The speech was held by the First Lady, Michelle Obama, at the DC High School as an educational event for the sophomores. The overriding subject of the speech is education which is an area Michelle Obama and her husband, Barack Obama, has spent a lot of time and resources on. After the introduction of the speech she speaks of a goal that her husband has set for America. She tells that it should be the goal of the entire country to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world in 2020. She explains that it is very important because America was number one in college graduates a generation ago and now they are 12th. After that she changes the point of view on the subject from what it means for USA as a country, to what it means for every single student as an individual and points out that they should do it for their own sake. She mentions that two-thirds of all jobs in the country will be requiring some sort of education or training beyond high school in the future. She uses her own story as an example and motivation for the students because she faced a lot of obstacles when she was at their age. The sender of the speech is Michelle Obama who is the First Lady of the United States.
The fact that she is the First Lady gives her a lot of ethos, which makes her points and opinions more reliable and convincing. Even if she got a lot of ethos as the First Lady her husband, the president, has even more ethos, and when she speaks on behalf of him and his opinions she sort of “borrows” that ethos. Apart from the ethos Michelle Obama also uses the two other appeal forms in her speech. She uses pathos when she mentions the audience and even the country as “we.” It appeals to their feelings for the community and even their patriotic feelings towards their country. It also shows the students that she is no different from them, when she says “we” instead of “you” and “I” which makes her story about her education much more inspiring. She also uses pathos when she says “…you all are going to need some form of higher education in order to build the kind of lives that you want for yourselves, good careers, to be able to provide for your family.” By saying that she both appeals to their individual, egoistic feelings and objectives in order to get a prestigious, lucrative career, which appeals to some people, while the part about providing for your family appeals to the familial feelings which is important for other people.
Lastly she uses logos when she says that two-thirds of all jobs will require some training or education in the future because it is obvious for a rationally thinking person that you will have greater chances of getting a job if you have a great education. The audience of the speech is the sophomores of the DC High School. That means that she needs to keep the speech relatively simple, as her audience isn’t very old. As mentioned earlier the speech was held during an educational event. That is the circumstance of the speech and under that she addresses the topic education. The purpose of the speech is to motivate the students to continue their education when they have finished high school in order to succeed later in life. Other than the appeal forms she also uses rhetorical language or rhetorical tricks to motivate and convince the students to continue their education. One of the most important parts of the text is the goal for 2020 which Barack Obama mentions as the North Star goal. This is especially important because Michelle Obama mentions it twice in her speech. She mentions it in the start when she tells about the goal for 2020 and refers to it as the North Star goal. Later on, at the conclusion of the speech, she tells that her college diploma from Princeton University were her personal North Star goal.
North Star is a simile which shows that people should walk towards their North Star goal even though it seemed to be out of reach, like the wise men did when they were looking for Jesus. The North Star goal is the connection between the objective for the entire nation and the objective for each individual student, as every student would have to fight to reach their personal North Star goal, like Michelle Obama did, to make it possible for the nation to reach the big North Star goal. Another trick that Michelle Obama uses is anaphora. She says “Plus, I knew I couldn’t afford to go on a bunch of college visits. I couldn’t hire a personal tutor. I couldn’t enroll in SAT prep classes.” She uses this anaphora where she repeats the words “I couldn’t” to point out how many obstacles she fought through in order to reach her North Star goal. This should make the students realize that it is possible for everybody to get an education no matter their social background, if just they fight hard for it.
Another example of anaphora is when she says “That’s how me, that’s how Menbere, that’s how so many other students have overcome adversities to reach our goals.” That once again makes it clear that everyone can get an education and that it is very important to get an education that goes beyond high school. Even though the speech is relatively short, it is easy to see that Michelle Obama is an excellent speaker. She uses a wide range of rhetorical tricks and appeal forms to make her messages and opinions about education clear and convincing. She both appeals to the feelings of the individual and the society by using logos, pathos and ethos which makes the speech appealing to as many people as possible. She connects the start and end of the speech with the reference to the North Star goal which makes the speech more impactful and gives the students something that is easy to remember from the speech.