Many factors can have contributed to raise Senator Obama to the highest rank in American politics. On the one hand, we can expect that Obama’s expression of certain values and ideals was decisive for his victory. His intellectual formation and educational development have imbued his voice with the ideas about democracy that many of his country fellows share. On the other hand, we cannot underestimate the impact of Obama’s figure and all that it evokes. His presence enacts a kind of subconscious reconciliation of the social, ethnic and racial tensions with which America still has to cope. Furthermore, he appears as an authentic embodiment of one of America’s most deeply held beliefs, the idea that everyone can make it if they work hard. All these observations make us curious about the way Obama actually decided to present himself as the future President of the United States in the speeches he made during his first election campaign. Which aspects of his personal story did he decide to share with his potential voters? Which reasons might have guided the selection of personal facets to be brought to the fore? Answering these questions is expected to give recognition to some of the elements that may have been crucial for Obama’s success. It is the purpose of this paper to explore these and other related issues so as to shed some light on how Obama uses aspects of his personal background and experience in the formal context of his electoral speeches. In particular, the paper will investigate the rhetorical strategy of story-telling by focusing on the different types of ‘stories’ that inhabit Obama’s electoral speeches and by explaining their significance for the campaign.
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