Barack Obama: American Cicero?

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.

Money quote:

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.”

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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