Did you watch the national political conventions? Which speeches resonated most with you? Why?
Without getting political, it’s safe to say that First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech before the Democratic National Convention was among the most lauded and memorable. It has been mentioned all over social media for much of the last week. Without getting into the meat of it, can we discuss how she did it? (Or, to be more honest, how her speechwriters did it?) I’d like to take a look simply because there is much to learn for anyone in the communication business.
Poynter’s Roy Peter Clark did a masterful job of unpacking it in this blog post. He makes eight points about her oration style and I highly recommend you read his take.
I am not sure I have much to add but I would point out a couple of Clark’s particulars.
Editorial writers, that stuff about liberating your pronouns, that is for you. “We,” “us” and even “I” can make your opinions so much more powerful.
Short sentences rule. “When they go low, we go high.” That is seven words I can remember. …
And, finally, let Clark address this paragraph:
This is the story of this country. The story that has brought me to the stage tonight. The story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, who kept on striving, and hoping, and doing what needed to be done. So that today, I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters — two beautiful intelligent black young women — play with the dog on the White House lawn.
“I feel the mojo in this paragraph,” Clark writes. “The alliteration. The triple use of three examples: story, story, story; lash, shame, sting; striving, hoping, doing. Two powerful sentences follow, one which ends with a great passive construction, ‘a house that was built by slaves’; the next placing the wonderfully familiar (girls playing with dogs) up against the symbolically majestic (the White House lawn).”
Writing is reading with a pen in your hand. You can’t read a paragraph like that without feeling inspired yourself.