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The Power of Metaphor in Presidential Healthcare Rhetoric- Natalie Pennington

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For over seventy years the United States federal government has attempted to pass legislation for comprehensive health care, each time failing to reach a consensus on the creation of a health care system that would satisfy the demands of both Republicans and Democrats. First brought before the senate floor in 1933 as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s Social Security legislation, comprehensive health care quickly dropped off and remained an unattainable goal for the American people, a campaign promise made by each president elect, but never fulfilled— until now. Legislation in both the House and Senate concerning universal health insurance coverage is closer to being signed into law than any legislation on the issue has ever been before. What then, has changed over time, to allow the opportunity for health care reform to become so close to reality?

This paper will argue that the stylistic choices made by current President Barack Obama on the healthcare debate in recent months stand out as markedly different than the rhetorical choices made by past presidents on this divisive policy issue, clearing the way for the legislation to pass the House this Fall (2010), and likely to pass the Senate in the coming months. These choices, specifically the use of new and different metaphors to discuss why health reform is both a necessary and urgent concern for the American people, are highlighted in two prominent speeches that Obama made. One was made to a joint session between the Senate and the House, and one to the American Medical Association (AMA), an organization well-known for their distaste for universal health care plans throughout history (they were credited with the end of FDR‘s first attempts at reform, and later as a major barrier for Reagan.)

Both speeches were broadcast live for the entire public to watch, and later published in The New York Times, allowing for a proliferation of the message conveyed by Obama in the speeches. Relying heavily on metaphors of nature, journey, and national character, an analysis of the current rhetorical approach taken by Obama in regards to health care debates will show a divergence from past attempts to pass health care reform. These findings suggest the growing power that language can have in conveying and convincing the public of the need for change in public health policy, a policy we‘ve struggled to establish for nearly a century.


The final book of Aristotle‘s Rhetoric is primarily concerned with lexis (style) as a way to improve the quality of a speech. Aristotle notes that ―it is not enough to know what to say— one must also know how to say it‖ (p. 182). The most common stylistic tool that can be used to persuade an audience is metaphor. In his Poetics, Aristotle defines metaphor as: ―giving the thing a name that belongs to something else; the transference being either from genus to species, or from species to genus, or from species to species, or on the grounds of analogy‖ (qtd. in Newman, p. 5). Rhetoric suggests that metaphor, more so than any other tool, provides a ―clearness, charm, and distinction‖ (p. 187) that enables the audience to see the claim being made.

Aristotle establishes metaphor as a way to ―bring-before-the-eyes‖ a claim of an argument so that a rhetor might better persuade the audience, providing the example: ―it would be right to weep while their valor is buried‖ (p. 209) to show that the word choices (specifically, the use of vivid language) brings before the eyes of the audience an image of what the rhetor wants them to feel about the subject. Newman indicates this element is needed to increase the effectiveness of a metaphor:

In Rhetoric, Aristotle identifies “bringing-before-the-eyes” as a capacity that is crucial to metaphors because it allows rhetors to actualize actions immediately before audiences, leading those audiences to insight. Because this description suggests that metaphors activate cognitive mechanisms on the part of their listeners, “bringing-before-the-eyes” has been considered a key element within Aristotle’s theory and the nexus of that approach to metaphor and contemporary conceptual ones (Newman, p. 1).

This act of ―bringing-before-the-eyes‖ becomes then not only a sufficient tool to persuade, but also a necessary one for the speaker. The goal of metaphor use becomes taking the inanimate object and bringing it to life for the audience, providing a level of activity to the metaphor—to give it life. Aristotle illustrates this with a series of quotes from past literary works in Rhetoric, with emphasis placed on the active word used to bring the metaphor to life; one example is: ―the bitter arrow flew‖ (Aristotle). Studying the extension of metaphor from the premise, which began with Aristotle, to modern rhetoric is beneficial for two reasons: first, it allows for a contemporary analysis of what constitutes metaphor and second, it serves to illustrate the effectiveness of metaphor as a stylistic tool in speeches.

Aristotle’s Metaphor.

The definition of metaphor comes from the most basic arguments made by philosopher

Paul Ricoeur who, drawing from Aristotle‘s rhetoric, suggests that everything is metaphoric in nature. Our words become metaphors for a reality that they attempt to represent as we communicate on a daily basis. Modern definitions of metaphor generally assume the following ideas:

(1) That metaphor is a borrowing; (2) that the borrowed meaning is opposed to the proper meaning; that is, the meaning that ‗really belongs‘ to a work by virtue of being its original meaning; (3) that one resorts to metaphor to fill a semantic void; and (4) that the borrowed word takes the place of the absent proper word where such exists (Ricoeur, p. 18.)

