This study guide will help you analyze Michelle Obama's speech from 2020. In addition to help with your analysis, you can find a summary of the text and ideas for discussing it. We also help you put the speech in perspective.
Presentation of the text
Title: “Dear Class of 2020” (2020)
Speaker: Michelle Obama
Here, you can read an extract from our study guide:
Obama uses several rhetorical questions that highlight the uncertainty that defines the world in 2020. For example, a rhetorical question shows the difficulty of choosing between earning a living and staying healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic: “Because if you’re required to work during a pandemic, but don’t have enough protective equipment, or health insurance from your employer, or paid sick leave, well, what is more essential, your work, or your life?” (ll. 24-26). Another rhetorical question reinforces the idea that the pandemic has affected all areas of people’s lives: “So, if you’re struggling already just to keep your head above water, if you’re living in a constant state of fear, how much farther behind will you be after months in quarantine and without a job?” (ll. 29-31).
The rhetorical “uncomfortable questions” (l. 31) introduced in the speech also help engage the audience, because they encourage them to think about the next steps in their lives. While Obama claims that she does not have an answer, she provides four life lessons that she hopes will help graduates decide what to do next. Towards the end of the speech, when Obama rhetorically asks “So what does that mean for your time?” (l. 100), the audience is engaged and ready to find out some specific steps meant to ease their transition from high school and university to adult life.