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Reconsidering Obama

Reflections on Rhetoric


Edited By Robert E. Terrill

Perhaps no other presidential candidate or sitting president has attracted as much attention from rhetorical critics as Barack Obama. Much of this work was conceived and written during Obama’s initial presidential campaign, or relatively early in his two terms in office. This book provides rhetorical critics an opportunity to revisit their published work on Obama in light of events that have occurred since its publication. In each chapter, these eminent critics begin by summarizing the analysis and conclusions in their original essays on Obama, and then reflect on their previous conclusions, revising or extending them in response to developments since the publication of the original work. The chapters provide a glimpse into the inventional strategies of practicing critics and into some of the ways that that critical insights may evolve over time. Scholars rarely have an opportunity to publish essays that reflect on their own previous work, even though few resources can be of greater use to both beginning critics and to established scholars seeking to continue to hone and reflect on their critical practice. This book, then, makes an important contribution not only to the existing literature on the 44th president of the United States, but also and perhaps most significantly to the study of the art and craft of rhetorical criticism.

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Chapter Six: The Once and Future Teleological Discourse of Barack Obama (Richard W. Leeman)


chapter six

The Once and Future Teleological Discourse of Barack Obama

Richard W. Leeman

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

I had not planned on publishing anything about Barack Obama’s discourse. Certainly I had been impressed with the oratory he displayed in speeches such as the 2004 Democratic National Convention Keynote or the 2008 Philadelphia speech on race, but I was confident that many perceptive scholars would publish some very insightful analyses of the speeches delivered by our nation’s first African American president. The present volume is evidence that my assumption was correct. Although I have devoted much of my scholarly career to the study of African American oratory, I have primarily written about nineteenth century speakers and have preferred to focus on lesser-studied figures such as Henry McNeal Turner, Frances Harper, or Anna Julia Cooper. I would leave the careful study of Obama’s discourse to others.

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