I think Barack Obama’s eulogy yesterday for parishioners of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston was his most fully successful performance as an orator.
Here are the three rhetorical aspects of the speech that I think made it more artful as a beginning-to-end composition than any of his other presentations:
— The choice of grace as the unifying theme, which by the standards of political speeches qualifies as a stroke of genius.
— The shifting registers in which Obama spoke—by which I mean “black” versus “white” modes of speech—and the accompanying deliberate shifts in shadings of the word we.
— The start-to-end framing of his remarks as religious, and explicitly Christian, and often African American Christian, which allowed him to present political points in an unexpected way.