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Propaganda and Persuasion


Burke asserts that identification is key to being human mainly for communication purposes. Society experiences separateness in terms of biological differences and social class. This separateness causes feelings of guilt due to failure to maintain hierarchy, authority and order. In order for people to identify with somebody, they have to be optimally persuaded and find enough reason to do so. Identification takes three basic forms; as a means to an end, coming together against a common enemy or unconsciously. Propaganda is any organized effort to tell a great number of people of the truth of an opinion, a product’s value and whether a certain attitude is appropriate. Persuasion is a way of convincing people of something. Effective communication requires that the communicator is aware of the audience and knows what they need. This essay will analyze the types of identification used by Obama in his desire to communicate to the Americans and gain their support.

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Analysis of Barrack Obama’s Speech Of 2004

Identification as a means to an end, means aligning one’s values and beliefs with those of the audience. (Allen, 2006). In his speech in 2004, Obama asserts that the greatness of America is not in the skyscrapers, military power or economy size. It is rather in one belief and faith. Inalienable rights such as life, pursuit of happiness and liberty. He affirms that it is this faith of security, ability to provide for ones family, freedom to express oneself and equal participation in a just political process. He later assures the audience that the Democratic Party with John Kerry can fulfill this faith. He aims at creating an understanding of America as one.

Pursuit of a common enemy is another method of identification. The communicator identifies the enemy and assures the audience of his or her commitment with them to fight this enemy. (Allen, 2006) Obama reaffirms the American values and commitments to keep up the legacy of past generations while creating a foundation for future generations. In this respect, he identifies the common enemy as; government misuse of taxes, inefficient health delivery systems, energy problems, lack of opportunities for higher education and dangerous world war tactics.

Human beings identify unconsciously. The communicator paints a picture of a mystery about himself and gives reason for what she or he stands for. Obama begins his speech by explaining the mystery of his life. He opens up about his family background from the time his father went to America. He shares on his parents union and later separation. He creates a feeling of upbringing by his grandmother and being able to rise from such a humble background. He connects his story as part of a larger American story of faith to rise again. Later on in the speech, he assures of hope that Democrats stand for. That some brighter day, America will reclaim the promise.


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Effective communication has all to do with Kenneth Burke’s theory of identification. Barrack Obama is said to be a good speaker. He communicates his heart and feelings to the audience. Identification is commensurate to persuasion.


Allen, V. Some implications of Kenneth Burke’s way of knowing for composition theory: Journal of Advanced Composition, vol 3.1 (2006)