Article Category: Commentary

Speech Critiques – Obama, Democratic Convention 2008

The 2008 Democratic Convention was an oratory feast.

One by one, they spoke — Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Maya Soetero-Ng, Jesse Jackson Jr., and Ted Kennedy.

One by one, they were critiqued — by Nick Morgan, John Watkis, Bert Decker, Denise Graveline, Terry Gault.

This article is a collection of speech videos and numerous speech critiques from public speaking experts.

Watch, listen, and learn from their strengths and weaknesses. Enjoy!

Republicans? John McCain, Sarah Palin, and the 2008 Republican convention speakers are critiqued here.

Barack Obama

Nick Morgan on Barack Obama:

He also showed us real rhetorical skill by varying the heat of his delivery.  Too many politicians make the mistake of shouting all their lines as if everything were equally important.  Obama has different pitches and passion for different issues and subjects.  The speech had highs and lows, and that’s what a good orator does to hold our interest.

John Watkis on Barack Obama:

Obama’s speech at the 2008 convention was simply a reminder that he stands alone when it comes to captivating an audience, giving them hope and inspiring them to believe in their dreams. The tears and the cheers in the packed stadium were evidence of the power and charisma in his words.

Bert Decker on Barack Obama:

We can all learn from Barack Obama’s acceptance speech:

  1. The effectiveness of our communications determines the effectiveness of our lives.
  2. Create the moment.
  3. Use the skills of communicating.

Hillary Clinton

Denise Graveline on Hillary Clinton:

Clinton, benefiting from years of practice, took control of the room, gesturing easily and only occasionally stepping on her own good lines by moving too fast past them.

Bert Decker on Hillary Clinton:

Rule of three with, “Keep going… keep going…keep going.” And “There is no chasm too deep, no barrier to great, no ceiling too high…” moving to a great crescendo of an ending.

Bill Clinton

Michelle Obama

Denise Graveline on Michelle Obama:

Aside from the typical factors–audiences want to like potential First Ladies–I think Michelle Obama succeeded on night one of this convention for an apparently unusual skill among the evening’s speakers: The ability to avoid getting glued to the teleprompter, looking like a deer in headlights, frozen and unable to gesture with hands or facial expression.

John Watkis on Michelle Obama:

Michelle Obama’s speech was written well. For those who are critics of scripting your speech because it doesn’t sound natural, take a good hard look at the video. Every word of that speech — every word — was crafted carefully to fit Michelle Obama’s speaking style.

Bert Decker on Michelle Obama:

This was unlike any other potential First Lady speech ever given. She did an amazing job, hitting the right notes for the family image…

Maya Soetero-Ng

Terry Gault on Maya Soetero-Ng (Obama’s half sister):

Maya Soetero-Ng seemed very relaxed and expressive, which was remarkable from a Honolulu high school history teacher speaking on a national stage with millions of people watching.Her deep, strong voice projected well without her having to shout, as many speakers had to do to be heard over the noise of the crowd.

Jesse Jackson Jr.

Terry Gault on Jesse Jackson Jr.:

Though less showy than his father’s rhyming Southern Preacher style, he clearly learned the lessons of driving rhythms and cadence.He reminded me more of Muhammed Ali than his father, in terms of rhythm and emphasis.His pace of delivery was a major strong point in his style.He used silence and pause to great effect.

Ted Kennedy

Terry Gault on Ted Kennedy:

Ted Kennedy’s feisty and warm speech added even more emotional impact thinking of his long service as a Senator and a leader in the senate and ESPECIALLY in light of his recent surgery for brain cancer.

John Kerry

Mark Warner

What did You Think?

What are your thoughts?

What strengths and weaknesses did you see and hear demonstrated by the Democratic convention speakers?

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Comments icon3 Comments

  1. Simon says:


    Even on this side of the pond this convention has drawn attention. (In fact I’ve blogged about it.) I have to admit that brilliant though Obama’s presentation was I was ever so slightly disappointed. I was really, really hoping for something absolutely magical and it didn’t *quite* make it. It was brilliant, just not magical.

    By magical, what I mean is that it didn’t contain a knock-out, killer phrase. Something like “I have a dream” 🙂


  2. 365words says:

    I watched all these speeches and was impressed by both the skill and the warmth of the speakers. I was impressed that even though they used the teleprompter, it did not interfere with their connection to the audience. If Hillary had been that good during the campaign she might have won, but I think Obama’s thinking and rhetorical skills clinched it. Also, he exudes a decency that is hard to fake, I think.

  3. very great site i will being doing my comm 101 project paper on these.

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