Rhetorical Analysis Of Michelle Obama's They Say/I Say

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In her 2013 “Bowie State University Commencement Speech”, found in They Say/I Say, Michelle Obama, the current First Lady of the United States, uses several rhetorical strategies, including historical references and appeals to emotion and history, in order to drive her central message of the importance of education and the responsibly of her audience to deliver the legacy of education to the next generation. Throughout the piece, Obama relays a historical analysis of the progress made in education for African Americans, including an exploration of the toil and sacrifice made over the decades so that that progress could come to pass. She concludes by calling the graduating students to action to carry on the legacy of educational excellence that…show more content…
That is, to detail the sacrifice made over the decades in so that people could have equal access to education. Obama qualifies this point by describing numerous historical events, including the founding of Bowie State University in 1865, shortly after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (288). She highlights the uniqueness of the University as it was founded for black students because “…in many parts of the parts of this country, it was illegal for black people to get an education.” (288). She accounts that slaves “could be beaten within an inch of their lives” if the sought to acquire a remotely decent education. Obama continues her historical account as she describes the travail and bravery that a few people possessed that led them to afford educational opportunities for black people even when “Teachers received death threats.” (289). She evokes these historical events, not only to show the stark difference between the past and present with regards to educational opportunities for African Americans, but also demonstrate how the people who fought tirelessly so that they could gain an education did so because of they were aware of the value of education as it brings freedom and opportunity to those who have it. To bolster this assertion, Obama quotes Fredrick Douglas, “Freedom is Emancipation” (289) Obama details even further as she
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