Michelle Obama recently gave a speech in New Hampshire, a swing state, after Donald Trump made obscene comments about women and had multiple sexual assault cases filed against him. Michelle Obama articulates her main goal of persuading people, especially women, to vote throughout the speech. Michelle repeats certain words and phrases to add emphasis to the argument she composes. She uses pronouns to identify groups of people and unnamed people during the speech to allow the listener to infer who she is talking about, but also to help clarify her main goal. Michelle Obama utilizes short sentences to back up her objective as well.
From the start, Michelle Obama begins her speech with repeatedly thanking the audience for being there to let them know she appreciates their presence. As the speech proceeds, she uses repetition strategically when emphasizing a point. Michelle Obama takes advantage of mild repetition towards the beginning when she wants the listener to understand and possibly relate to the everyday struggles women deal with. She says, “The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect… And the truth is, it hurts. It hurts.” She emphasizes “it hurts” to allow the listener to soak in what is being said, and to fully recognize that “it hurts” is the simplest way to put what many women feel everyday.
Throughout the last few paragraphs of her speech, Michelle Obama mentions the date of election day, “November 8th,” as well as the words “Election Day” multiple times to enforce her main idea of voting. Towards the end, Michelle is less than subtle about her repetition. At this point, she outwardly suggests that the listener vote because that vote “could determine whether we have a President who treats people with respect–or not. A President who will fight for kids… for our families–or not. A President who thinks women deserve the right to make our own choices about our bodies and our health–or not.” Michelle uses this form of repetition to give her audience a choice between the two presidential candidates and allow them to evaluate what each one will do for them without mentioning the candidates names.
Michelle Obama uses pronouns throughout her speech to suggest and imply the different arguments she composes. The pronouns “we” and “us” evolve during the speech. “We” and “us” begin by meaning women as a whole, “…trying to pretend like this doesn’t really bother us maybe because we think that admitting how much it hurts makes us as women look weak.” After a while, Michelle brings men and boys into the speech, which broadens the “we” and the “us.” Michelle Obama starts off by saying, “Strong men–men who are truly role models–don’t need to put women down to make themselves feel powerful.” Then she broadens her audience to people in general, “People who are truly strong lift others up.” Towards the end of this paragraph, she uses the “we” as in women and men, “And that is what we need in our next President.” After this moment, the “we” and “us” means the country, both men and women, as a whole that need to work together. By doing this, the listener feels included in the speech and is able to recognize what they can do for the country. Using these pronouns reaches out to the listener to make the speech more personal.
Michelle Obama doesn’t only use “we” and “us,” she also uses “he” and “candidate for President of the Unites States” in reference to Donald Trump without mentioning Trump’s name. She mentions that Trump’s inappropriate comments about women were not “an isolated incident. It’s one of the countless examples of how he has treated women his whole life.” Without ever mentioning his name, Michelle Obama is able to identify Trump and his many actions. This forced the listener to identify and think about who Michelle is speaking of. From there, with an image of Donald Trump in their minds, those listening can form their own opinion on the topics Michelle covers.
The last form of rhetoric Michelle Obama aids her argument by is using short and direct sentences. These sentences emphasize exactly what she is trying to say. Nearing the end of her speech when she began to push for the audience to vote, she said, “We have knowledge. We have a voice. We have a vote.” These three, short sentences jump straight to the point: we’re smart, so vote. Michelle Obama usually used these sentences when she was close to wrapping up an argument so the audience, if they had not been listening or were tuning in on the T.V. at that time, would be able to hear a direct, short-and-sweet summary of what she had been saying. Michelle Obama also used short sentences when describing Trump’s degrading words about women, saying, “This is not normal. This is not politics as usual. This is disgraceful. It is intolerable.” These are clarifying sentences that say a lot in a few words.
Michelle Obama incorporated many uses of rhetoric in her speech through short sentences, her use of pronouns, and repetition. These characteristics of her speech were used to have an effect on her projected audience–women, men, parents, and all of the United States. By the end of the speech, her goal was clear: to convince people to vote and to vote for Hillary Clinton. Michelle’s speech was a great example of use of rhetoric to gently persuade her audience in one direction. The audience was energized due to Michelle’s use of different rhetorical devices. For instance when Michelle said, “Because remember this: When they go low, we go…” and the audience responded with, “High!”