However, as Ricoeur argues in The Rule of Metaphor, this is not rooted in Aristotle‘s notion of metaphor, which consists of four primary characteristics. Ricoeur illustrates all four as essential to the creation of an effective persuasive message. First, a metaphor is something that happens to the noun. Aristotle traces the history of metaphor to an intersection between poetics and rhetoric, showing that we must connect metaphor to nouns and words in order to evoke emotion and some form of cognitive or behavioral change from the audience. Therefore, by providing a sense of action for metaphor, we place it squarely in Aristotle‘s realm, which leads us to the second characteristic—metaphor is defined in terms of movement. ―For Aristotle the word metaphor applies to every transposition of terms‖ (Ricoeur, 1977, p. 15). The result is a sort of displacement from one thing to something else:

To explain metaphor, Aristotle creates a metaphor, one borrowed from the realm of movement; phora, as we know, is a kind of change, namely change with respect to location. But we are anticipating the subsequent theory in saying that the word metaphor itself is metaphorical because it is borrowed from an order other than that of language (Ricoeur, p. 17).

In this sense, as Ricoeur notes, it is impossible to escape metaphors when trying to define metaphors—they are inherently a part of our linguistic decisions. The only question becomes, which metaphors do we choose to use? The third characteristic of metaphor is the transposition of a name that Aristotle calls ‗alien‘ (Aristotle, p. 208). Alien in this instance simply means ‗the name that is not commonly used‘. Here, Aristotle speaks to finding a new and surprising relation between the noun and the action provided. Finally, a typology of metaphor is outlined. Metaphor, as Aristotle explains, helps us to transcend or bridge categories so that we might have a better image/understanding of the concept/idea that is being argued for by the rhetor.

Insofar as one accepts Ricoeur‘s analysis of Aristotle, an understanding that ‗language constructs reality‘ is established. The labels that are provided are not always precise, but they still exist as a form of understanding to link two unlike things together in a way that shapes the perception of the audience. Metaphors can be both simple and complex, according to Aristotle. A modern example of metaphor could be the way people talk about dating; not everyone knows all there is to know about fishing, but people still use common fishing metaphors when talking about dating—―she‘s a catch‖ or ―I‘m fishing for the right one‖ (Benoit, p. 4).

In the end, we can see that metaphors are more than just descriptive literary devices. They shape society‘s everyday reality—the way in which one thinks and acts is fundamentally metaphorical in nature. It stands to reason then that metaphors are a rhetorical tool that can be used to capitalize and downplay— and to an extent even manipulate—societal responses to public policy. Effectively used, a metaphor can alter the way the audience views the world. When one thing is substituted for another, it can cause the assessor to “view the entailments of the metaphors as being true” even when there is no literal reason for doing so (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). The metaphor creates a perceptual link between two unlike things, becoming the basis by which the audience then sees those things the more they hear that metaphor used (Bates, 2004). In allowing for these metaphors to construct our reality, to be the lens by which decisions are made, society unknowingly succumbs to this strong manipulative tool on a regular basis, not even realizing the impact that language has had in shaping their views.

Metaphor Use in Presidential Rhetoric.

The use of metaphor as a form of persuasion is well documented throughout history. From the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, to Greek plays from Sophocles and Euripides, metaphor found a unique home as a literary device in its earliest days—before being recognized for its persuasive ability within argumentation. In more recent history, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and Martin Luther King, Jr. have all been recognized for their use of metaphor within speeches before wide audiences on subjects ranging from WWII to the rights of African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement.

While Aristotle recognized the important role the metaphor played in the quality of a speech, it was Lakoff and Johnson (1980) who took this understanding of metaphor a step further to see the conceptual framing and impact of metaphor on the everyday lives of people. Not only was a speaker capable of crafting a metaphor that would persuade the audience on a particular issue but it was possible, Lakoff and Johnson argued, to map out how individuals viewed a concept in all aspects of life. Connections are drawn then that become lasting—sickness and death are down, health and life are up; being subject to control is down; having control is up.

