Obama’s Speech to the Australian Parliament, 2011, Reaffirming the ANZUS Treaty and Committing America to the Asia Pacific

An analysis of President Obama’s speech to the Australian Parliament – 17 November 2011

Obama addresses a joint sitting of the Australian Parliament

Obama’s speech serves the purpose of reaffirming the alliance held between Australia and the United States and also acts as America’s commitment to playing a larger part within the Asia Pacific. President Obama addresses military peace within the region, economic prosperity, commitment to environmental protection, preservation of human rights and the successes of democracy whilst relating such issues to the enduring relevance of the ANZUS treaty between Australia and the United States.

The ANZUS treaty, signed in 1951 between Australia, New Zealand and the United States effectively bound the three countries militarily. Any attack on either of these countries constituted an attack on all three countries and in effective each country was obligated to help defend the security of each other. Although New Zealand and the United States have ended their treaty with each other due to differing views on a range of issues, the treaty is still solidly in effective between the United States and Australia and was evoked by the Australian Government in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

The president opens, addresses the Parliament and immediately acknowledges his purpose is “to reaffirm the bonds between the United States and the Commonwealth of Australia, two of the world’s oldest democracies and two of the world’s oldest friends.” He uses the repetition and reference to time to establish an immediate sense of relationship between both countries, both ideologically and on a personal level through the positive connotations of ‘friends’. This sets the tone for the rest of his speech to reflect a friendship between both nations. Furthermore, he connotations associated with ‘oldest’ enforce an inextricable sense of togetherness that transcends time.

The signing of the ANZUS treaty by US secretary of state Forster Dulles, 1951, in San Francisco

Obama continues to provide a personal anecdote of a childhood visit to Australia to create an appeal to the audience’s ethos and create a personal connection. He achieves this through using colloquial Australian language, attempting to speak some “strine” and do some “earbashing”. Here, by creating humour, Obama effectively connects to the cultural profile of Australia and by offering this with the personal anecdote, his audience begins to accept his opinion as he bridges any cultural differences. This ensures he gains a temporary sense of membership to the Australian identity. Furthermore, he employs the use of simile to describe how “it felt like home”, thus Obama positions himself amongst the Australian people.

Obama walks past an honor guard on his arrival to Parliament House in Canberra

Obama continues to create the sense of relationship between the two countries to each other by outlining a shared history. He emphasizes “in each other’s story we see so much of ourselves.” The use of first person plurals creates a sense of unity and inclusion of all Australian and Americans.

Obama addresses a joint setting of the Australian Parliament

Because of the shared experiences and common history, both nations can relate, thus a sense of togetherness through a common history is emphasised. Obama outlines many of experiences shared by both nations. He provides allusions to common historical themes of “ancestors who crossed vast oceans – some by choice, some by chains.” The powerful imagery, enforced by alliteration ensures an emotional shift within his audience who are moved to acknowledge the many aspects of history that both nations can relate to. Obama continues to ensure this sense of relationship transcends time so that an inextricable unity and friendship exists between both countries.

Australian and American flags fly side by side

Obama affirms “from the trenches of the First World War to the mountains of Afghanistan, Aussies and Americans have stood together, we have fought together, and we have given lives together”. Obama employs colloquial reference to Aussies to appeal to ethos and establish a sense of belonging between Australian and American cultures. Furthermore, his repetition of first person plurals ensures the sense of relationship transcends time and conflict.

The United States’ President employs powerful emotive language when describing the ANZUS Treaty. The present participle in “showing that our two nations stood as one” provides a continuing and inextricable bond. Both nations have stood as one in the past and both nations will continue into the future to stand in unity. He continues to affirm this unbreakable bond where “the alliance between the United States and Australia has never been stronger.” The sense of physical strength is a motif within his speech and is effectively employed here to symbolize that in a unity between Australian and the United States, the Asia Pacific will be influences by this inextricable friendship.

Current Prime Minister Tony Abbott talks with President Barack Obama

Obama continues to outline the need for human rights and democracy within the Asia Pacific. He enforces the unity between Australia and the United States as the model for this leadership, acknowledging, “the United States and Australia have a special responsibility to lead.” At all times he addresses both countries in unity together using first person plurals where “we all rise and fall together.”

Ending his speech, Obama reaffirms “this is the story of the alliance we celebrate today.” Once again, he employs first person plurals to create that sense of unity and belonging between both countries. He makes one final emotive appeal showing sincerity saying, “God bless Australia. God bless America. And God bless the friendship between our two peoples.” Obama ends his speech with the recurring theme of friendship and unity between Australia and the United States

Obama shakes hands with Australian troops and US marines in Darwin

During Obama’s visit to Australian in 2011 a commitment was made between Australia and the United States for increased military cooperation between countries.

Obama’s strategic plan to exert more influence over the Asia Pacific region included the deployment of troops, aircraft and ships to Australia’s mainland with an American Army base to opened in Darwin, a city to Australia’s northern reaches. By 2017 2,500 US marines would be stationed their on 6 month intervals.

OBAMA: “The US has no stronger ally than Australia. We are bound by common values, the rights and the freedom that we cherish… With my visit, I am making it clear that the US is stepping up its commitment in the Asia Pacific.”

Then Prime Minister Julia Gillard said “the increased US presence would reinforce stability in the Asia-Pacific.”

President Obama, Prime Minister Gillard and Governor General Quentin Bryce walk past the Wall of Remembrance

Obama addresses Australian and American soldiers and marines


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