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Liz Ristau and Tammie Crear

CMST 283
Dr. Falc
November 30th, 2012
Contemporary Criticism: A Pentad Analysis of the Heath Care Reform
Bill
Introduction
President Obama shows that he truly cares for the well being of
every single American citizen with his assertive struggle for getting
this reform bill to pass. As this affects every citizen of the United
States, it should be amongst the concerns of every citizen. The
purpose of this speech is to make sure that everyone is able to afford
heath care coverage, and with this health care reform bill everyone will
be able to do such, with multiple options available.
This essay aims to analyze the rhetorical elements of President
Obamas speech via Burkes Pentad. The five elements; the act, the
agency, agent, motive and the scene are described throughout this
paper. While all five elements of the pentad are demonstrated,
President Obama uses persuasion by referencing the act and agent
ratio by successfully presenting what he wants to accomplish by
imposing the Healthcare Reform Bill.
Description of the Artifact
For some background information, the main purpose of this
reform bill is to ensure that everyone has the option to have health
care, specifically those aged 18-26. On March 23, 2010 the Health Care
Reform Bill proposed by President Barack Obama was passed. This
legislation will also lower costs for families and for businesses and for
the federal government, reducing our deficit by over one trillion dollars
in the next two decades (American Rhetoric, 1). President Obama
speaks on how the reform has also been set up to prevent abuse or
denial, along with preventing discrimination against those who already
have pre-existing conditions. By cutting overspending, waste, fraud
and abuse it is meant to keep our economy stable. Those who fall into
the Medicare Part D Donut Hole will now be covered instead of being
forced to suffer.
As a result of the new Healthcare Bill many who were once
without coverage or were unable to pay for coverage are now able to
receive it through the multiple options now available. The things that
are mentioned in the rest of this paragraph are changes that are being
made; we bow see an increate in coverage in college age students,
who are now able to stay covered under their parents until age 26.As
stated IN President Obamas speech on the Healthcare Reform Bill in
the first quarter of 2011, the percentage of adults between the ages of
19 and 25 with health insurance increased to 69.6%, from 66.1% in

2010. (U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services, 1). The


address on Signing Heath Care Reform Bill Into Law was delivered on
March 23, 2010 in Washington D.C. That meant with this increase one
million new young adults with have health insurance. This health care
reform makes insurance more affordable, ten million families and small
business owners will receive the biggest middle class tax cuts, 95% of
Americans will be insured do to this (White House Government, 1). It
also puts the middle class on the same level with Congress as far as
receiving the same choices and insurance. This reform had also been
set up to prevent abuse or denial, along with preventing discrimination
against those who already have pre-existing conditions. It is also
meant to keep our economy stable and by cutting government
overspending and reining in waste, fraud and abuse. The reform also
looks to make some changes in the Affordable Care Act and Patient
Protection; eliminating the FMAP while financing the increase in use
Medicaid, making insurance affordable for families and individuals,
prevent abuse of Medicare and Medicaid. It wasnt an easy and simple
process to pass the Healthcare Reform Bill with everything covered,
however through persuasion President Obama has backed the
American People and using their best interest as his guide.
President Obama took many steps, gave many speeches and
held multiple question and answer meetings in order to get followers to
get this health care reform bill up and running. He clearly lets the
audience know that there will not be instant results as he states that it
will take 4 years to get things started. In early 2009 President Obama
gave two speeches, to the White House Summit and then another to
Congress, explaining that Health Care is essential for our economy and
to create jobs. In September 2009 The President addresses a joint
session in Congress on the bill, where he tries to use pathos to get the
Congress to try and relate or imagine what it is like for the middle class
and lower class people who are uninsured. In the first three months of
2010 President Obama presents the Reform Bill three times; first is the
State of the Union Address, next is during the Bipartisan Summit at the
White House and the last is when the President signs the Affordable
Care Act.
On June 10, 2010 President Obama speaks about the first
benefit of the Affordable Care Act after people in the Medicare Part D
Donut Hole receive their first check for $250. (Bahari, 1) The Donut
Hole is when your prescription costs are paid for in half until you
(combined with the half that you are not paying) have spent $2,840,
after that you will have to pay in full. But then after you have paid up
to $4550 out of your pocket your drug payment plan will pick up most
of the covered drug costs for the remainder of the year. You are still
expected to pay a small part, the copayment, this whole thing is known
as catastrophic coverage. For many people, if not most, this will be a
huge weight lifted off of their shoulders. Less then a month later, July 1