Politicians have frequently recognized that an emphasis on these concepts through metaphor can move the audience to be in line with whatever agenda they are trying to set; this is due both to the emotional appeal of pathos that is typically employed and the language use of―bringing-before-the eyes‖ in metaphor (Carver and Pikalo, 2008). No individual within the political arena holds more power in speaking to the masses than the leader of that country. A focus then on presidential rhetoric becomes the obvious choice:

The lure of the presidency is its influence on domestic and foreign affairs. Presidential rhetoric is one source of institutional power, enhanced in modern presidency by the ability of presidents to speak when, where, and on whatever topic they choose to a national audience through coverage by the electronic media (Campbell and Jamieson, p. 3).

Many scholars have studied the use of metaphor by presidents in a variety of speeches at various points throughout their presidency. George H.W. Bush drew on the previous metaphor of Ronald Reagan (from his final State of the Union address) to reinforce civic virtues (Smith, 2008).

George W. Bush used metaphor in his discussion of the Columbia. Even speeches by Abraham Lincoln have been analyzed for their use of metaphor during a major time of crisis in United States history.

The use of metaphor within political communication has allowed for the creation of ideologies, which show how a metaphor can infiltrate and shape how the public, over time, views a subject. Ideology can be defined as: ―Sets of ideas by which men posit, explain and justify ends

and means of organized social action, and specifically political action, irrespective of whether such actions aims to preserve, amend, uproot or rebuild a given social order‖ (Charteris-Black, 2009). Moving forward to the contemporary application of metaphor use in healthcare debates, ideologies can be seen as the approach taken by the government to characterize healthcare and what it should mean for the American people.

William C. Gay notes in his analysis of Ricoeur‘s work on metaphor and ideology that: ―Metaphor has the extraordinary power of redescribing reality‖ and ―Ideology is an unsurpassable phenomenon of social existence‖ (p. 1). It is important to understand the weight an ideology can carry, for with frequent use of the same metaphor in relation to a policy decision, that metaphor can become the reality—forcing that policy issue to remain stuck in a deadlock that prevents it from ever reaching fruition.

Contemporary Application

A charismatic leader is one who has the ability to ―emotionally arouse and motivate

followers, inspire their commitment and loyalty, and build followers‘ self-esteem‖ (Mio et al, 2005). This is a description often applied to President Barack Obama who, hardly a year into office, has been scrutinized and studied from a rhetorical stance on a variety of issues—the media and scholars pick apart each speech he gives. As a result, Obama is oft noted for his strong speaking abilities when it comes to addressing the public on the issues his administration believes are important and in need of attention by the American people.

Over the past several months, Obama has invested a considerable amount of political capital to ensure the passage of his comprehensive health care bill through Congress. In June, President Obama spoke to the American Medical Association (AMA) on the importance of passing a comprehensive bill. In early September, Obama spoke again—this time directly to Congress, urging them to work together to pass the proposed bill. Both speeches were broadcast to the public and subsequently published in The New York Times to ensure proliferation of the message Obama wanted the public to hear in regards the public health care. These two speecheshave become the location for contemporary application of use of metaphor as stylistic tool in persuasive practices pertaining to health care in the United States.

This paper is concerned with analyzing the current use of metaphor as an agenda-setting tool by President Obama. Past research (Carver and Pikalo, 2008) has found that when a country finds itself in a climate of crisis (i.e. times of war, economic decline, changes in a political system, natural disaster) that the use of metaphor as a way to connect to the audience and push the agenda of the government increases exponentially. It is the use of metaphor, then, that ensures the ability for the government (in this case, Obama) to get the bill passed that will end that crisis situation. When it comes to health care, metaphor usage by the government until this point has consistently been about the importance of the market. But that has changed with Obama.

Now more than ever it is important to consider the role that style and metaphor plays in the rhetoric of our nation‘s leaders—several presidents in the past seventy years have tried to push comprehensive health care reforms through Congress with no success. In early November 2009, a bill passed through the House of Representatives, marking the furthest any comprehensive reform has gotten since the creation of Medicaid in 1965 (Lightman, 2009). Past research indicates the gap in literature when it comes to health care and the style of the rhetor:

Metaphor is a subject matter not normally addressed by health policy experts. However, some analysts recognize that the language and metaphors that structure how health policy is conceptualized and debated is as worthy of scrutiny as the politics and economics behind the policy (Lee, p. 11).

