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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Obama Speech Patterns

In Epic Journey (p. 105), we note how Barack Obama deftly shifted his speech patterns to suit his audiences. Some video:

In an analysis of the Harry Reid flap, Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times makes a similar point:

When he spoke to some black audiences, Mr. Obama’s consonants tended to linger a bit. He would speak with a certain staccato and rhythm – particularly in churches – that he had not used when addressing white audiences in Iowa or New Hampshire.

This, of course, is hardly unique to Mr. Obama.

Other black politicians have followed a similar pattern. And the same is true for many white politicians – Bill and Hillary Clinton, for example – when a Southern accent suddenly is more pronounced during a campaign speech below the Mason-Dixon Line.

For Mr. Obama, the pattern began well before he started running for president. It was noticeable as he gave speeches across the country as a freshman senator. One day in 2005, after he delivered an address in Detroit at an anniversary celebration of the N.A.A.C.P., I asked Mr. Obama about the differences.

“I know if I’m in an all-black audience that there’s going to be a certain rhythm coming back at me from the audience. They’re not just going to be sitting there,” Mr. Obama told me. “That creates a different rhythm in your speaking.”