’ in paragraph four is repeated in every clause of the sentence. The author says that 'This inauguration ceremony marks a new beginning, a new dedication within our Government, and a new spirit among us all.” In Obama’s inaugural speech, germinatio is used in the first paragraph of the speech. Here, the author repeatedly uses the word ‘that' at the beginning of every clause in the sentence. He says '…that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Besides germinatio, there is also the use of anadiplosis in the two speeches. Anadiplosis refers to a figure of speech where words or groups of words situated at the end of one clause or sentence is repeated near the beginning of the succeeding sentence or clause. In paragraph fifteen of Carter's speech, the phrase ‘be true' is repeated near the beginning of the succeeding clause. The author says that 'To be true to ourselves, we must be true to others.” In Obama’s speech, the word ‘together’ situated at the end of the fourth paragraph is used at the beginning of the next sentence. The speech reads, “We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together. Together...”

Finally, the two speeches make use of antitheton. Antitheton refers to a literary device used to contrasts thoughts where contraries are set in opposition to each other. In paragraph twenty of Carter’s speech, the author creates a contrast between idealism and weakness when he says that 'We are a purely idealistic Nation, but let no one confuse our idealism with weakness.' In Obama's speech, the use of antithesis is preferred over antitheton. Antithesis differs from antitheton in the sense that it encompasses contrasting of two ideas presented in opposition to one another. For instance, in paragraph eighteen of the speech, the author says that 'not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.”

In conclusion, the two speeches made by the former US presidents are very impressive. The speeches implement a concoction of rhetorical devices including anaphora, germinatio, anadiplosis, antitheton, and antithesis. Some of these devices are used in the speeches to add rhythm while others are used to add cadence and to further emphasize on central ideas within the speech. There are literary devices that are also used to build the speech’s intensity to a climax. Based on the comparison made between President Barack Obama’s speech and President Jimmy Carter’s, I find Obama’s speech more appealing particularly the introductory and conclusion parts.

Works Cited

  1. “Inaugural Address by President Barack Obama”. The White House, 21 January 2013,
  2. “Inaugural Address of President Jimmy Carter.” The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, 20 January 1977,
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Comparative Analysis of Two Speeches: Barack Obama Versus Jimmy Carter. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from
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