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Monday, June 1, 2020

Summer online debating courses

Debating For Everyone is running online debating courses for secondary age students this summer holiday. 

Led by experienced debating coach Julian Bell and taught in groups of no more than 12, the courses will be specifically designed to meet the experience and needs of the students taking part. They will be accessible and appropriate both for those who are new to debating and who want to learn the basic skills, and also for established debaters who want to be stretched and challenged. The courses will include interactive activities to build and improve essential debating skills as well as an opportunity for all students to take part in a debate to practise those skills.

There will be two courses:

Years 7-9: Tuesday 21st July, 10 am - 5 pm BST (with one hour lunch break)

Years 10-13: Thursday 23rd July, 10 am - 5 pm BST (with one hour lunch break)

The cost will be £100.

Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. If demand is high, extra dates may be arranged.

To apply for a place, please complete the form below:

Y7-9 course, Tuesday 21st July

Y10-13 course, Thursday 23rd July

If you have any difficulty accessing these forms, or have any queries about the courses, please contact  Julian Bell.

About Julian Bell

Julian Bell has been an English teacher for 34 years, and since 2000 has been Head of English and Debating at Godolphin and Latymer School in London. When he arrived, Godolphin and Latymer had no debating provision whatsoever, but it is now described as a ‘flagship debating school’. As well as running the school’s internal debating programme, which involves over 100 students out of a student body of 700, he is also founder and leader of three competitions: the London Junior Debating League (for Years 7-8), involving 24 schools across London, 50% of them from the maintained sector, the London Middle School Debating Competition (for Years 9-11) and the London Sixth Form Debating Competition, for Years 12-13, which attract similar numbers of schools.

Julian works as an oracy trainer for the English Speaking Union and as a judge for the PIXL Up for Debate competition. He also teaches a course to adults in Effective Public Speaking, and in 2019-20 was due (before lockdown) to host local rounds of the Noisy Classroom Primary School Competition at Godolphin and Latymer School

In November 2018, Julian gave pro bono training to students at Sacred Heart High School in Hammersmith and Fulham Boys SchoolIn March 2019 , he helped run a London debating tour for students at Hackley School in New York. Godolphin and Latymer School gave him a period of sabbatical leave in June and July 2019 to work on debating projects.  During this time, he offered pro bono outreach training to Holy Family School in Walthamstow, Redden Court School in Romford, Fitzwimarc School in Essex, Sir John Leman School in Suffolk, Brittons Academy in Havering and Orleans Park School in Twickenham. He also set up new debating programmes at Haberdashers Aske's Boys' Prep in Elstree and the German School in Ham, as well as establishing partnerships with two charities: Debating Mental Health and Youth Politics.

For recommendations of Julian's work as a debating trainer, see what schools say about Debating For Everyone.

Julian helped to set up the debating programme at Radnor House Sevenoaks, whose Principal, David Paton, said ‘With nearly twenty years of debating experience, an unrivalled network of contacts, and a track record of setting up and running many successful and growing competitions, there is nothing that Julian Bell doesn’t know about school debating. Thorough, helpful and inspiring, he ensured our debating programme got off to a flying start, and was constantly available to support us thereafter. Highly recommended!’ 

Julian is currently working on The Debating Book, a how to guide for secondary school student debaters and their teachers, to be published in September 2020.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Debating in lockdown #3 - how to run an online debating club

Lockdown has, if anything, increased the hunger in students for debating, as they yearn for the personal interaction it offers. The good news is that while schools, sports stadiums, theatres, cinemas, cafes, pubs and restaurants have all fallen silent, voices can still be raised in the cut and thrust of debate. Here are some ideas on how teachers can run an online debating club.

How to set it up

Each school has its own online platform, the most popular being Google Meets, Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Obviously the first thing to do is to work out the technicalities of how to set up a multiperson online meeting on your school’s platform. Most schools I know of tend to discourage this format for online lessons, other than in a few cases such as small sixth form classes. I think debating can reasonably claim to be one of those cases. Each school also has its own safeguarding procedures for online contact, particularly when involving video; make sure you are familiar with these, and follow them. 

