Quote: “Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality.” Senator Barack Obama.
Figure of Speech: epiphonema (e-pih-pho-NEE-ma), the memorable summary.
Barack Obama recently gave the best speech we have seen in years, warming Figaro’s heart by following Cicero’s rules for oratorical arrangement. More than that, though, Obama offers a way out of our nation’s dilemma over religion and politics.
Religion belongs in politics because we’re a religious nation, he says. But faith sublimely demands the impossible, while politics is the art of the possible. He sums up this point in an epiphonema (“proclaim”), an expression that condenses a thought into memorable words.
Obama’s epiphonema provides an excellent definition of phronesis, or practical wisdom — a trait that Aristotle called essential to rhetorical leadership. A fundamentalist Christian may be happy to know that you try to do as Christ would do; but he still wouldn’t let you remove his appendix without a medical license. That’s phronesis.
Obama gave America a healthy dose of rhetorical physic with that speech. Read it by clicking on his name, above.
Snappy Answer: “You remind us of another guy who ran for Senate in Illinois, four score years ago and more.”