In the class, we learned how to perform rhetorical analysis and text critique. The tasks that are completed while working on this assignment are closely aligned to the course objectives. Thus, for instance, while working on this task, I acquired some valuable experience of identifying the core message, the audience, and the rhetoric instruments that the speaker (in my case, this was Michelle Obama) uses to communicate this message to the audience. The text which is analyzed is Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic Convention. This speech was delivered to support Hillary Clinton’s candidature in presidential elections. I chose this speech because it is a perfect example of a politician’s speech: just as any political speech delivered in support for this or another candidate, Obama’s speech is characterized by some traditional features such as heavy use of multiple stylistic devices, allegory, and imagery. While analyzing this speech, I likewise learnt to identify the audience that a speech targets and to understand how different rhetoric instruments and stylistic devices used impact this audience (i.e. whether they help to reach it or not). Among all else, working on this task helped me to better understand the fundamental basics of persuasive writing.
221 Baker Street
To: Michelle Obama
1 March 2019
Dear Mrs. Obama,
First and foremost, let me thank You for the wonderful speech You delivered in support of Hillary Clinton’s candidature. I would like to elaborate on several aspects of Your speech that attracted my attention most of all.
Let me begin with emphasizing the structuredness of Your speech. I would like to say that You have a clear idea of the argumentation of the speech and the argumentation that is necessary to persuade the audience. For the argumentation, You use the themes of children and the future and this is a good choice. In a nutshell, the thesis is structured in the following manner: Everyone cares about children; children will live in the future; their future will be largely shaped by the elections. In this manner, I would like to emphasize a very wise rhetoric trick of Yours: by speculating on the theme of children, You implicitly argue that every person who cares about children should necessarily care about electing Hillary Clinton. Yet, it should be taken into account that the speech is, to an extent, based on the logic fallacy because it implies that no other candidate but Hillary is concerned about children and their future. In the meantime, this logical fallacy is elaborate and non-vulgar so that it does not stand out to the audience listening to the speech for the first time. On the whole, the use of the theme of children sounds appropriate and relevant.
The extensive use of antithesis for the purpose of praising Clinton’s candidature is something that attracts my attention. You as a speaker had to choose among multiple rhetoric strategies for how to achieve this main goal. Thus, for instance, You could have chosen rich and colorful epithets to describe Clinton’s advantages. Or, You could have used such stylistic device as hyperbole to exaggerate Clinton’s strengths and her opponent’s weaknesses. Your choice, however, is antithesis that works well emphasizing Clinton’s benefits by contrasting what she could have done under certain circumstances and what she did in reality: “Hillary could have decided that this work was too hard, that the price of public service was too high” but she did not give up (Obama 4). This example clearly demonstrates that antithesis is a nice choice. On the one hand, it is more delicate and sophisticated than hyperboles. On the other hand, it is fairly effective in terms of throwing light on Clinton’s positive features.
One more extensively used stylistic device in Your speech is allusions. This is a good choice as allusions help to hint at a particular person without directly naming him or her. In this case, allusions help You to mock at Clinton’s opponent, Donald Trump. Overall, there are two vivid, yet delicately formulated allusions that implicitly point at Trump’s candidature. The first allusion is found in the part where You argue that a person with black-and-white thinking cannot be a president because a president is “someone who understands that the issues a president faces are not black and white and cannot be boiled down to 140 characters” (Obama 4). This statement is a graceful allusion to Trump’s being an active Twitter user. The second allusion is found in the part where You warn the audience against believing someone who says that “this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again” (Obama 7). It is not difficult to recognize Trump behind this “someone.” On the whole, let me emphasize that You use comprehensive and well-thought allusions to persuade the audience that the candidature of Trump is both ridiculous and inappropriate.
The heavy use of parallel constructions (especially at the beginning of the abstracts) also attracts my attention. In Your speech, they assist You in communicating the idea that adults serve as behavior models for their children: “with every word we utter, with every action we take, we know our kids are watching us” (Obama 2). Quite expectedly, the abundance of parallel constructions is accompanied by heavy use of repetitions. For example, Your opening phrase “I want a president who” is encountered three or more times throughout this relatively small speech. In rhetoric, these stylistics devices (i.e. parallel constructions and repetitions) are normally used to make a text look well-organized, consistent, and centered on its major message. It is evident that in Your speech, these devices are likewise used to make the speech sound neat and coherent. The repetition device, in particular, helps You to draw the audience’s attention to the central theme of this speech (i.e. electing the right president). Overall, the use of parallel constructions accompanied by lexical repetitions facilitates the audience’s comprehension; this speech is easily articulated and easily listened to.
- Obama, Michelle. “Michelle Obama, her speech for Hillary Clinton at the Democratic Convention.” LifeGate, 26 Jul. 2016, https://www.lifegate.com>