A motif is a rhetorical device that involves the repeated presence of a concept, which heightens its importance in a speech and draws attention to the idea. Obama’s motifs became so recognizable that the main motifs, change and hope, became the themes for the 2008 presidential campaign of every candidate, from Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator John McCain.
Change was Obama’s fundamental motif in his campaign for Republican, Democratic, and undecided audiences. In addition to inspiring his Yes We Can campaign slogan, the ideology of change separated Obama from his opponents. During his campaign, change was the second most stated concept in Obama’s speeches, falling behind the economy. Change also became a part of Obama’s slogan, “Change we can believe in,” which appeared on banners, podiums, and posters.
Hope supported the idea that change was possible and symbolized the hope that Obama could become the first African American president of the United States. Hope became another repeated topic and theme in the campaign, being the fourth most stated concept behind the economy, change, and security. Below is an example of hope as a motif from Obama’s 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address:
“Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope!”