In global speech, Obama strives for common ground

Employs oratory tactics to reach an adversarial audience and call for an end to interfaith rancor.

President Barack Obama is no stranger to delivering a difficult speech, but his speech at Cairo University was his most difficult to date. Because of the tension that exists between the United States and Muslims around the world, there was potential for a hostile response from the audience.

In a textbook display of speechmaking, the president was able to systematically overcome audience resistance and create a connection with them.

Here are the strategies Obama employed to connect with his audience:

He spoke their language … literally and figuratively.

It was clear from the exuberant reaction that no one in the audience had expected to hear the U.S. president say, “assalamu alykum,” an Arabic greeting meaning “peace be unto you.” It was like President John F. Kennedy’s assertion, “Ich bin ein Berliner” – but tenfold.

Obama gained and held the ear of his audience by quoting the Quran on four occasions, referring to the story of Isra, and using the phrase “peace be upon them” when referring to Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed. As in a corporate speech, the proper nomenclature is essential.

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