Analyzing Obama‘s use of metaphor (using the definition of metaphor as outlined by Aristotle) in his addresses to Congress and the AMA leading up to the major votes in the House and Senate becomes a way to trace Aristotle‘s conceptual view of metaphor and its effectiveness as a tool to the employment of that tool by President Obama in his campaign to pass a comprehensive health care bill.


An in-depth analysis of the transcript of the two speeches given by President Obama showed three consistent metaphors throughout the text. Those metaphors were: social good, nature and natural disasters, and journey. Looking at each metaphor in a row, a consistent image pattern of positive healthcare coverage for the public is painted by the Obama administration.

Social Good Metaphor.

A frequent source of comparison for the United States when it comes to health coverage for the public is our neighbor to the north, Canada. However, past research on the use of metaphor by politicians showed a consistent difference between how the United States and Canada talked about health care. These differences illustrate that the previous block in a universal health care plan for the US came in the form of poor metaphor choices that created a skewed public understanding of what the healthcare system was:

(US) American discussion is long overdue for new metaphors to reconceptualize the

provision of healthcare. ―Metaphors matter, as our sterile debate on the financing of health insurance demonstrates so well,‖ writes Annas (1995; p. 744), who disapproves of the market metaphor because it represents a set of ―dysfunctional‖ attitudes and values

that renders medicine and healthcare as commodities (Lee, p. 11).

The ―market metaphor‖ discussed here is the primary rhetorical tool (ideology) employed in

recent history when it comes to the health care debate in the United States: Essentially, the rhetor establishes the need for health care in a way that commodifies the actors involved—medical facilities are business and patients are their customers, dealing in goods and services. This ideology has been built up to the point that the ability to overcome the negative associations of capitalism has made the passage of health reform next to impossible. Lee goes on to examine how the Canadian government relies heavily on establishing a social good metaphor wherein the rhetoric implies a necessity for action for the good of the people. One example of the ideology of the Canadian system is included here:

Important as health care may be, the great Canadian health care debate is about more than health care. As our ―Medicare‖ system has evolved over the past half-century, its basic principles have come to create, reflect, and symbolize many of the values that Canadians see as defining who we are. When we talk about Medicare, therefore, we are talking about the values for which we stand as a community (Schafer, p. 1).

Here we see how the rhetor draws a connection between health care and the basic principles that society should stand for. While this is not the type of active metaphor that brings before the eyes an image for the audience, there is room for comparison between the language used above and the approach that current American rhetoric on healthcare uses. Looking to Obama‘s speech before Congress this past September, the similarities are apparent:

I’ve thought about that phrase quite a bit in recent days – the character of our country. One of the unique and wonderful things about America has always been our self-reliance, our rugged individualism, our fierce defense of freedom and our healthy skepticism of government. And figuring out the appropriate size and role of government has always been a source of rigorous and sometimes angry debate (Obama, September, 2009).

In this first section, we see the social good metaphor established by Obama that plays on the active form of ―bringing-before-the eyes‖ that Aristotle notes as crucial in successfully conveying a message to the audience. By using words like ―rugged‖ ―fierce‖ ―healthy‖ ―rigorous‖ and ―angry‖ Obama supplants a type of action into the character of the American people in relation to health care, noting how we have a general desire as people to ensure that we are doing the best we can for the people. By creating this collectivist thought early on in his speeches, Obama is bridging a gap between the government and the people, making them feel a sense of responsibility towards, and therefore, approval of, a comprehensive healthcare system.

Here again, in the same speech, this plays out:

That large-heartedness – that concern and regard for the plight of others – is not a partisan feeling. It is not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character. Our ability to stand in other people’s shoes. A recognition that we are all in this together; that when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand. A belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgement that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise (Obama, September, 2009).

The use of ―large-heartedness‖ to describe a universal ―American character‖ creates a sense of community for the audience. In the June speech to the AMA, the message is less prominent, but still plays an imperative role in the overall construction of the social good metaphor:

We are not a nation that lets hardworking families go without the coverage they deserve; or turns its back on those in need. We are a nation that cares for its citizens. We are a people who look out for one another. That is what makes this the United States of America (Obama, June, 2009.)

We see in this segment of the speech that Obama takes a very direct route by establishing the country itself as a single entity, with actions and values that are representative of the whole, a far step away from describing the hospitals and doctors as businesses, and patients as consumers. By bridging two categories (the passing of health care reform in relation to what it means to be an American), Obama is creating a metaphor that is alien to previous healthcare discussions and, as shown in Canada, is highly effective.

