Analyzing Michelle Obama’s Political Rhetoric

In her speech campaigning for democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, Michelle Obama uses multiple effective strategies in order to convince the audience of her message: that as women, they must be ready to go to work in order to have a desirable outcome for the upcoming presidential election. This message is especially important to the topics of her speech, including Donald Trump’s treatment of women and the tape of Trump’s words released just days before her speech. Her use of contrasting diction, as well as her use of repetition, and parallel structure magnify the importance of the message she delivered this October 13th.

In the very beginning, she appeals to the audience with her word choice, warming them up to her, and she does this by saying “I am so thrilled to be here with you all,” and “this is like home to me.” She continues to follow a theme of contrasting diction throughout the rest of her speech. She starts by using negative words, such as “obscene,” “basic human decency,” and “violation” when describing Trump and his actions; imposing the feeling of anger towards Trump. By describing his actions with negative diction, she also creates unity between herself and her target audience: women, they are women facing degradation and abuse, together. However, her tone shifts on page 3, as this is when she starts describing Clinton, and everything she stands for. Mrs. Obama poses an uplifting tone, choosing words such as “heal wounds,” “meaningful,” and “successful” which promotes positivity throughout the audience. These two contrasting halves work to first unite the audience towards a common goal, enraging them with her negative diction; then directs their feelings towards something productive, she calls the audience to action, leaving them feeling positive and uplifted with her word choice.

Repetition drastically helped Mrs. Obama drive her points home. On page two, she repeats the words “we” and “we are” consistently. This brings the audience to feel a connection with her; they are grouped together in Michelle Obama’s “we,” they are united. Later, on page four, she repeats familial words and concepts, such as “our children,” “our kids,” “us parents,” and other phrases along those lines. This not only unites the audience as parents, it touches their emotions and their instinct to protect their children. So by mentioning kids, and what it means to be a parent, the first lady plants ideas in the minds of the parents in the audience: that protecting their children, their daughters, means voting for Hillary. Then again on the first page, she repeats phrases like “at the White House,” and “as First Lady” which provide the audience with a reminder of her authority, encouraging their respect and trust, willing them to accept her message and take action with little resistance.

Mrs. Obama’s use of parallel structure is another vital aspect of her argument. On the fourth page, the fifth paragraph consists of sentences that all start with the uniting third person plural: “We have knowledge. We have a voice. We have a vote… We as women, we as Americans, we as decent human beings can come together…” adds emphasis to the fact that the audience and the speaker are together as one. Despite Michelle Obama’s clear authority, she includes the audience which makes them feel important, which in turn makes them willing to do what she asks them to. On the last page, she structures the last paragraph with consecutive questions. This gets the audience’s attention, and the rhetorical nature of her questions encourages her audience to get up on their feet and do what she’s asking them to do.

The contrasting diction in her speech gives Mrs. Obama the power to guide her audience to agree to her requests without question, while also giving her authority. Her repetition of words and ideas strengthens her message, and also adds a lasting effect to the messages she wants them to remember. Lastly, with the use of parallel sentence structure, Michelle Obama is able to create powerful statements that flow in such a way that it draws the audience in. All of these aspects help Mrs. Obama put together an effective argument to convince her audience to take action, knock on doors, and do their best to make a difference in the election.