Personally, I would strongly encourage a set up where everyone can see everyone else’s faces as coming as close as possible to the interactive experience of face to face debating. However, you may feel uncomfortable with having students seeing into your personal space / seeing into theirs (and your school’s safeguarding policy may forbid it). There are also the practical problems of a student’s impassioned orations being interrupted by annoying little brothers / parents telling them it’s time for lunch / they need the computer for an important work call NOW, not to mention a teacher’s wise judgements being punctuated by a small child’s questions about dinosaurs / demands for another biscuit. Follow your own judgement, and be sure to do nothing which could put you in a difficult position professionally.

How to schedule it

My own school has a policy of keeping to the established timetable for lessons online on the grounds that it provides students with a much needed sense of structure and continuity, and debating club meetings have similarly stayed in their regular lunchtime slots. Remote learning does mean it is much easier for students to get to the ‘room’ on time in a lunchtime slot; the disadvantage for students (and for teachers …) is that the hurly and burly of the lunch queue has been replaced by the arguably more challenging problem of actually having to make your own lunch, or depend on someone else to make it for you. Keep to existing timings, but be reasonably tolerant of latecomers. Running the club ‘after school’ removes some of these problems.

How to publicise it

Many schools have online newsletters / bulletins in which to announce clubs and events; use these. A direct mailshot to relevant year groups can also be very effective. In my experience, numbers attending debating online have actually gone up, as students isolated at home are eager for any kind of personal connection. Parents are generally very supportive, glad for their children to have any kind of structured engagement.

What to do in the club sessions

Normally, you would want to make the most of having students together in a room by having as much interaction as possible, for example having them brainstorm ideas for motions in pairs / groups. This can be more problematic online. Some platforms have an option for breakout rooms, and if yours does (and if your school’s safeguarding policy permits it) these can be used to put students in pairs / groups to prepare a motion before staging a debate. Alternatively, students could set up their own phone calls / Face Time / Zoom call to prepare together; however, some schools’ policies do not allow this during school-led sessions.

If breakout rooms / students collaborating independently aren’t possible, the best option may be to make each session a more formal, long preparation debate. (See her for how to prepare for a debate.) Mace is the better format for shorter lunchtime slots (you may have to shorten the timings of speeches depending on how long you have), and has the advantage of being traditionally associated with long prep, and of allowing other attenders to join in via the floor debate. British Parliamentary (BP) tends to be favoured by more experienced debaters who relish the higher level of challenge it offers, but it is more time consuming and does depend on eight debaters being guaranteed to turn up. It is also traditionally a short prep format. If you have the means to set up breakout rooms / students to collaborate individually (and are allowed to do so), you can run a normal BP debate online, though you will need to allow at least an hour for it. If this isn’t possible, you can still run a BP debate with long prep; this has the advantage of taking less time in the session itself.

Although I normally favour encouraging students to engage with current affairs, I think at the moment best to avoid motions which have, or could have, anything to do with Covid-19. Students may well be feeling very anxious about the situation, or may have family members who are at risk or seriously unwell. 

As with a normal face to face debate, the teacher should take notes during the debate and give feedback and a result at the end of it.

How to debate against other schools

Many popular competitions had to be abruptly cancelled or curtailed in mid-March, to much disappointment. The good news is that inter school debating is still possible online. I have already had much interest from schools in debating with my school, and will be glad to hear from more; contact me via the contact form on this blog.

I would recommend starting by competing against just one other school. Once contact has been established (or resumed) with the other school, you will need to set aside some time for a call with your opposite number to negotiate the practicalities of which platform to use, how to mesh your schools’ safeguarding policies to both schools’ satisfaction, what format to use, and timings.

When all this is set up, recruit your team. If you are using a long prep format, give them plenty of time to prepare the motion together. Students are generationally very comfortable with connecting with each other remotely to do this, and may relish the opportunity for more interaction.

On the appointed day, start by making sure everyone is present online, and can see / be seen / hear / be heard. Remind participants that they should not be using internet during the debate. Obviously, you cannot supervise this as closely as you would in a face to face debate, and will have to rely on a degree of trust; hopefully the exceptional circumstances and the friendly nature of the debate will encourage students to approach the contest in the right spirit.

