A More Perfect Union

This study guide will help you analyze Barack Obama's speech "A More Perfect Union", in which he talks about race relations in the US. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on summary, analysis, topic, speaker, audience, language, forms of appeal, circumstances, intention and comments, and we will help you put the speech in perspective.

Presentation of the speech

Title: “A More Perfect Union”
Speaker: Barack Obama
Context: US 2008 Presidential Campaign
Date of speech: March 18, 2008

Barack Obama (b. 1961) was the first African American to serve as US President, serving from 2009 to 2017. At the time of the speech, he was still an Illinois senator, competing in the Presidential race.

You can watch the speech here.


Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 


The speaker also uses symbols in his speech. Sometimes these symbols are about American pride and heritage such as the “hall that still stands across the street” (ll. 4-5) which is the building in Philadelphia were the US Constitution was signed. Moreover, the US Constitution stands as a symbol of equal rights for all citizens, regardless of race, as “the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution — a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law” (ll. 19-22)

At other times, Obama makes references to religious symbols to show that all Christians in the US have the same background and frame of reference: “I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones.” (ll. 160-163)

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A More Perfect Union

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