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How you can use the “Poetry” of Political Speeches – Obama’s Normandy speech example

Want to make your messages memorable?

Want to make your message “sound right”?

Want to sound “presidential” like a leader?

Well, we can all learn from studying techniques used by US presidents like Barack Obama.

Even if you do not agree with Obama’s politics – you can learn from his communication techniques.

obama normandy

I’m an Australian  speechwriter and presentation coach – so I admire Obama’s communication flair  –  “from afar”. I don’t have to live under his policies – yet I DO greatly respect his communication skills.

I also admire more conservative communicators like Ronald Reagan – even though I was not a fan his politics.


I respect the skills of great communicators from both sides of the political spectrum.

Anyway, I recently “studied” powerful speeches inspired by D-Day commemorations – Obama’s recent speech and Reagan’s speech from 30 years ago. Links at the end of this post.

The point of this post is to demonstrate the power of poetic devices – using the sound of words.

Here is Obama’s Normandy speech introduction. With the links you can see the full transcript and watch the video of him delivering the words.


Please, “experience” the word first – then I’ll refer to the “poetry”  – or at least, the use of poetic devices.


If prayer were made of sound, the skies over England that night would have deafened the world.


Captains paced their decks. Pilots tapped their gauges. Commanders pored over maps, fully aware that for all the months of meticulous planning, everything could go wrong: the winds, the tides, the element of surprise — and above all, the audacious bet that what waited on the other side of the Channel would compel men not to shrink away, but to charge ahead.


Fresh-faced GIs rubbed trinkets, kissed pictures of sweethearts, checked and re-checked their equipment. “God,” asked one, “Give me guts.” And in the pre-dawn hours, planes rumbled down runways; gliders and paratroopers slipped through the sky; giant screws began to turn on an armada that looked like more ships than sea. And more than 150,000 souls set off towards this tiny sliver of sand upon which hung more than the fate of a war, but the course of human history.


The poetic devices:

1. Alliteration – the repetition of sounds- especially at the start of words.

planes rumbled down runways

gliders and paratroopers slipped through the sky

souls set off towards this tiny sliver of sand

Too much alliteration draws attention to itself and can be distracting.

Selective alliteration makes messages memorable.

2. Onomatopeia – where words sound like their meaning –  tap     rumble     slip


Obama even taps (the podium, I think) –  when he delivers the like about pilots tapping gauges.


Good writing – helps good delivery.


In my opinion, Obama would have practised his speech out loud – to get the phrasing and timing just right.


Here are links the transcript and video of this speech:


1. transcription + video – when you watch the video, note how Obama uses the power of pause to let the words sink in!

transcript and video

2. more context and photos – including the photo in this post

And here are links to other posts about speeches by Obama and Reagan:

1.Obama – powerful intro – drama before formal introduction

2.Reagan’s powerful and persuasive “speech within speech”


TB LL mosaic

If you enjoyed this post – Let’s connect:

If you found this post interesting you can follow me and connect with me.

I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious business communication tips.


Linked In – under Tony Biancotti

Or you can follow this blog.

These days, lots of people and organisations need help with how to COPE with too much work, too much information, too many meetings, delivering difficult news, business writing, effective e-mail, e-mail overload, cross-cultural communication etc. I like to help people COPE.




One comment on “How you can use the “Poetry” of Political Speeches – Obama’s Normandy speech example

  1. efangelist
    November 3, 2016

    Reblogged this on efangelist and commented:

    With Obama so prominent in the news, I’m reminded of this earlier post of one of his many great speeches. Yes I’m a speech nerd.

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