If you can, recruit older students to judge; now freed from public exams, they will have more time on their hands and may be glad to get involved. If you have one from each school, neutrality can reasonably be claimed. Set them up in breakout rooms to discuss the debate once it is over, supervised by you if safeguarding policies demand it; or, if you are allowed to, have them phone / Face Time / Zoom each other independently. They can then return to the shared room to deliver feedback and verdict. If you are unable to recruit older students, or are running a sixth form debate, repeat this procedure using yourself and your counterpart teacher.

If these one on one debates go well, you might feel brave enough to stage a tournament with several schools. Here is a post by Neil Singh from Hackley School in New York with detailed and practical advice on how to run an online debating tournament.

The advantages

While these are dark times we are living through, there are upsides. For debating these include, particularly for inter school debates:

  • No need to book rooms

  • No need to book sandwiches

  • No need to book transport

  • No need to send letters home

  • No need to do risk assessments

  • No need to travel

  • The opportunity to debate against any school, anywhere in the world

The future

The future is very uncertain. We do not know when we will be back in school. When we are, we may well face significant restrictions which may continue to make face to face debating (particularly between schools) difficult. So it is a good idea to get as expert as possible with online debating, and to try to see it as an opportunity to be developed rather than a reluctantly accepted necessity. Like so much in this current moment, online debating is a work in progress. I hope to post updates as we develop it further, and will be glad to hear from schools about their experiences online.

For now, stay well, and stay connected.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Debating in lockdown #2 - how to run an online debating tournament

This week we have a guest post from Neil Singh, a student at Hackley School in New York, with a very practical walk through of how to run an online tournament using the platform Zoom. In future posts we will be looking at the practicalities of running an online debating club in school, and hearing from a teacher on his experience of online debating.

Directing and judging any debate tournament is a complicated process that combines organisation, communication, and data skills. As the Tournament Director for the English Speaking Union’s Middle School and Upper School Public Debate Programme in New York throughout the last four years, I have seen numerous strategies, some successful and others not, for directing and judging tournaments. As the debate world switches into a virtual environment, here are my suggestions on the most successful way to run a virtual tournament. 

To start with, having a high capacity and secure Zoom account is key so all tournament participants (students, judges, coaches, observers) can all gather in one space. This Zoom meeting should serve as the Tournament Director’s main forum for general announcements throughout the tournament.

Regardless of whether the debate tournament is virtual or in person, it always starts with a registration process to ensure all participants are present. The most efficient mechanism to conduct a virtual registration is by assigning staggered check in times for schools. For example, say school “X” is assigned to register at 8:30, school “Y” at 8:40, school “Z” at 8:50, and so on. At the school’s scheduled time, all participants affiliated would be expected to log onto the Zoom meeting to prove their presence and the functionality of their camera and microphone. During the registration of each school, there are a few key things for the Tournament Director to do. First, they must ensure that the intended teams the school intends to divide into are aligned with the teams entered for the tournament. Second, I highly recommend renaming each individual on Zoom to reflect their role in the tournament. For example, if a team of two from school “X” has debaters named John Smith and Sarah Cooper, John’s Zoom name should be renamed to “School X Team SC- Smith” and Sarah’s should be renamed to “School X Team SC- Cooper.” All judges should be renamed so the word “Judge” appears before their full name. These changes will ease the process of assigning breakout rooms later in the tournament, and will keep everything more organized. Finally, after a school is registered, they should be transferred into their own breakout room where they can prepare and have a team meeting. The general Zoom meeting should only be used for those who are in the process of registering.

Once all schools and judges have been accurately registered and named through the process described above, everyone should be brought back to the general Zoom room. First, the Tournament Director should pre-assign Zoom breakout rooms. Each debate should have their own Zoom breakout room ready to go before rooms, positions and motions are released. At this point, as would be done at a normal tournament, the Tournament Director should announce motions, rooms and positions for the first round of the competition. I strongly recommend using the screen sharing function on Zoom to project the rooms, positions and motions to the entire tournament. 

If you have more than one judge per room, you can assign each room a judges' breakout room for them to conduct their deliberations.
The final difference from an in person tournament is the submission of positions and scores by judges. While there do exist tabulation platforms with the option for judges to complete online ballots (great if judges are technologically savvy), I believe the safest balloting option is for judges to submit their results directly to the Tournament Director via email.

