Rhetorical Analysis of Michelle Obama’s DNC Speech


On September 4, 2012, First Lady Michelle Obama performed her speech at the Democratic National Convention to promote her husband for an additional presidential term. The speech focused primarily on giving the audience insight into Barack Obama’s personal, rather than political, life. For example, Michelle described both her and Barack’s background and upbringing, as well as memories of Barack before he married Michelle or became a senator. The main point Michelle was trying to convey was this: Barack Obama understands the American Dream because he’s lived it. I considered Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention effective due to her proper inclusion of credibility, emotion, and logic.

Use of Credibility

Her primary source of credibility, serving as First Lady, was mentioned throughout the speech, though her audience was already aware of the fact. From the very beginning of her speech Michelle described experiences relating to her point, an additional source of credibility . After claiming to have seen the best of the American spirit while touring the country as first lady, she immediately relates to specific encounters such as teachers in a poor district agreeing to work with no pay, wounded soldiers vowing to not only walk again but run marathons, and young men injured in Afghanistan willing to do it all over again for America. To prove she understands the struggle low-income families experience when trying to put their kids through college, she recounted memories of how her father fought to put her and her brother into college, and how they still went primarily on loans and grants. By illustrating personal examples, Michelle built up her credibility and gained trust from her audience.

Use of Emotion

Michelle used emotion as her strongest force to convey her speech through moments where she described others’ trials, hardships, and successes as the result of hard work. Throughout her speech she gained much applause, and occasionally laughter from her audience, whose energy was already driven to the max before Michelle even began to speak. The stories she told of her encounters with American dreamers thrived off of the emotion of the dreamers and her audience and earned much applause. Phrases like “inspire me”, “make me proud”, and “how blessed we are” illustrate her feelings for the citizens of the United States.  As Michelle described the struggles both her and Barack’s parents/grandparents went through, most of us either sympathized  or felt like we understood their hardships.  We felt pride in our country when she told the story of the wounded soldiers will to do it all over.  Although she did not instill fear by describing the harmful (From her point of view) effects of Romney’s policies, she did, at the end of her speech, say that if we want to leave a better world for our children, then we need to come together and vote for Obama, the man who she believes can take us forward. By remembering and sharing all of the trials and sacrifices made to allow us to make our own decisions, Michelle convinced her audience that we would be neglecting our fought-for right by choosing not to vote.

Use of Logic

Logic, in my opinion, was probably Michelle’s weakest factor of persuasion in this particular speech. Though she didn’t use any statistics regarding her husband’s policies versus Romney’s, Michelle used logic to convince her audience that Obama has the most effective plans for our country. Instead of explaining the predicted effects of Obama’s various policies, Michelle describes his plans as a result of current or past occurrences. For example, when she reminded the audience of the trials of her and Barack’s parents/grandparents, she also remarked that those experiences constituted the reason that Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, cut taxes for working families,  improved the economy by creating jobs,  and challenged health reform.

The speech given by Michelle Obama at the 2012 Democratic National Convention was an effective attempt at proving that Barack Obama is the right choice for President, considering her audience.  Her wise use of credibility, emotion, and logic served to persuasively convey her main point-that Barack Obama understands the American Dream because he’s lived it.


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