2010, results are being seen once again for those who have preexisting conditions. On January 1st 2011 Free Preventative Care for
Senior Citizens was put in place and receive a 50% discount when
buying certain Medicare covered prescription drugs. As of December
14, 2011, a law was passed that allowed young adults up to the age of
26 to be covered under their parents health insurance plans. Over 2
million small business owners are now being refunded and receive
coverage due to this Reform Bill. The Affordable Care Act, as of
February 8th 2012, now helps prevent fraud and protect taxpayers
dollars. Americans who do not spend over 80% of their income on
medical care will be receiving rebate checks. Women can now schedule
well woman visits (things like mammograms, screenings for cervical
cancer) and receive free contraception.
As stated in the speech at the start of 2013 Medicare and
Medicaid patients will see improvements in quality and more funding
for preventive services. And in 2014 there are two new changes that
will be taking place; new patients are protected which means they
cannot be discriminated in anyway or charged high rates and
Affordable Insurance Exchanges (which includes where Congress gets
their health insurance) will be available to those who do not have
coverage. We are a nation that faces its challenges and accepts its
responsibilities. We are a nation that does what is hard. What is
necessary. What is right. Here, in this country, we shape our own
destiny. That is what we do. That is who we are. That is what makes
us the United States of America. (American Rhetoric, 1).
Description of the Critical Method
The pentad is a tool of analysis that lets us trace how our worlds
are constructed through rhetoric. In doing so, we also understand the
various motives, or situations that determine how individual rhetors
size up the situations they face (Borchers, 2006, p. 152). The terms
intermingle and create spectacle amongst each other. Five terms
compromise the pentad; act, scene, agent, agency and purpose.
In a rounded statement about motives, you must have some
word that names the act (names what took place, in thought or
deed), and another that names the scene (the background of the
act, the situation in which it occurred); also, you must indicate
what person or kind of person (agent) performed the act, what
means or instruments he used (agency) and the purpose
(Borchers, 1).
To better understand these terms, it is easiest to break them on an
individual level. When you break down the elements it shows how they
relate with each other. When all of the elements interrelate with each
other one can witness the strategies of rhetoric.
Report the Findings of the Analysis
The first element to be analyzed is the Act. The Act is described
as what happens or takes place. In this reading of the speech the act

was that the healthcare reform bill was passed. President Obama
preaches the necessity for all Americans to be covered which is the
basic purpose to secure all citizens have the right to healthcare
coverage. Obamas act is to directly assess the nation and explain
these changes will be put into law. He explains that he will try to
address and change the current downfall situation of our health care
and make coverage available for all. This shows that The President
truly cares for the citizens of the United States and wants to rebuild our
nations current health care state.
This year, tens of thousands of uninsured Americans with
preexisting conditions, the parents of children who have a
preexisting condition, will finally be able to purchase the
coverage they need This year, insurance companies will no
longer be able to drop peoples coverage when they get
sick. They wont be able to place lifetime limits or restrictive
annual limits on the amount of care they can receive This year,
all new insurance plans will be required to offer free preventive
care. And this year, young adults will be able to stay on their
parents policies until theyre 26 years old. (American Rhetoric,
1).
The Republican dominated states, which tend to be states in the center
of our nation or in the Deep South, are not happy with this reform bill
and since his re-election have petitioned to succeed from the Union.
The second element to be analyzed is the Scene. The Scene is
described as the context or background of the action. We firmly think
that the scene is that millions of Americans who could not afford
coverage or were not qualified are now able to receive coverage. The
scene directly relates to the act because these millions of uncovered
Americans are being fought for. The reason the Bill was passed was
that there is a shortage of health care options and everyone was
familiar with someone who fell into this health care gap. The fact that
the President along with his democratic followers pushed for this Bill
made this a widely known issue.
The third element to be analyzed is the Agent. The Agent is
described as the person or persons who perform the act. The Agent in
this speech would clearly be President Obama, while this is easily
pointed out, but he is not the only supporter of this reform. The men
and women of the United States Congress, whove taken their lumps
during this difficult debate (American Rhetoric, 1); Those who helped
pass this bill include: Secretary of Health and Human Services,
Kathleen Sebelius, who previously was Kansas Governor. President
Obamas Counselor and Director of the White House Office for
Healthcare Reform, Nancy Ann DeParle. As well as significantly effected
Americans Ryan Smith a small business owner, Marcelas Owens who
lost his mother due to illness because the family lacked healthcare
coverage, and Natoma Canfield who gave up healthcare coverage in

