Charlotte Higgins, in the Guardian, has an interesting essay comparing Barack Obama to the Roman orator Cicero here.
In addition to being an interesting reflection on Obama, the essay is a pretty good primer on the basic arts of rhetoric.
It is not just in the intricacies of speechifying that Obama recalls Cicero. Like Cicero, Obama is a lawyer. Like Cicero, Obama is a writer of enormous accomplishment – Dreams From My Father, Obama’s first book, will surely enter the American literary canon. Like Cicero, Obama is a “novus homo” – the Latin phrase means “new man” in the sense of self-made. Like Cicero, Obama entered politics without family backing (compare Clinton) or a military record (compare John McCain). Roman tradition dictated you had both. The compensatory talent Obama shares with Cicero, says Catherine Steel, professor of classics at the University of Glasgow, is a skill at “setting up a genealogy of forebears – not biological forebears but intellectual forebears. For Cicero it was Licinius Crassus, Scipio Aemilianus and Cato the Elder. For Obama it is Lincoln, Roosevelt and King.”