While some aspects of running a tournament are different, virtual debate tournaments are certainly doable and quite successful. Obviously, every country and every tournament has their own traditions and practices, but I thought it would be helpful to share some practices that have worked in the U.S. Feel free to reach out to me on with any questions.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Debating in lockdown #1 - solo debating

We’re all missing a lot of things in lockdown. Seeing our friends; getting out of the house (and away from our families …); maybe even the opportunity to take our GCSEs and A-Levels.

Debaters will be missing the lively, stimulating, face to face interaction that school debating clubs used to give them. And yet, while the strange time we are living through brings many losses, it also offers opportunities for debaters. 

Online trainers like Joe Wicks have been offering virtual exercise sessions to ensure the nation’s muscles don’t waste away in lockdown. It’s no less important for debaters to keep their debating muscles exercised. This week we’re going to be looking at ways in which you can keep your debating skills in trim with some activities you can undertake by yourself.

Solo debating might seem like a contradiction in terms. The whole point of debating is that it is interactive. However, here are some exercises you can undertake on your own which will keep you at peak fitness for when you’re able to return to face to face debating.

1. Practise your preparation

Pick a motion, and take either proposition or opposition. See our earlier post on choosing a motion for ideas for good motions. Give yourself 15 minutes (or longer if you want to practise long prep). Prepare a speech for or against it. See our earlier post here on how to prepare for a debate.

2. Analyse your own performance

Once you’ve prepared a speech, perform it and record it on your own device (NB just as in a real debate DO NOT write it out; give it spontaneously, with as few notes as possible). Then play it back, pausing the video, taking notes. Don’t be embarrassed; no one else is going to see it. Notice how you use tone of voice; pace; timing. See if you can pick holes in your arguments; how could you have phrased them better? When you’ve done all that, record it again. Compare the second version with the first, seeing what improvements you’ve made. Repeat as often as you want, or move on to a new motion.

3. Debate against yourself

Prepare and record a proposition speech as above. Play it back, this time pausing from time to time to give yourself points of information. Respond to your own points of information. 

Then prepare and record a speech for the opposition, and repeat the above procedure.

Practise being a judge by deciding which side won the debate and why.

Next week we’ll be looking at ways in which you can use technology to keep interactive debating going in lockdown. Until then, stay well!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Guest Post #5 - Debating and mental health

This week we welcome a guest post from Laura Wallis on debating and mental health.

Laura Wallis is the Director of Debating Mental Health, an organisation that equips young people with mental health needs with the skills, confidence and knowledge they need to speak out on what matters to them in mental health.  She was involved in public speaking, debating and Model United Nations throughout her academic career and has also coached young debaters across the UK and internationally. She has been commended for her work by both Prince William and (when she was Prime Minister) Teresa May.

We were delighted to welcome Laura to Godolphin and Latymer School on March 12th 2020 for a stimulating workshop on debating and mental health as part of the school's inspiring Challenge Your Limits week.

What can debating do for students with mental health needs?

Learning to debate and participating in formal debate offers a number of benefits to children and young people.  These are not limited to but include: confidence-building; learning to structure and develop an argument; listening to others and; understanding perspectives that differ from your own.  These skills, of course, are important for all children and young people to develop, but are especially helpful for young people who may be struggling with their mental health.

Confidence and resilience

Young people who are (or have been) struggling with their mental health will often have struggled with low self-esteem, as the result of experiencing something that is still, to varying degrees, stigmatised and which may have resulted in extended periods away from education.  Problems with low self-esteem and low self-confidence may prevent young people from fully engaging at school or with mental health services and professionals they may be in contact with.  By empowering young people to speak out and be heard through debating, we support them to realise that their voice is powerful and that what they have to say is important.  That’s important because when children and young people believe in themselves, they engage better in school and feel hopeful for their futures, which improves their chances of success in whatever they decide they want to do. 

Competitive debate

When I tell people that I coach young people with mental health support needs to debate, I am frequently asked how debate can support young people who are, perhaps, vulnerable and lacking in confidence, when competitive debate potentially means losing.  Firstly, competitive debate can also mean winning; working closely with a team of your peers, throwing yourself into something and then winning, which is an exhilarating feeling.  Secondly, as exciting as winning a debate can be, not winning a debate also carries with it many lessons.  When a team doesn’t place first, they’ll go away and evaluate their performance, look to improve and work hard to achieve that outcome.  In this way, not winning also supports the development of resilience in children and young people, as they learn to cope with life’s knockbacks, to handle those appropriately and to move on.

