Barack Obama Health Care Speech Transcript
You Don’t Say “Bullet Point” by Thomas Christopher
When you’re writing you can always bullet point the items in a list. When you’re speaking, your listeners can’t see the indentation, and they can’t see the bullets. In speaking, you need to replace the bullets with phrases, the same words introducing each item. The words at the beginning of each item tell the listener that the item is part of the list, that it belongs with the others. Moreover, these words can restate to the listener your basic idea or feeling tone. Beginning a sequence of paragraphs, sentences, clauses, or phrases with the same words is called “anaphora.”
The speeches at the national conventions give many examples of the use of anaphora.
John McCain: We lost — we lost the trust of the American people when when some Republicans gave in to the temptations of corruption. We lost their trust when rather than reform government, both parties made it bigger./ We lost their trust when instead of freeing ourselves from a dangerous dependence on foreign oil… We lost their trust when we valued our power over our principles.
John McCain: I know how the military works,…/ I know how to work with leaders…/ I know how to secure the peace.
John McCain: Fight for what’s right for our country. Fight for the ideals and character of a free people./ Fight for our children’s future. Fight for justice and opportunity for all.
Barack Obama:… Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country./ We measure progress by how many people can find a job…/ We measure the strength of our economy… [Reusing the word "progress" from the end of one line to the beginning of the next is called anadiplosis. It's a good way to get into a list.]
Hillary Clinton: No way. No how. No McCain.
Hillary Clinton:…America’s greatness is bound up in the lives of the American people — your hard work, your devotion to duty, your love for your children, and your determination to keep going…
Hillary Clinton did violate the rule to replace bullet points by anaphora in her speech: “I ran for president to renew the promise of America…/ To promote a clean energy economy…/ To create a health care system…/ To fight for…/ To make America once again…/ To restore fiscal sanity…/ To restore America’s standing…” I’ll bet in her script these had bullet points. In the CNN transcript, they were translated into paragraphs of sentence fragments.
Try adding anaphora to your own speeches. It is easy and powerful.
About the Author
THOMAS CHRISTOPHER offers information on how to be a wit on the web page, How To Create Witty Sayings. He created a web T-shirt shop, WittySelfExpression.com, as a place to apply rhetorical techniques.