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COTD: This Weekend at the Mall, Repetition and Change

October 17, 2011

Anaphora is the classical terms for the rhetorical figure of repeating an opening phrase.  Compared to the chiasmus or zeugma, it might lack for subtlety or charm.  But it has presence, has the oratorical force of a hammer (to paraphrase rhetorician James Aune).   Remember only Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s repeating chain of “I have a dream” for an example.

Pres. Obama made use of anaphora, in his remarks at the MLK memorial dedication this weekend.   Pleasing as an oratorical echo and tribute, what Obama chose to repeat, to hammer at, was also very much of the moment.  Catch it at 2:35  “Those who …. those who … all those men and women who … helped bring about changes few thought…”

Anaphora, in short, leads Obama to the heart of his speech—how change happens (hint, not with a quickness).  He’s knocking on the door of his once ardent supporters.  He’s still for change.  Just not in how they vote.

Transcript of Obama’s remarks is here, and here is Dr. King speaking on the Lincoln Memorial, courtesy of the National Archives.  I am paraphrasing Aune from Selling the Free Market, found here.

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