Barack Obama's "Yes We Can" speech

In this study guide we will help you analyze Barack Obama's "Yes We Can"-speech from the US primaries in 2008. You can also find a summary of the speech, as well as ideas for discussing it and putting it into perspective. 

Presentation of the speech

Title: “Yes We Can” (January 8th, 2008)
Speaker: Barack Obama

Barack Obama (b. 1961) was President of the US from 2009 to 2017. He made this speech in the state of New Hampshire in connection with the presidential primaries, when he was trying to become the Democratic Party's nominee for the upcoming presidential election in late 2008. 

You can watch the speech here.

NOTE: Obama has made several speeches involving the slogan "Yes We Can". This study guide is specifically focused on his New Hampshire speech on January 8th, 2008. If you are looking for Obama's 2008 victory speech instead, you can find a study guide here.


You can find an excerpt from our study guide to this speech below:


Repetition is one of the most frequently used rhetorical devices in this speech. Its purpose is to make ideas more memorable, as well as to give structure and momentum to Obama’s arguments.

For example, the repetition of the phrase “there is something happening” (l. 17, l. 21, l. 25) creates suspense and builds up to the idea that people in the US want the change that Obama embodies and also that the people are part of that change.

A similar emphasis is constructed when Obama talks about the war in Iraq using repetition: “…we will end this war in Iraq and bring our troops home. (APPLAUSE) We will end this war in Iraq. We will bring our troops home” (ll. 57-60). The purpose of this repetition is to reassure the audience that the speaker is determined to end the war and that it is a priority for him.

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Barack Obama's "Yes We Can" speech

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