Remembering the Reverend: An Analysis of Obama's Speeches Commemorating Martin Luther King


  • Valeria Franceschi University of Verona



political discourse, cognitive metaphors, Obama


In the wake of the 50th anniversary of the Selma-Montgomery marches, the memory of Martin Luther King and his struggles for equality still survives in the minds of American citizens. The echo of his actions and words endures pervasively in Barack Obama’s own rhetoric; a connection between King and Obama was drawn when the latter became a serious contender for the nomination as a Democratic candidate in early 2007, due to their shared ethnicity as AfricanAmericans and to the historical significance of having a strong African-American candidate running for the presidency. This study investigates how metaphors and myths are employed in Martin Luther King’s and Obama’s rhetoric from a cognitive linguistic perspective, by applying conceptual metaphor theory (Lakoff and Johnson 1980; Fauconnier and Turner 1994, 1998) applied to political discourse analysis (Charteris-Black 2004, 2011, 2014). The analysis is carried out on 7, speeches delivered by Obama between 2006 and 2015, with the purpose of remembering and celebrating the achievements and activism of Martin Luther King. Results show how Obama builds and expands on the ideas and myths employed by King in his own speeches to create support for himself as a dependable and rightful leader for America, both before and after his election to office.


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