Rhetorical devices


Direct Address

Obama uses direct address throughout her graduation speech. The rhetorical device helps keep the audience engaged, as Obama talks about the experiences that matter to young graduates: 

It is an honor to be here with you to help celebrate this amazing milestone in your lives. Graduation from college or high school is a culmination of years of hard work, so please enjoy this moment. You deserve this celebration. Congratulations. (ll. 2-4)

In this example, Obama engages the audience by praising them for their efforts in high school and university. 

Later on, Obama uses direct address to engage the audience and to say that she understands their emotions: “So, if any of you are scared, or confused or angry or just plain overwhelmed by it all, if you feel like you’re searching for a lifeline just to steady yourself, you are not alone” (ll. 14-15). Here, she shows them that she understands what they are going through and that she shares their feelings. 

Then, Obama uses direct address to target American citizens who struggle because of injustice: “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). Here, she targets essential workers and people whose employers do not treat them right. 

Overall, Obama engages the audience when the direct address refers to shared experiences and shared goals. In the following example, the plural “us” sh...

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