Tanaka,Kyle Matthew
Homework Assignment #1

1. Was the text you examined, in fact, rhetoric? Justify your answer using what we’ve read so far.
For my paper I analyzed Senator Barack Obama’s speech, “A More Perfect Union”. I believe that the artifact I examined is in fact rhetoric. According to Ernest Wrage’s (1947) article:
A speech is an agency of its time, one whose surviving record provides a repository of themes and their elaborations from which we may gain insight into the life of an era as well as into the mind of the man. (p. 453-454)
As I pointed out in my paper, one of the prevailing themes of Sen. Obama’s speech is the focus and emphasis he places on unifying our nation. Given the context section of the paper, it is clear that Sen. Obama faced a stiff hurdle in terms of his race and his ties to the controversial Reverend Jeremiah Wright. I believe this helps illustrate Wrage’s point of being able to gain a glimpse into an era. The fact that our country was on the cusp of setting a historical precedent in electing our first African American president, this helps define the speech rhetoric.
In addition, Wrage also uses an excerpt by Roy Basler, to show how a speech can be seen as rhetoric and have an impact on our society. Basler (1946) examined President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and notes its significance in that Lincoln was able to “commemorate the past and to prophesy the future” (as cited in Wrage, 1947, p. 455). This can be seen in Sen. Obama’s speech when he talks about our founding fathers and how far our nation has come since their time. However, similar to Lincoln he looks toward the future when he says, “The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished” (Obama 2008). More parallels can be gleamed through Sen. Obama’s speech as well. So as Wrage argues, so will I in that I believe that Sen. Obama’s speech is an example of rhetoric.

2. What does your study teach someone about how the message studied worked as rhetoric? (If it didn’t, freely admit that and explain what it did do.)
I thought this was a somewhat difficult question to answer. In my paper, I apply an Aristotelian type of method by examining both forensic and deliberative speech. So while I believe I did an adequate job defining my type of method and found a few examples, I believe I did not teach anyone that read my paper about how the message studied worked as rhetoric. The main reason is that I believe that I focused too much of my emphasis on the context of the speech, and it carried over into the analysis portion of my paper. However, I believe my paper did provide a necessary historical account of time period and circumstances regarding the Sen. Obama’s speech. One area that I do believe provides a platform for future study and deliberation is the examination of the relationship of Sen. Obama and Rev. Wright. I believe based on how I constructed the paper it allows for a reader to have a more informed and conscious decision when taking in the artifact.

Wrage, E, J. (1947). PUBLIC ADDRESSES: A STUDY IN SOCIAL AND INTELLECTUAL HISTORY. Quarterly Journal Of Speech, 33(4), 453-455.

Dr. Stoner,

I am attaching my Glossary here, and will also be dropping of a hardcopy to the Communication Studies Department tomorrow morning. Thank you again for the great semester.


Kyle Tanaka