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«Yes We Can»

Barack Obama’s Proverbial Rhetoric

Wolfgang Mieder

As President Barack Obama outlined his promise for change during the presidential campaign, he made effective use of proverbs and proverbial phrases, and invented many quotable epithets that have all the makings of future proverbs. This book examines how Obama’s natural and authentic reliance on traditional metaphors enhances his impressive rhetoric, rather than reducing it to mere sound bites. Proverbs, with their often colorful metaphors, add expressiveness and emotion to his communications, giving people the opportunity to follow his pragmatic or philosophical arguments through common language. No matter the subject, Obama’s prose contains metaphorical language that makes his rhetoric and oratory universally accessible.
This book contains detailed analyses of the proverbial rhetoric in Obama’s books Dreams from My Father (1995) and The Audacity of Hope (2006). A section looks at his proverbial language in 229 speeches, news conferences, interviews, and radio addresses, and the final section presents in-depth studies of his seven most significant addresses. It includes a comprehensive contextualized index of 1714 proverbial texts found within the writings and speeches from Obama’s political beginnings to his memorable inaugural address.