Topic

Barack Obama’s Selma Speech focuses on three main topics: the importance of the Selma marches, confronting present challenges in America, and unity.

While these are the underlying themes of the speech, you should also note that the …

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Historical context

Obama’s speech is intended to honor the Selma to Montgomery march that happened 50 years before the speech. Members of the African-American com…

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Importance of the Selma marches

Obama establishes the importance of the Selma marches as he states the purpose of those who marched: “They marched as Americans (…) but they didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before.”

To further highlight the historical significance of the Selma marches, Obama creates a link between the marches and other defining moments and places in American history:

There are places, and moments in America where this nation’s destiny has been decided. Many are sites of war – Concord and 25 Lexington, Appomattox and Gettysburg. Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America’s character – Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral.

It’s the same instinct (…) that led women to reach for the …

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Unity and confronting present challenges in America

The topic of confronting present challenges in America is almost always presented in the speech in connection to the topic of unity, as Obama suggests unity is the best solution to solving society’s problems.

In talking about the present challenges in America, the speaker aims to bring awareness to the audience. He speaks about racism still being a problem in the US and connects this issue with the need to continue the fight for civil rights: “a more common mistake is to suggest that racism is banished, th…

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Argumentation

Most of Barack Obama’s Selma speech is characterized by indirect argumentation, as the speaker uses many metaphors, parallel sentence structure, and allusions and direct references to express his views and convey his message.

For example, Obama’s framing of the Selma marches alongside other important events in American history works as a form of indirect argumentation:

The American instinct that led these young men and women to pick up the torch and cross this bridge is the (...) same instinct that drew immigrants (...); the same instinct…

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