Published In

Metaphor and the Social World

Document Type


Publication Date



Metaphor -- Interpretation


This paper examines President Barack Obama’s use of contrasting metaphors and metaphorical stories to frame the issue of climate change and the associated political controversies in a major policy speech at Georgetown University in 2013. One major theme in the speech contrasted a series of metaphors based on violence and destruction with a series of metaphors based on peace, tranquility, and health, all within an overall framing story about the Apollo 8 astronauts and the picture they took of the Earth from lunar orbit. Another major theme is the contrast between metaphors of passivity or obstruction and metaphors of movement and dynamic activity. Within these two sets of thematic contrasts are more subtle contrasts between metaphors associated with the effects of climate change and metaphors associated with ameliorative actions to counteract climate change. All of these themes are presented in a way that fails to acknowledge – and implicitly discredits – possible alternative frames: This, plus the obstruction / movement contrast, effectively aggravates the frame conflicts that have stymied fruitful discussion of these issues throughout the Obama administration. We close the analysis with some specific recommendations for increasing the potential for empathetic understanding through explicit awareness of the framing effects of language.


© 2015 John Benjamins Publishing Company.


This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Metaphor & the Social World. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published.



Persistent Identifier

Included in

Communication Commons