order to keep her family home from foreclosure. As well as many other
Congress members, Lobbyist, and the American citizens were also
behind this Healthcare Reform Bill. One of the main issues that
President Obama pushed for during his campaign run was Heath Care.
The citizens will normally question what the new president will do but
we think the question at hand is what will the President do now that he
is in office for a second term. Many people are disappointed that he
was re-elected due to what they think is poor decision making but
President Obama never directly makes a decision or passes anything
without the approval of the Congress.
The fourth element we analyze is the Agency. The Agency is
described as the means through which the action takes place. After
over a year of debate (American Rhetoric, 1) it was shown that
Congress had finally understoof the reasons for which President Obama
was behind the bill; just as many past Presidents have tried for a
similar outcome regarding equal healthcare coverage for all citizens.
We saw the agency to be the men and women of Congress along with
their votes. Kathleen Sebelius and Nancy Ann DeParle, as well as and
President Obamas focus on American citizens like Ryan Smith,
Marcelas Owens and Natoma Canfield. As President Obama signed this
reform into law, he took many steps, gave many speeches and held
multiple question and answer meetings in order to get followers to get
this heath care reform bill up and running. In early 2009 President
Obama gave two speeches, to the White House Summit and then
another to Congress, explaining that Health Care is essential for our
economy and to create jobs. The President holds a joint session in
Congress where he addresses the bill in early September 2009, he tries
to get Congress to put themselves in the middle class or lower class
peoples shoes and imagine what its like being uninsured using pathos.
During January, February and March of 2010 The President presents
the reform bill three different times; first at the State of the Union
Address, then during the Bipartisan Summit and then when he signs
the Affordable Health Care Act.
The Purpose is the fifth element that we analyzed. The purpose
is described as the reason an action took place. We found the purpose
of this reform bill to be that it ensures basic coverage for all Americans,
not just the ones who can afford it.
And we have now just enshrined, as soon as I sign this bill, the
core principle that everybody should have some basic security
when it comes to their health care. And it is an extraordinary
achievement that has happened because of all of you and all the
advocates all across the country. (American Rhetoric, 1).
The basic security of this reform bill is especially significant for those
aged 18-26 and those who fall into the Medicare Part D Donut Hole It
will reassure parents that their children will continue to have

healthcare coverage although they are currently in school or are in a


life transition heading into the workforce.
Interpretation and Evaluation
All the elements work together in this speech in order for this
speechs message to successfully get across to the intended audience.
Burkes Pentad is used to show that the Act itself is the main point as it
is the most important of the five elements. The Pentad tries to explain
the inter-workings of the five terms and how they work together.
The Scene is a modification of the Act because it explains the
initial reason for the act. Or in another way it explains the reason why
the Act even exists. It sets the stage for Obama and gives the
President reason to present this Bill to the people. As the concern with
many Americans, health insurance is a necessity and with the costly
health insurance options, many are looking for alternatives so they will
not lose their homes to foreclosure.
The agent modifies the Act because Obama is in the powerful
position of President. With this power he holds he push for this reform
to be passed, especially since he is in such a high position. He
personally takes it upon himself to show his care for American people
to make sure that they have the options available for health care.
The agency modifies the Act because this reform Bill is presented
orally by President Obama. The President realizes that there is a huge
need for change in the way that the American health care systems
work and does what he can to change it for the better of the people.
He speaks for the citizens who, if not for Obama, would probably have
gone unheard. By doing just so he gains the confidence of his followers
and possibly those who were on the fence.
The purpose affects the Act because it shows that The President
has a plan in place and is taking the first steps in order to put the plan
in motion. He made use of the time given for his speech to gain the
trust of Americans that were going to benefit the most from this bill.
President Obamas speech used stories of those who have been
affected from not having insurance.
It will take four years to implement fully many of these reforms,
because we need to implement them responsibly (American
Rhetoric, 1). It has been two years since this speech was given and it
will be interesting to see how much of this Bill is actually acted upon
now that President Obama has been elected for a second term.
Conclusion
In conclusion, by using the Burkes Pentad it allows us to take a
closer look at how all of the elements work amongst each other in this
Health Care Reform Bill speech presented by President Obama. All five
of the elements drastically affect the rhetorical construction of this
speech. However, the ration between the two main terms, which are
the act and the agent, which shape the way the speech is presented.

All of these terms shape the way the speech is presented, although,
when these five terms are all used together they allow President
Obama to present this speech in the most rhetorical sense.

Works Cited
American Rhetoric . N.p., 23 Mar. 2010 . Web. 13 Nov. 2012.
<http://americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamahe
althreformbillsigning.htm>.

Borchers, Timothy. Rhetorical Theory: An Introduction. Long Grove:


Waveland Press, Inc., 2006. Print.