Nature and Natural Disaster Metaphors.

In addition to creating a positive image of what it means to be an American and the character associated with providing universal health care, Obama creates a sense of urgency for passing legislation through his use of active metaphors dealing with a variety of potential disastrous natural and nature related occurrences in relation to the bill itself. In his speech before the AMA, he includes this in his opening statement:

But let there be no doubt – the cost of inaction is greater. If we fail to act, premiums will climb higher, benefits will erode further, and the rolls of uninsured will swell to include millions more Americans (Obama, June, 2009).

The words ―climb higher‖ ―erode‖ and ―swell‖ create an image of land fighting against water,

attempting to prevail. The need to pass the bill becomes an imperative action; just as loss will occur if water is allowed to swell, climb higher up the cliff, and destroy the land, so will the US see that by continuing on the path we are going down now—for the current health care system will lead to the destruction of assistance to those in need. Obama capitalizes on the time of crisis we find ourselves in and the growing number of people who remain uninsured (or fear for their loss of benefits in the near future). This metaphor of loss in the face of adversity sans action is a crucial element outlined by Aristotle: Increasing the emotional impact is a very vital role for metaphor in a range of political contexts and is part of what I will refer to as sounding right. These include the need to sustain morale during times of national crisis, and the need to inspire in times of apathy‖ (Charteris-Black, 2009).

The first metaphor, that of social good, inspires and sustains the morale of people, while the message of using potential disaster increases the emotional impact and urgency associated with reform. We see this use of nature play out again in the speech before Congress, though to a lighter degree:

Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned (Obama, September, 2009).

Words like ―dug‖ and ―blizzard‖ create a sense of action for the opponents to healthcare reform, where we see Obama bring before the eyes an image of confusion and a deadlock for the opposition— with the dug in camp creating an image of hibernation for the winter, stuck in a spot during a blizzard, unable to move forward. He closes this segment of speech by suggesting

we must move past the ―blizzard‖ and ―winter‖ to a new ―season‖ for change and action. This

form of metaphor is commonly employed within persuasion; associating the opposition with―cold‖, and the policy action in question (healthcare) with a new season—a ―Spring‖ to follow

the ―Blizzard‖:

Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do (Obama, September, 2009).

Journey Metaphor.

Journey is considered an archetypal metaphor by scholars, wherein journey metaphor represents a move from darkness into light or crisis to calm (Darsey, 2009). The concept, or ideology, of journey metaphor is also well documented through out history, with more prominent examples being Homer‘s Odyssey, Dante‘s Divine Comedy, and Chaucer‘s Canterbury Tales. Journeys, both physical and metaphorical, take place in each piece of literature, creating an inherent association between words connected with travel and moving forward in life (Darsey, 2009).

The use of journey metaphor by Obama throughout the healthcare debate is ―alien‖ to the healthcare debate, but not to the overall rhetoric of Obama as a politician. Past research on his speeches throughout the campaign trail in 2008 showed that Obama established an ideology of journey as an inherent part of what it means to be an American (Darsey, 2009). It made sense then, that Obama would take the journey metaphor, and apply it to the toughest policy action he faces before Congress:

But even as we have made progress, we know that the road to prosperity remains long and difficult. We also know that one essential step on our journey is to control the spiraling cost of health care in America (Obama, June, 2009).

The use of ―journey‖ ―spiraling‖ and a ―long road‖ paint a picture for the audience of what is

ahead as we continue to debate and shape healthcare for the United States; suggesting that the

current ―spiraling‖ cost of health care is the darkness we must move away from, as we move

forward and ―lift ourselves‖ (Obama, June, 2009) towards a future that is representative of the US American value system.

Combined, these three primary types of metaphor create a unique opportunity for Obama to speak in generalities to the US American people on the subject of healthcare. Rather than talking about the bill in terms of money made for the government and the spending by the people, Obama uses his speeches to Congress and the AMA as a way to convey a message of change, growth, and an instilling of US American values to the healthcare debate that is unique to his rhetoric, and shows an understanding of the importance of metaphor as a rhetorical device.


