Fathers of the Nation: Barack Obama Addresses Nelson Mandela


  • Elisa Bordin Università degli Studi di Padova; Università degli Studi di Verona



Parole chiave:

Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, genealogy, nationhood


This essay analyzes Barack Obama’s Nelson Mandela Memorial speech together with other seminal texts of Obama’s political and personal creed, such as his book Dreams from My Father (1995) and his speech “A More Perfect Union” (2008). This reading becomes helpful to understand Mandela’s transnational power, which Obama uses to comment on the United States by comparing Madiba to other American “fathers of the nation.” Thus, he uproots Mandela’s from a specifically South African legacy, expands his figure, and addresses him as a transnational father of his own nation, whose power, influence, and example transcend South African borders. As a consequence of this enlargement and transnational validation of Mandela’s figure, the speech delivered at the Memorial becomes an occasion to tackle American past and future, while the memory of Madiba and his driving example in Obama’s life serve to reinforce previous positions conveyed in other discourses by the American President, such as the “A More Perfect Union” speech delivered in Philadelphia in 2008.

Biografia autore

Elisa Bordin, Università degli Studi di Padova; Università degli Studi di Verona

Elisa Bordin teaches American Literature at the University of Padua and English Language for Communication Sciences at the University of Verona, where she also received her Ph.D. with a thesis on masculinity and westerns. Her research areas include language policies and practices; gender studies; literature and cinema of American minorities. She is a member of the editorial board of the online journal Iperstoria. Testi, Letterature, Linguaggi.




Come citare

Bordin, Elisa. 2014. «Fathers of the Nation: Barack Obama Addresses Nelson Mandela». Altre Modernità, n. 12 (novembre):29-39. https://doi.org/10.13130/2035-7680/4468.



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