Presentation Magazine

Barack Obama’s speech

Well congratulations Obama, and congratulations America.

On the night he was made the new president of the United States, Barack Obama delivered a speech that might have seemed like it came off the cuff, but trust me, this was a well-planned and well-rehearsed speech that tackled and succeeded in many of the key concepts and made what will be classed as one of the greatest speeches since Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech.

You can read the speech in full here.

The power of three is a technique that has been used in all of the greatest speeches. It is used because it flows nicely, because it is enough for the listener to absorb without feeling overloaded and because it feels complete (I am even using it myself). Obama uses the power of three technique several times in his speech, see the following example –

“It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this
day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America,”
he said to a long roar.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did

1. on this day,
2. in this election,
3. at this defining moment,

see how Obama has used three points to illustrate what he could have said in one point, or indeed not at all –

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, change is coming to America.

The sentence says the same as Obama’s original sentence, but it doesn’t sound enough, it doesn’t give a feeling of inclusion and it doesn’t have that poetic feeling of impact that Obama gives his own words.

Obama has not only used the power of three here, but he has also involved his audience with the use of the phrase “what WE did”. This involves them in his celebration, makes them feel part of his success, and will make the people of America, his audience, feel successful too. Using the word “we” gives the feeling that Obama and those that voted for him are united, that they have succeeded in a mission and succeeded together, very similar to Martin Luther King’s speech.

Take a look at this second example –

If there is anyone out there

1. who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible;
2. who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time;
3. who still questions the power of our democracy,

tonight is your answer. ”

Not only does it use the power of three again, but it also has repetition, another useful tool for getting the point across, and emphasising an important aspect.

On the subject of useful tools, and the involvement of the people, take a look at this part –

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat
and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay,
straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message
to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

Obama probably hasn’t left anyone out of that list, and it works on two levels. Firstly, whichever group you fit into will stand out to you when he says it, so it gives the feeling that he is speaking directly to you, he has recognised who you are and is personally addressing you. Secondly, by grouping everyone together he has once again created a feeling of togetherness.

Obama's speech in BerlinFurther into his speech, Obama gives reference to events that have happened in the past, the abolition of black slavery, Pearl Harbour, times before women had rights- each and every one of these references will have touched a nerve with the people of America, and will give a connection between the people and their new president, very much like Martin Luther King’s technique.

To be a great speaker you have to be able to do three things (yes, there’s that number again) –

1. you have to connect with your audience
2. you have to make them feel as if you are addressing them individually
3. you have to make them believe

Obama has achieved this and has achieved this public speaking thing on a level that can only be described as perfection, and I am definitely looking forward to the inauguration speech.

Sharren L Bessant


Published On: 14th Nov 2008

Read more about -
Public Speaking,Speaking Articles,Speeches ,

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