Justin Lee Ms. Ferris AP English Language, Pd. 6 Novemeber 7, 2011 Lincoln Vs. Obama When presidents address their inaugural speech, not only are they taking their first step as the nation’s leader, they are stating the most important words of their presidential career. These words set the tone, character, and purpose of their term as they begin to march ahead hoping to direct the nation on a good path. As these men encounter different obstacles in different eras, each inaugural address has evolved throughout our nation’s history as times have changed for better or worse.

Among the presidents, both President Abraham Lincoln and President Barack Obama faced enduring tests heading into their terms as the country was in turmoil; Lincoln recovering from one of the most destructive wars in American history, Obama confronting the worst national economic crisis since the Great Depression. President Lincoln and President Obama deliver their Inaugural Addresses in different centuries, yet use biblical references and tone in similar and differing ways to convey both purposes.

For example, Lincoln and Obama both use biblical references in their Inaugural Addresses to help illuminate their purposes. Lincoln, for instance states, “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God. ” During the time of Lincoln’s Inauguration, he is faced with the challenge of uniting a country split in two. After the Civil War, Lincoln uses these biblical references to appeal to ethos through a similar concept. His references help connect himself to his audience, as well as binding the audience together, through common Christian beliefs.

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Additionally, Lincoln says, “The Almighty has His own purpose. ” He emphasizes the fact that we are in God’s hands, “If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in providence of God, must come, but which having continues through His appointed time. ” Lincoln uses these references to God to create common grounds amongst his citizens, to rely on the powers of God in this time of disagreement. He uses religious references to point out that God has decided that it is time to abolish slavery, and we all live under the hand of God.

On the other hand, while Obama also uses biblical references, he utilizes them to evoke emotion within a diverse audience to reshape our nation, rather than a similar audience to unify the nation. He proclaims, “We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. ” He refers to the apostle Paul who speaks of the ability to grow up and move forward. Obama uses this reference to influence the nation towards change. He shows that the United States no longer has time to befuddle on childish disagreements; we must evolve into a more efficient nation now.

He accentuates the fact that, “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus-and nonbelievers. ” Unlike Lincoln, Obama appeals to all audience members through religion, not just Christian Americans. He uses the diversity of our nation to promote the importance of keeping our country filled with every language and culture of mankind. Lincoln and Obama utilize biblical references in similar styles in order to make differing impacts on America during both chapters of our history. In contrast, Lincoln and Obama use different tones to convey their urged sense for unity.

While Lincoln uses a blunt, sober tone, Obama uses an empowering, hopeful tone. For example, Lincoln announces, “Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. ” He inflicts a sense of unity between the two sides of the Civil War as both underestimated the impact of warfare. By creating this serious tone he makes his purpose clear; he simply wants to relieve any blame and unite a divided country. He uses gentle diction to make his point as well. He wants to “bind up the nation’s wounds” and “care for him who shall have borne battle. Using soothing diction Lincoln strives to erase the crack dividing his nation and easily relates to his audience further conveying his purpose. On the other hand, Obama powerfully uses his tone to empower his audience and create hope to a nation in distress, yet relates to Lincoln by using this rhetorical device to also convey a purpose. Obama gives specific examples to transform schools, reduce health care costs, and restore trust in the government. He says, “All this we can do. And all this we will do. ” Without a blink of an eye, his power can be seen within his diction and structure.

Unlike Lincoln, Obama uses his short sentence structure to convey this powerful tone more effectively. President Obama repeats, “no less” adding more to his tone. While he wants to create hope to a nation who almost remains hopeless, Lincoln wants to create unity to a nation divided by controversy. Both presidents may have differing tones and intention, but in the end the use of tone single-handedly evokes the purpose of their address. As traits are passed town from generation to generation, like family amulets are passed down from mother to daughter, they may tarnish, but will always hold the same value.

A country may rise in power, fall to defeat, or fail to make any improvement whatsoever, but will always bind together through a sense of nationalism. As times press on a president will always take the oath, give the speech, and make the decisions. Although one is the sixteenth president and the other is the forty-fourth, an Inaugural Address will always represent the start of a new era. President Lincoln and Obama use biblical references and tone necessary for the eras in which they represent, yet their rhetorical devices stay hand in hand to convey the effect they desire on a nation they strive to uphold.


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