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X C REATING A S ENSE OF M OMENTUM AND U RGENCY Z
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Another practice Obama draws on as he ends his talks strong, is the practice of drawing attention to successes and establishing a sense of momentum, in addition to creating a sense of importance and urgency to future actions. He employs language that adds to the sense that the stakes are high and that what each individual listener does can matter. Consider this excerpt, where his language establishes a sense of urgency: I did not run for the presidency to fulfill some long-held ambition or because I believed it was somehow owed to me. I chose to run in this election at this moment because of what Dr. King called the fierce urgency of now. Because we are at a defining moment in our history. Our nation is at war. Our planet is in peril. Our health-care system is broken, our economy is out of balance, our education system fails too many of our children, and our retirement system is in tatters. At this defining moment, we cannot wait any longer for universal health care. We cannot wait to fix our schools. We cannot wait for good jobs, and living wages, and pensions we can count on. We cannot wait to halt global warming, and we cannot wait to end this war in Iraq.3 Consider this additional example, in which Obama draws attention to facts that demonstrate momentum: We can change the electoral math that s been all about division and make it about addition about building a
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SAY IT LIKE OBAMA AND WIN!
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coalition for change and progress that stretches through blue states and red states. That s how I won some of the reddest, most Republican counties in Illinois. That s why the polls show that I do best against the Republicans running for president because we re attracting more support from Independents and Republicans than any other candidate. That s how we ll win in November, and that s how we ll change this country over the next four years.4 The example below is even more explicit in pointing to specific achievements that illustrate increasing momentum. Pointing to these specifics has the effect of persuading listeners that they can help continue the momentum and that their efforts will matter: It has now been one year since we began this campaign for the presidency on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois just me and 15,000 of my closest friends. At the time, there weren t too many who imagined we d be standing where we are today. I knew I wouldn t be Washington s favorite candidate. I knew we wouldn t get all the big donors or endorsements right off the bat. I knew I d be the underdog in every contest from January to June. I knew it wouldn t be easy. But then something started happening. As we met people in their living rooms and on their farms; in churches and town hall meetings, they all started telling a similar story about the state of our politics today. Whether they re young or old; black or white; Latino or Asian;
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Democrat, Independent, or even Republican, the message is the same: We are tired of being disappointed by our politics. We are tired of being let down. We re tired of hearing promises made and ten-point plans proposed in the heat of a campaign only to have nothing change when everyone goes back to Washington. Because the lobbyists just write another check. Or because politicians start worrying about how they ll win the next election instead of why they should. Or because they focus on who s up and who s down instead of who matters. And while Washington is consumed with the same drama and division and distraction, another family puts up a for sale sign in the front yard. Another factory shuts its doors forever. Another mother declares bankruptcy because she cannot pay her child s medical bills. And another soldier waves goodbye as he leaves on another tour of duty in a war that should ve never been authorized and never been waged. It goes on and on and on, year after year after year. But in this election at this moment Americans are standing up all across the country to say, not this time. Not this year. The stakes are too high and the challenges too great to play the same Washington game with the same Washington players and expect a different result. And today, voters from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast to the heart of America stood up to say that it is time to turn the page. We won Louisiana, and Nebraska, and the state of Washington, and I believe that we can win in Virginia on Tuesday if you re ready to stand for change.5
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When examining the preceding excerpt, particular wording helps to make the language especially effective. When Obama says, Then something started happening, he draws attention to change and momentum. When he refers to living rooms, churches, and town hall meetings, he illustrates the breadth of the increasing support. Similarly, when he talks about support coming from young, old, black, white, Latino, Asian, Democrat, Independent, and Republican, he reinforces the notion that the support levels are broad and increasing. Pointing to his primary wins in Louisiana, Nebraska, and Washington helps to show that things are rolling. Emphasizing the mood not this time and indicating that the stakes are too high helps underscore the urgency and importance of events and potential actions. Below, we can see another valuable example where Obama builds a sense of momentum and urgency. In this example, he uses repetition skillfully to help create this sense: A few weeks ago, no one imagined that we d have accomplished what we did here tonight. For most of this campaign, we were far behind, and we always knew our climb would be steep. But in record numbers, you came out and spoke up for change. And with your voices and your votes, you made it clear that at this moment in this election there is something happening in America. There is something happening when men and women in Des Moines and Davenport; in Lebanon and Concord come out in the snows of January to wait in lines that stretch block after block because they believe in what this country can be.
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