Rhetorical Analysis of Michelle Obama’s Speech- DRAFT

Days before Michelle Obama delivered her speech to New Hampshire on republican nominee Donald Trump’s alleged treatment of women, a tape of him talking about sexually assaulting women had just been released. Obama gave this speech this context, and in the context of the upcoming Election day. The speech could be considered a presidential speech- after all it is endorsing Hillary Clinton being elected president. However, it really is more of an inspirational speech, rallying up her audience; Obama is telling her audience to go out and vote, and to not let Donald Trump become the President.

The speech was very effective: Obama clearly used her authoritative power as the First Lady to convince the audience that she was worth listening to, it appealed to the fear and anger of the women in the crowd, and it appealed to the logic of those who want to vote for the more logical, qualified candidate.

From the beginning of her speech, Michelle Obama established her authority (or ethos) of being First Lady as the speaker. The first anecdote used was an event held at the White House, and throughout the speech she refers to her and Barack Obama’s law degrees. At the end of the speech, she convinces the audience that every vote counts by referring to Mr. Obama’s election. Most of her authority in this speech, however, comes from her experience as a woman. The speech was a response to Trump’s alleged treatment of women, therefore it was directed at women- So the most effective speaker would be a woman. Obama uses this, constantly referring to the audience as “we,” and saying “us women.” For example, referring to Trump’s comments she said, “And I have to tell you that I listen to all of this and I feel it so personally, and I’m sure that many of you do too, particularly the women. The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect.” This kind of language and personal connection to the audience makes the listeners feel like Obama has their best interest in mind, and that listening to her message will benefit them. The audience is more likely to trust her, and follow her lead.

Nonetheless, the event that Obama spoke of at the beginning of her speech which was held at the White House, was the celebration of the International Day of the Girl and Let Girls Learn. This set up her audience very effectively (using pathos). At the beginning she said, “And we talked about their hopes and dreams. We talked about their aspirations. See, because many of these girls have faced unthinkable obstacles just to attend school, jeopardizing their personal safety, their freedom, risking the rejection of their families and communities.” Throughout the speech she referred to women’s hopes, dreams, and aspirations. This repetition helped the audience to keep a theme in their minds about women and what they face to be successful; The obstacles and risking of personal safety she refers to is an appeal to the audience’s fear. The concern in Obama’s speech is directed at the idea that people like Trump are the basis of women’s obstacles, and that if he becomes president women will be in danger. Not only that, Obama says, but also the men in this country are in danger of being influenced by Trump.

Those concerns are expressed effectively with strong diction when Obama says, “This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behaviour, and actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language so obscene that many of us were worried about our children hearing it when we turn on the TV.”

Michelle Obama also appealed to the logic (or logos) of the audience. She told an anecdote about how someone’s six-year-old son decided that because Trump called someone a piggy, he should not be president. Obama stated, “So even a six-year-old knows better. A six-year-old knows that this is not how adults behave. This is not how decent human beings behave. And this is certainly not how someone who wants to be President of the United States behaves.” In this quote, not only is Obama appealing to the audience’s sense of logic, but she is also using parallel structure in her sentences to give her message more emphasis. Also, she lays out her speech logically: Criticizing Donald Trump’s comments and breaking down the negative affects his presidency would have on America (negative tone); And then, slowly uplifting the audience with Hillary Clinton’s opposing views and outcomes; Finally, she ended with the inspirational message to vote for the woman that will protect everyone, who will make a difference, who will more our country forward.


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