Michelle Obama’s DNC Speech

Speeches are essential in politics, and especially now, with 24/7 news coverage, speeches play a much more important role than ever before because they are free to be analyzed over and over. I think that Michelle Obama’s DNC speech is interesting to analyze because it was the keynote address on the first day of the convention, but she is not a politician herself. She was there to give a more personal view of her husband, and discuss why he should be President. This speech was to a Democratic convention that would make her husband the Presidential nominee, but perhaps more importantly, it was to the United States as a whole, to help convince them that her husband deserved to become President. The audience for this speech was not only supporters, but also critics of her husband, not just Democrats but also Republicans, not just Americans, but the world as well. This makes it a fascinating situation, because while in the room she had support around her, but the speech would be shown to non supporters as well. Thus, her audience was broad and had many different viewpoints, which made it an interesting situation.

I think it is fitting that she begins the speech by talking about her family, and where she came from — it gives her a bond with the audience, and as she is speaking as a family member, not a politician, she needs to show the audience why she is qualified to speak about her husband — and it is because of her knowledge of him on a personal level. Thus, she immediately establishes her ethos. Pathos is also established early on, as by connecting with the audience on a personal level through personal stories, she is generating emotion in them as they are able to see Barack Obama as a person. She brings up her father’s memory frequently, which also stirs emotion. By taking the audience through her journey, she really establishes pathos because they are able to see where she is coming from emotionally. Michelle Obama also establishes logos — she brings up concrete reasons for why her husband should be President — he will bind the country together, he is committed, he has shown in the past that he is qualified, etc. While she is clearly there to focus on the more personal, emotional aspects, by combining concrete reasons as well, she is able to come off as supporting him for reasons beyond him being her husband. She can make an impact by connecting personally, then giving logical reasons, because the audience has begun to trust her. This combination of showing insight into what level she knows him on (ethos), the difficult journey she has been on in her life (creating pathos), and reasons why he should be President (logos) makes her an effective opening speaker, because she is able to bring unique insight into Barack Obama as a person, not just a politician — few people are able to do that better than Michelle Obama.

The speech was also well written and well delivered. At a convention it can be difficult to gain continuity because applause interrupts so often, but she was prepared with the proper places to pause, and how to make it cohesive. This is largely due to the fact that the speech is written so it flows well — she begins on a more personal level, before discussing where the country is at the time, and then moving onto exactly why Obama should be president. She is clearly composed and well rehearsed, and she connected with the audience through eye contact and gestures. On such a big stage, for someone who up until that point had not been a public figure, she is able to really make an impact — probably because she comes off as genuine in a way that politicians who give so many speeches do not. She brings the element of family in, and the story telling of her speech makes you feel like she is really letting you know something about her, and that makes the audience pay attention. Because her audience is so divided on their opinions, by keeping the speech largely to a personal level, she is able to make everyone relate regardless of their political beliefs. I think this ability to connect with everyone is what makes this speech so effective. It is a unique situation to be a speaker at a convention with so many different elements, but I believe the personal aspect of this speech is what makes it stand out — it makes this speech appeal to a broader audience than the more politically centered speeches, and I think it was a very important element of the convention.

What do you think of this speech? Was she able to connect with her broad audience in an effective manner?

-Amanda Daniels


1 comment so far

  1. eberg5 on

    This speech is a great example of how to approach an audience that may not be ready to here your speech. I’m sure many audience members at the convention were apprehensive to hear Michelle Obama talk. Also, I’m sure the audience heard many speeches and were most likely overwhelmed by the entire experience. In this situation the approach to the speech and diction is extremely important. Michelle did a great job appealing to the audience by uniting everyone towards a common goal of bettering America. Her emotion and passion through her words added to her ethos and pathos. Overall, Michelle had a successful rhetorical situation.

    Erika Berg

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