Link to University of Washington
Information for Current and Prospective Students
Puget Sound Writing Project
Course Portfolios
London Theatre and Concert Tour
About Me
Contact Information


English 370, Spring 2009

Final: Tuesday, June 9, 2009, from 11:30 pm-1:30 pm. Write your essay in any word processing program you'd like, and then Block, Copy and Paste your essay into a standard email, and send it to me AT or BEFORE 1:30 pm. Late papers will be penalized at the rate of 1 point per minute!

Below are TWO passages from Obama's speech in Cairo, given 4 June, 2009. You can find the whole speech at:

Choose ONE of the two passage for your analysis, and then go to work. (At the end of each passage I give the beginning and ending minute of the passages on the YouTube video accessible at the URL above.)

In your answer I will be looking for:

  • a characterization as you see it of the particular speaking voice Obama puts on for the performance--is it formal, informal, chatty, serious, high, low, wise--one or more of all of those adjectives we use to capture a tone of voice, as well, sometimes as an indication of purpose. A serious voice connotes a serious purpose, for example--though on something like the Colbert Report a serious voice can have a very different purpose.
  • an explanation developed as best you can from your understanding of the speech why you think Obama makes the choices he does in the passage you analyze. What is the intention, as you see it, of this speaking voice? Why is he taking the tone he takes? What is he trying to accomplish in this section of the speech? Do you think you have in fact responded to the speech as you think his text seems to want his audience to respond? If not, why not?
  • a careful and full description of the stylistic features of the text that you choose to analyze. What choices does he (or, of course, his speech writers working to create the best and most appropriate possible speaking voice for him!) make, and how do those choices work to create the tone of voice you have identified and pull off the effects you have described?


Word limit here: 1000 words.

Remember that I'm NOT wanting to know if you like the speech, or like Obama, or hate the speech and hate Obama. Those questions are irrelevant. You can appreciate or deprecate the stylistic choices if you'd like, but really I just want to know what you see as a "scientific" and systematic observer.

Passage 1:

Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores - that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.

So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations - to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.

Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.

For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. And when innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings. (10:12 start)


Passage 2:

I know there are many - Muslim and non-Muslim - who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort - that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country - you, more than anyone, have the ability to remake this world.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort - a sustained effort - to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples - a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us, "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."

The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."

The Holy Bible tells us, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you. (End section of speech)