Metaphor has, in recent years, ―once again acquired a cognitive status…Today, under the

aegis of metaphor, the power of figurative language has newly become an object of research and general theoretical speculation‖ (Franke, 2000). This is particularly true of policy-making, wherein we know that the style of the rhetor is one of the most important aspects of conveying the message to the public at large. What we have learned over time is that ―metaphors are very effective in the communication of policy because they provide cognitively accessible ways of communicating political policy. They provide proofs of warrants that support arguments and have particular entailments‖ (Charteris-Black, 2009). By studying the metaphors employed by politicians during the policy-making process we can then use the success/failure of the passage of those policies to consider the success/failure of the language/metaphor use by the rhetor in question.

On a very basic level we understand that language has the ability to shape the reality of a given situation, and as such, that the language used by policy makers, especially during a time of crisis like the government faces now in dealing with health care, is of particular importance to consider and analyze. What we have seen is that Obama has chosen to paint a picture of hope and change that is inherent to his rhetorical choices in general, not just in the context of health care. He makes a political argument in his decision to use more negative words to describe the opposition to his plan, which is consistent with past research that has shown how a metaphor has the ability to establish a political argument:

The metaphor of communism as a disease communicated a particular political argument— i.e. the speed and inevitability of the spread of communism that entailed the need to take remedial action… [Metaphors] in the very selection of terms through the scenarios that are chosen they suggest particular conclusions (Charteris-Black, p. 108).

While Obama by and large kept a positive and light image associated with his language in regards to passing health care legislation, we must continue to follow the debate closely to see how the rhetoric grows (and possibly changes) should the current plan pass or fail.

One of the most important reasons to continue to study and understand the use of metaphor within political communication is the creation (and adoption) of new or different metaphors within a particular rhetorical situation. While we saw in the analysis that Obama drew largely on a pre-existing metaphor (social good) that had not been employed within the health care debate by the United States, it was also discovered that he established a connection to nature and journeys that have helped him in spreading the message of what health care reform would mean for the public from the perspective of the Obama Administration. Even Aristotle writes on the importance of the surprise of the use of a new metaphor in speech: ―the hearer, who expected something quite different, is all the more aware, from the contrast, that he has learned something‖ (p. 212). In addition to noting the nature of the metaphor being new, it‘s important to consider the political intentions associated with language choices made by Obama:

New metaphors can lead us to fresh perspectives on political issues because they can explain political policy and communicate political arguments … [Metaphors] provide a cognitive filter that colours the covert political intentions of the politician; metaphors therefore only reflect ―right‖ thinking from the perspective of the particular social group who benefits from their arguments (Charteris-Black, p. 109).

The question that arises as a result of the metaphors employed within these two speeches is this: What groups benefit from the rhetorical choices made by Obama, wherein we see universal healthcare posited as a positive movement for the United States health care system? In the past, the AMA has been a large obstacle in the path to universal health care, but now they stand to profit from the new system. The health care legislation being debated in the Senate is not without its opponents—and this rhetoric establishes only one side of the story. Therefore, future research might consider both the impact of the changes to the healthcare system, as well as the rhetorical decisions made by the opposition to the universal system proposed by President Obama.


In Rhetoric, Aristotle writes, ―it is a metaphor that is in the highest degree instructive and pleasing‖ (p. 206). A metaphor is (1) instructive insofar as it provides a fresh perspective on an idea/concept, and (2) pleasing in that the use of vivid language provides the visual pleasure and appreciation that comes with an effective metaphor. Developed by Aristotle in ancient Greece, we can see just by looking at the word choices of President Obama that the concept of metaphor and ―bringing-before-the-eyes‖ is not dead. From the constant use of words like ―cherry-picking‖ and ―blizzard‖ to ―erode‖ and ―spiraling‖, Obama has shown that he understands the viability of active metaphor as a rhetorical tool to shape his health care agenda.

We find ourselves on the brink of making history for the US American health care system if the comprehensive plan supported by the Obama Administration successfully passes through the Senate vote in the coming months. In this paper I have attempted to show how we arrived at this point in time; more specifically, to explain how the rhetoric associated with the overhaul of healthcare has differed dramatically in its stylistic (metaphorical) choices from past attempts to pass legislation. In the end, regardless of the outcome of the debate over healthcare, we can see just how powerful a handful of well-placed words and images can be in shaping the minds and opinions of society at large. This knowledge, coupled with an understanding of what it takes to make an effective metaphor, shows us how the work of Aristotle has lived on long past the debates of political figures in ancient Greece. Metaphor use today is becoming one of the most influential forms of language and style use in the political arena.


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