Rhetorical Analysis of an Obama Speech By Lalitha Shanmugasundaram

"This crisis is a test of our common humanity--whether we give in to suspicion and fear and build walls, or whether we see ourselves in another. Those girls being trafficked and tortured, they could be our daughters. That little boy on the beach, that could be our son[s]. We cannot avert our eyes or turn our backs."

Rhetorical Triangle:

  1. Audience: The global leaders that participate in the UN
  2. Topic: Refugees
  3. Speaker: Barack Obama
Provided by Untapped Cities

Context: The speech was given in 2016, following the Refugee Crisis in Syria, and President-Elect Donald Trump's announcement to run for president. It was also after President-Elect Trump announced his plan to build a wall, as referenced in the speech.

Culture: It is clear that the culture of the audience is very immersed in international relations and politics because Obama addresses the speech at a summit at the UN. Obama also references the politician's egos and mentions the excellencies presented at the summit.

In President Barack Obama’s remarks about refugees, given in 2016, he addresses the global leaders in order to convince them to act and aid the refugees. Obama uses elements of logic, pathos, and connotation in order to implore the global leaders to act.


The logical statement: if the global leaders do not come together and help the refugees in a collective effort, then “history will judge us harshly,” and many people will suffer at the “hands of traffickers” and “terrorists”

  • A threat to the leaders, provides incentive
  • informal and inductive
  • Weak, yet effective
  • provides incentive and uses a general categorization


“Those girls being trafficked and tortured, they could be our daughters. That little boy on the beach could be our son or grandson.”

  • Making personal to his audience
  • using pathos to invoke fear in his audience
  • provides incentive for the audience to act through fear for their families
Provided by the LA Times


“...there are young girls--like my daughter--...like the 16-year old refugee from Myanmar that I met...who suffered unspeakable abuse at the hands of traffickers, modern day slavery…”

  • Personal connection; "my daughter"
  • Negative connotations of slavery and unspeakable abuse
  • Making a connection from past to present
  • invokes pathos, making people feel terrible and in fear
  • provides incentive to better the world
Made by Lalitha


Created with images by janeb13 - "barack obama official portrait president of the"

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