Rhetorical devices

Allusions and direct references

Allusions are indirect references to people and events. In his "Yes We Can" speech, Barack Obama combines allusions with direct references to people and events that are relevant to his arguments in favor of hope, change, and unity.

First of all, Obama uses two of his electoral campaign slogans, allusions that remind the audience of his campaign and what he stands for: “I am still fired up and ready to go” ; “Yes, we can. Yes, we can.”. Obama’s message is that he stands for a fresh political change and hope in a better future.

Many of Obama’s allusions are historical. The most relevant example is:

It was the call of workers who organized, women who reached for the ballot, a president who chose the moon as our new frontier, and a king who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the promised land…

In a single sentence, Obama alludes to trade unions, the women’s suffrage movement, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. Through these allusions, Obama wants to associate himself with pioneers in American history to encourage the audience to trust and vote for him.

The phrase “a creed written into the founding documents” alludes to the Declaration of Independence and the fact that the document guarantees certain rights and liberties. He uses the Declaration of Independence as an example of hope and change in American society, suggesting his own promises of hope and change are derived from founding American principles.

The phrase “from sea to shining sea” is an allusion to the patriotic song “America the Beautiful”. The allusion encourages patriotism and unity and subtly suggests that voting for Obama is a patriotic act.

You can also consider the allusion to current divisions in US politics: “Democrats, independents and Republicans who ar...

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