Is Obama the greatest orator of his time?
By Josh Domm
CHELTENHAM LITERATURE FESTIVAL 2016
Is Obama the greatest orator of his time? Times columnist and speech writer Philip Collins and language expert David Crystal discussed this question at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. They dove into the power of words and the remarkable fluency and oratory of the landmark speeches from America’s first black president. The talk inspired me to do some research of my own into Obama, his speeches and his legacy.
As Obama’s two term presidency comes to a close, we as a world are looking back on these eight years, reviewing and comparing. Barack Obama can definitely be considered the greatest orator of his time simply by the way he knows how to work an audience. He uses body language, rhythm, pauses and punctuation which allows him to take control of the audience and turn it into more of a conversation than a speech. His ability to do this separates him from other Presidents, he doesn’t just give a speech or present it to an audience he speaks in a way that’s cool, fresh and modern which allows him to connect with those listening of all ages. Obama also understands the importance of his speeches and public appearances, and that the audience is more important than the page or teleprompter. What makes him one of the best speakers is his ability to respond to the reactions of the audience verbally and non-verbally; inserting his own words and humour or adjusting his body language.
The talk really inspired me to think about the great speeches Obama, other presidents and figure heads of the world give and the influence they have on major political and economic decisions. This currently links to the ongoing 2016 election and the importance of what Clinton and Trump have to say. Already we have a landmark speech, like Obama’s ‘yes we can’ as the first black president, with Clinton’s ‘stronger together’ speech as she accepts the first ever female presidential nomination.