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Tasks: State of the Union Address


You are now going to watch parts of the speech that Donald Trump held on February 4, 2020. The State of the Union Address is a fairly long speech, but you will only focus on the beginning and the end of the speech. You will find the transcript for both passages below the video.

Go through the following two passages:

  • First passage: From 00:23 min to 00:31 min. Watch the first few minutes of Trump entering the House of Representatives and the beginning of the speech.

  • Second passage: From 01:44. Watch the end of the speech and Trump leaving the room.

Transcript: The beginning of Trump's speech

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Madam Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, the First Lady of the United States — (applause) — and my fellow citizens:

Three years ago, we launched the great American comeback. Tonight, I stand before you to share the incredible results. Jobs are booming, incomes are soaring, poverty is plummeting, crime is falling, confidence is surging, and our country is thriving and highly respected again. (Applause.) America’s enemies are on the run, America’s fortunes are on the rise, and America’s future is blazing bright.

The years of economic decay are over. (Applause.) The days of our country being used, taken advantage of, and even scorned by other nations are long behind us. (Applause.) Gone too are the broken promises, jobless recoveries, tired platitudes, and constant excuses for the depletion of American wealth, power, and prestige.

In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline, and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny. We have totally rejected the downsizing. We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never, ever going back. (Applause.)

Transcript: The conclusion of Trump's speech

America is the place where anything can happen. America is the place where anyone can rise. And here, on this land, on this soil, on this continent, the most incredible dreams come true.

This nation is our canvas, and this country is our masterpiece. We look at tomorrow and see unlimited frontiers just waiting to be explored. Our brightest discoveries are not yet known. Our most thrilling stories are not yet told. Our grandest journeys are not yet made. The American Age, the American Epic, the American adventure has only just begun.

Our spirit is still young, the sun is still rising, God’s grace is still shining, and, my fellow Americans, the best is yet to come. (Applause.)

Thank you. God Bless You. And God Bless America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)



Before you dig deeper into the speech, go through these questions.

  1. How does the President enter the room and approach his lectern? (first 2-3 min)
  2. You will see that people in the audience express their enthusiasm to varying degrees. Comment on the behaviour of the audience before, during and after the speech.
  3. How would you describe the interactions between the President, Vice President Mike Pence, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi? How do you react to Nancy Pelosi tearing up the speech at the end?
  4. Why did so many Democratic Congresswomen wear white during this address? What were they hoping to achieve, and would you consider it successful?
  5. Do you consider the State of the Union Address to be an important speech?

Rhetorical Analysis:

Part 1: The Introduction (video).

Watch the first few minutes of the speech again (from 00:23 to 00:31) and study the rhetorical strategies used by Trump at the beginning of the speech.

  1. Study Donald Trump’s body language, intonation and choice of words in the first couple of minutes of the speech. Based on this, how would you describe his rhetorical skills? (You may want to comment on ethos, pathos and logos).
  2. Would you say that the speech has kairos? Consider the setting in which the speech is made. Also, would everyone in the audience agree that the speech has kairos?
Ethos, pathos, logos and kairos

Logos is Greek for ‘word’. A speech that has a strong logos appeals to logic and focuses its attention on the message of the speech. It tries to persuade the audience with reason, using facts and figures.

Ethos focuses the attention on the writer’s or speaker’s trustworthiness. A speech with a strong ethos appeals to the audience by emphasising the speaker's credibility and authority.

Pathos is used in texts and speeches to sway an audience emotionally. It appeals to our imaginations and feelings and tries to convince people through an emotional response.

Kairos refers to the timeliness of an argument. For a speech to have kairos you need to make exactly the right statements at the right time and place. Calling something kairotic is also subjective: What may be exactly the right moment for one reader or listener might be all wrong for someone else.

Part 2: Speech Extract (transcript)

In the table below you find a list of rhetorical devices.

Use the transcript of the beginning of Trump's speech and write answers to the tasks below.

  1. Find examples of each rhetorical device from the speech.
  2. Explain the effect these rhetorical devices are intended to have on the audience.




Repeating important words or phrases


The repetition of (usually) initial consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words or syllables.

Personal pronoun

The use of words like I, You, They and We


An indirect reference to a person, place, historical event, ect of which the speaker expects the audience to understand the reference.


one thing is compared to another by stating they share the same qualities


To exaggerate in order to make a point.

Emotive language

The deliberate choice of words to influence or to elicit emotion, for example expressions of patriotism

If you want to explore further you can watch the complete State of the Union Address from 2020 by following this link:Link to the White House's recorded livestream of the 2020 State of the Union.

Relatert innhold

An article about the State of the Union Address, a speech which is held annually the American President.

CC BY-SASkrevet av Lena Øyre Leirdal .
Sist faglig oppdatert 03.11.2020


Democracy and Human Rights