analysis of two speeches obama and bono

I have chosen to look at two speeches, one given by Barack Obama and another given by Bono. Both are very important leaders with their own kind of political influence. By choosing these speeches with a serious content (education and the third world) and both addressing the same kind of audience (students), I will be able to give an useful comparison in terms of leadership and emotional intelligence. Barack Obama’s ”Back to school” speech In his speech to the nation’s students (from kindergarten to 12th grade) President Barack Obama tries to stress the importance of getting an education and the responsibilities students have themselves. Addressing children ranging from 6 years to 18 years of age is a difficult task and Obama employs various strategies (both leadership and emotional) in order to get his message across to as many as possible. First of all, he talks directly to his listeners and makes sure they see him as a peer they can identify with and not only as the President of the United States, which exemplifies his social skills. Secondly, he uses an informal style, a simple language, many repetitions, plenty of diverse concrete examples they can relate to, and he speaks to their patriotic feelings and their sense of responsibility. Obama’s main challenge with his target group is their size and diversity, and he therefore has to employ several strategies in order to reach as many as possible. In order to quickly get his listeners’ attention, he starts out by speaking directly to them, “Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today?” A key element in getting the message across is that he gets the students’ attention, and that he then holds on to it. One way of doing this is by addressing them at eye level. He gets them to identify with him, respect him and deem him credible and then shows them that he genuinely cares about their situation (empathy). Obama does this by beginning the speech with anecdotes from his own life.

He tells them how he was raised by a single mother, who could not afford to send him to the same schools as the other children, and how she homeschooled him at 4.30 in the morning. He also  tells them how he got into trouble and did things that he is not proud of. By sharing these rather personal stories of struggle and adversity, Obama uses his emotional intelligence in order to gain credibility in their eyes. Listening to someone who you respect and who you believe is credible makes it a lot easier to accept the messages and values that they speak of. After having established contact with his listeners, Obama starts conveying his message and values to the students. Obama’s main message of the speech comes in two parts. Firstly, he says that getting an education is the student’s own responsibility. Parents, teachers and the government also have a responsibility (he takes on the responsibility as a leader of the nation), but at the end of the day, “none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities”. In this argument, Obama tries to speak to the students’ conscience and sense of responsibility. He shows them how so many people already have done so much for them, and that it is now their turn to do something; namely to take responsibility for their own education. Secondly, Obama talks about the responsibility towards the US. Not only do the students have a responsibility towards themselves, they also have a responsibility towards their country. Here the political aspect of the speech appears. The United States cannot function or compete in the future if there are no qualified people to fill the many functions a society has, such as nurses, doctors, senators etc., “What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.” This leadership argument speaks to the listeners’ patriotic feelings.

Most Americans are raised to be patriotic, and this is something Obama takes advantage of on several occasions in his speech with great success. Every one of the students carry the responsibility towards their country, “We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect … If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country” (leadership). At the center of the speech is the idea that education is paramount to getting a successful life and that everybody has the opportunity to succeed. Obama stresses that, “[e]very single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer.” and with some hard work and dedication the sky is the limit according to Obama. It seems as if Obama is truly concerned about the students, but the politics are easy to spot. Obama needs strong students in order to successfully run the country. During this part of the speech Obama motivates and inspires his listeners by showing them some of the key values he believes in (motivation and self-awareness). Hard work and dedication is one value he stresses as most important. In this part he indirectly refers to the American dream that implies that if you work hard you can achieve anything. Here Obama uses the American cultural heritage of the American dream in his rhetoric, “Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you.

Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.” To further build on this motivational argument he offers several concrete examples of people who have had poor conditions, and who still have made it, through hard work and dedication. The examples are himself and his wife, Michelle Obama, who have both had difficult odds, but made it anyhow, and three cases he has found for the occasion, Jazmin Perez, Andoni Schultz and Shantell Steve. These three people have all overcome difficult odds and are living proof of how the American dream is obtainable if only you are willing to work hard, set goals for yourself and not give up, “Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves.” Obama uses rhetoric in order to get his political message across. By using a simple language, addressing the students at eye level, employing leadership and emotional arguments and using several concrete examples (i.e. that he has weaknesses himself (self-evaluation)) he is able to reach a broad audience and show them what values he perceives to be the most important and by that inspire and motivate them. Bono’s commencement speech at Harvard University Paul David Hewson, mostly known as Bono from U2, has given his life to music, but also to charity. This is expressed in his very personal speech at Harvard University. Bono approaches the students at the commencement at Harvard University, and asks for their help to make America a great country and to help people in need. Bono begins his speech by introducing himself. He actually starts to criticize people like himself. Bono is talking about rock stars and singers, and says that singers contain a very big ego. This statement is a little paradoxical, because Bono is a singer and a rock star himself (self-awareness). Afterwards he is making clear that he is not just a singer, but also a father and a friend of dogs. The problem or conflict Bono is bringing up through his speech is mostly about Africa and the poor (the third world). He mentions the conflict, which has taken place in connection with sending money to some of the poorest countries of the world. When money is send to a third world country, it is not necessarily the poorest and the sickest people who get the money, because of the countries’ great debts.

Bono finds this extreme problematic, and is therefore asking the students for their help. He thinks that the smart people at Harvard are needed to work this problem out. His argumentation for the importance of this cause is its influence on world history. He appeals to them and tries to motivate them by telling the sad story of the third world (motivation). Many people in third world countries dies e.g. of AIDS and HIV, because they do not get the money there is sent as help. He is mentioning that this holocaust, as he says, in Africa will be remembered forever, along with the internet. This argumentation is the climax of the speech. He brings up subjects who are very frail, and this is the point during speech, in which the listeners are paying most attention. During the speech at Harvard University Bono is appealing to the listeners feelings. In that way he uses emotional intelligence a lot. Already from the beginning he is trying make like a personal bond between him and the audience. He is talking about is personal life, which makes the speech a little informal and tries to make the audience forget the pedestal that most of them have put him on. This makes the listeners feel comfortable in his presence, and let them met him at eye level (social skills).

The subject he brings up is mostly including death and diseases. The third world conditions are in advance much discussed, and the discussions are typically very emotional. Bono is mentioning the conditions as an “African holocaust”. Even the word “holocaust” is enough to bring up bad memories and associations about World War II. To speak of the African problems by using a word like holocaust, both attracts people’s attention but also fills them with horror – again he is appealing to the emotions of his listeners. People are maybe finding the death in Africa hard to relate to. But when Bono is talking about holocaust every man and woman knows the grade of seriousness and importance of the cause. The message of his speech is about brotherly love, charity and helping people in need. Bono is saying himself that he wants to ask the people at Harvard University for help. Help to make life better for people in the third world. By this he as a leader encourage them to take responsibility. He tries to guide them in the direction he thinks they should be guided (leadership). Comparison of the two speeches

Both speeches start of by trying to meet the audience at eye level in order to inspire and motivate the audience. Both Obama and Bono succeed in doing this by making a rather humoristic intro before turning to the reel content of the political messages in the speeches. If this connection was not established, the political message would never get across to the rather difficult audience. The ability to establish this connection with an audience, an employee or a client is a sign of both good leadership skills and good emotional intelligence. Both Obama and Bono are very assertive in their speeches, but in very different ways. It is obvious that Bono is a rock star (who by nature exudes assertiveness) and not a politician like Obama. The Bono speech is written without a lot of foreign and long words, the language is very common, he uses little rhetoric, when getting his political messages across, which is all in oppose to the Obama speech. Obama uses long and intellectual words to promote his trustworthiness.

Bono also uses a kind of slang when he says: “I’ve seen great minds and prolific imaginations disappear up their own ass (…)”. No one, especially not the President of The United states of America, besides a famous rock star, would be expressing themselves like that. Bono attracts the listeners’ attention by doing this, and he gets away with it, because of the entertainer and person he is. But it is definitely not something that a reel company leader would do in order to get his employees to follow him and his ideas. Obama shows a great deal of his emotional skills by letting in on his own weaknesses. Obama is the situational leader who guides his audience on what they must do and how they should do it, which you need to be, when you are the President of the United States of America. Bono I would characterize as a transformational leader (charismatic and inspirational). Even though I

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