The learning and practice of competitive debate supports young people to grow their confidence, raise their voices and be heard.  This can be life-changing for any young person, but for those who often feel silenced and stigmatised by society, the results can be even more powerful.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Tricks of the trade #4 - metanoia, metaphor, paralipsis

Three more techniques to engage your listeners, from a debate on the motion: 'This house would make homophobic language illegal.'

Metanoia (saying something then retracting it)

You can use this to ramp up your condemnation of something you want to criticise, or increase your praise for something you want to celebrate, by finding ever more extreme terms. ‘Making homophobic language illegal is unfair. No, not unfair - it is absurd. No, more than absurd - it is tyrannical!’

Metaphor (comparing something to something else)

Metaphor includes simile. It is one of the first things you learn in English lessons from a very early age, and is much deployed in creative writing, so you should be familiar with it. You can use it very effectively in speeches too, to make your arguments more vivid. ‘Making certain words illegal is like making us walk around with a policeman sitting on our shoulder.’

Paralipsis (saying something that you say you’re not going to say)

This is when you say something while apparently denying you’re saying it. It makes it look as if you can’t say it because it is so shocking, and so adds to its power. ‘I’m not going to go into the consequences of homophobic bullying. The isolation of its victims. The despair. The depression. The anxiety. The self-harm. The suicide attempts. That’s not what we’re here to discuss. We’re here, according to the opposition, to discuss free speech …’

Monday, March 9, 2020

Great speeches of history #1 - Obama's victory speech (2008)

Want to make your speeches better? Learn from the masters and mistresses of the craft.

By listening to and reading the great speeches of history (some from historical record, some imagined in drama or fiction) a debater can learn how to make their own speaking more persuasive. Be careful, though, not to get too carried away by the rhetoric. Your task is to take it to bits, to look at all the different working parts and see how each of them contributes to making the speech soar; to making it change the world. Just as you want to do with your debate speeches.

Our first speech was given in Chicago at midnight on November 4th 2008. I remember watching it live at 5 am London time during an election night sleepover for students at my school, wired on no sleep, too much coffee and a lot of hope. Barack Obama had just been elected as the first black American president. Whatever the rights and wrongs of his time in office, that simple fact was in and of itself a moment of history. Obama’s speech rose to the occasion.

Below is an edited transcript of the speech, with my comments in bold italics. You can watch the speech in full here.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

‘If there is anyone out there’ starts the speech by calling out to the audience and includes everyone who is listening.

‘all things are possible’ has echoes, like a lot of American oratory, of the Bible: ‘With God all things are possible’ (Matthew 19:26). This subliminally reassures the listener that God is on the speaker’s side (and also has a lot of resonance in a country like the United States which has a very strong Christian heritage).

The repetition of ‘who still’ uses anaphora, repeating a phrase at the beginning of a clause, and does so in a way that builds from the origins of the USA to a crescendo with the immediacy of ‘tonight’.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

This sentence uses enargia, telling a little mini-story about democracy. It makes an abstract notion real by putting it in terms of recognisable people doing recognisable things in recognisable places.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled — Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of red states and blue states; we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

Here Obama expresses his vision of inclusivity by the way he structures his sentence. First. apparently opposite groups of people are linked by the conjunction ‘and’, and then a wide variety of communities are brought together by their inclusion in an asyndetic list (that is, one that does not use the word ‘and’). Finally, he invokes his country’s name, always a good way to appeal to the emotions. He plays on it by moving from the divisions inevitably created by an election (‘red states’ are those who voted Republican, ‘blue states’ are those who voted Democrat, Obama’s party) to a vision of unity expressed in the country’s name: the United States of America. Along with this admirable message of inclusivity, he is subtly putting into his listeners’ minds the notion that he represents 100% of Americans, and that he embodies the united nation.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day. It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

These two sentences use balancing tricolons (lists of three). The first lists all the obstacles to hope, ‘cynical, fearful and doubtful’; the second balances, and thereby cancels out, the obstacles by building to a crescendo, from ‘on this day’ (a normal occurrence) to ‘in this election’ (a special day), to the historic nature of ‘this defining moment’ (making it a moment of history).

