Using quotes from the readings below, how do the texts lend insight into rhetorical strategies used in a speech, such as President Obama's Inaugural Address of 2009?...

Using quotes from the readings below, how do the texts lend insight into rhetorical strategies used in a speech, such as President Obama's Inaugural Address of 2009?

Readings from the textbook Everything's an Argument: 

excerpt from Lakoff and Johnson's book Metaphors We Live By

Osborn, Michael. "Archetypal Metaphor in Rhetoric: The Light-Dark Family." 

Geary, James. Excerpt from I is an Other, "Metaphor and Politics."

Fowles, Jib. "Advertising's 15 Basic Appeals."

George Lakoff: "Don't Think of an Elephant"

Expert Answers
Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As we are limited in both space and access to the texts, below are a few ideas to help get you started.

In the book Metaphors We Live By, authors George Lakoff and Mark Johnson argue that metaphors are not just flowery language we reservedly use only in literature. Instead, they argue that metaphors infest our everyday speech; we simply miss recognizing them as metaphors. Metaphors infest our everyday speech patterns because we actually think in terms of metaphors, not in terms of objective truth. We think in terms of concepts, and concepts are metaphorical, as we see the authors explain in the following passage:

Our conceptual system thus plays a central role in defining our everyday realities. If we are right in suggesting that our conceptual system is largely metaphorical, then the way we think, what we experience, and what we do every day is very much a matter of metaphor. ("Concepts We Live By")

The authors provide many examples of concepts we think of in terms of metaphors in our daily lives. One example they give is the concept that "Argument is war," meaning that when we argue a point, we engage in a war with the opposing side. Of the many examples of metaphors the authors give that stem from the concept of argument being a war, a few include "Your claims are indefensible"; "He attacked every weak point in my argument"; and, "His criticisms were right on target."  As the authors demonstrate, the term indefensible shows that we connect an argument with an attack, yet words are not literally an attack. The terms weak point and target reflect the concept of taking aim at the enemy in combat, yet, again, arguments are not literally combat.

As the YouTube video and transcripts show, President Obama's Inaugural Address of 2009 is certainly very full of literary devices, including both allusions and metaphors. However, if we want to connect Obama's speech to arguments made in Lakoff and Johnson's book, we need to look beyond typical literary metaphors. We need to look at phrases Obama uses that relate to everyday concepts and can be seen as metaphors.

One example can be seen in the fact that his phrase "strangled politics" certainly connects with the concept that "argument is war." Politics cannot literally be strangled, so the phrase is clearly a metaphor. What's more, since political issues are debated, we can easily see how the idea of strangling politics relates to the idea that arguing a point is like engaging in warfare.

A second example the authors give of a concept that can only be understood by us in terms of metaphors is the idea that "time is money." We can also see this concept being metaphorically expressed in Obama's speech that "greatness is never a given. It must be earned." If we associate either the verbs given or earned with the concept of greatness, we are also associating greatness with cost or monetary value. Naturally, greatness does not literally have monetary value.