‘put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more’ links an abstract noun (‘history’) with physical actions (‘put their hands on’, ‘bend’), thereby giving the listeners a sense that they can physically control the world - a very empowering sensation.


… above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to — it belongs to you.

Argumentuum ad populum - addressing the audience directly.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington — it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this earth. 

More enargia: telling lots of mini stories which make the story of his victory relatable. Also, by focusing on ordinary people, who can only give ‘$5 and $10 and $20’, he makes it seem as if, despite being about to become the most powerful man in the world, he is still just an ordinary person.

This is your victory.

Again addressing the audience directly, including them.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election, and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime — two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for college. 

More enargia: ordinary stories, this time of struggle and difficulty, showing that he understands that life is not easy, but subliminally reassuring the audience that he will help solve their problems.

There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year, or even one term, but America — I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you: We as a people will get there.

Slowing down the rhythm of the speech (pacing matters as much as content) in recognition of the seriousness of the task with two short sentences: ‘The road will be long. The climb will be steep.’ Then incorporating an element of ultimate reassurance with epistrophe (repeated endings), using the repetition of ‘will get there.’

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for 221 years — block by block, brick by brick, callused hand by callused hand.

Including the audience by promising to listen to them. Again, inviting them to control the world through physical action, this time in a diminuendo, moving from a large section of buildings (‘block by block’) to a small unit (‘brick by brick’ ) to something individual and human (‘callused hand by callused hand’). Note the ‘callused’, recognising the value of physical labour.


… to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world — our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down: we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: tonight, we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

Another enargia, including listeners round the world, from the powerful to the poor, imagining where they are listening. Then some anaphora, addressing all different attitudes to the United States. Both these techniques remind the audience that the whole world is listening (as it was), and therefore what he is saying is important. He ends with a crescendo of abstractions, culminating in ‘unyielding hope’, which implicitly acknowledges that there will be obstacles to be overcome, and stops him from sounding complacent.


This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election, except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons — because she was a woman and because of the colour of her skin.

His best example yet of enargia, using one of the many ‘stories that will be told for generations’. Obama uses one of the storyteller’s most important weapons: suspense. He delays the big reveal. First his subject is just ‘a woman’. There’s a clue in her state, though; ’Atlanta’ was notorious for racial discrimination throughout much of the twentieth century. She’s just like us, ‘the millions of others who stood in line’. Then we get the first remarkable thing about her: she’s 106 years old. Along with this, she is named, to make her into a real person. Her great age is made real by reference to specific aspects of the world she was born into ‘no cars on the road or planes in the sky’. Finally, the reveal: she’s black (and therefore would not have been able to vote for most of her life). Now we love this woman! We think of her frail little body standing in line on a cold November day! (And maybe think of our own grandmothers or great-grandmothers.) But the real masterstroke is the way Obama subliminally links himself with her by implication: for many years, she wouldn’t have been able to vote because she was black; for many years, he would never have been able to become President because he was black. So he’s associated with this loveable, admirable old lady (we have to assume she voted for Obama).

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America — the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes, we can.
At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes, we can.

When there was despair in the Dust Bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes, we can.
When the bombs fell on our harbour and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes, we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes, we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes, we can.

Now a combination of enargia and epistrophe. Obama summarises a century of American history in a list of historic events, each illustrating the ways in which the American people have overcome obstacles, thereby making his listeners think that they can do the same. He reinforces this with the repeated ending ‘Yes, we can!’. This was his campaign slogan, and combines optimism (‘Yes’, ‘can’) with inclusion (‘we’). Something not right with your life? a/ it can be fixed b/ you won’t be alone. All in three words.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves: If our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

Some rhetorical questions pointing to the future, reminding us that he is the future now. 

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time — to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.

Anaphora with ‘This is …’, suggesting something that is present and immediate, about to happen (‘our moment’). Then a final crescendo ending in hope.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

Rounding it all off by pushing the emotional buttons of God and nation.

So, in this speech, Obama persuades his listeners to feel good about themselves, their country, and, quite subtly, him as their leader for the next four years. Debate speeches are never going to carry quite the same weight, but there are many techniques here you can learn from for making your own speeches more persuasive.