Michelle Obama and her husband Barack Obama have long been two of my favourite public speakers. I admire them both for their passion, eloquence and grace each time they take to the podium.
Her final speech on Friday as First Lady was no exception as she reflected on her time in the White House delivering an impassioned speech of hope to young people. In a climate of fear, uncertainty and divisiveness she told young people “Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered.”
As an accomplished and greatly admired public speaker it was inevitable that her final speech would be a stirring one. Here is what I believe made this speech one which will be remembered.
“Don’t be afraid”
I believe that she demonstrated this beautifully herself through her tacit rebuke to Donald Trump who she didn’t name but didn’t have to.
Her personal absence of fear was elicited in her direct reminder to a nation that:
“Our glorious diversity — our diversities of faiths, and colors, and creeds — that is not a threat to who we are; it makes us who we are,”
In her continued quest to admonish fear she focused her audience’s attention on just how much each of them mattered:
“So to the young people here and the young people out there: Do not ever let anybody make you feel like you don’t matter or like you don’t have a place in our American story because you do, and you have a right to be exactly who you are.”
Calling for people to live in hope rather than fear and to believe in their personal value is powerful in its own right but she didn’t stop there. She called on her audience to work hard to protect the freedoms they enjoyed.
“But I also want to be very clear: This right isn’t just handed to you. No, this right has to be earned every single day. You cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms. And that starts right now, when you’re young.”
At the very heart of Michelle Obama’s message was a plea for hope:
“It is our fundamental belief in the power of hope that has allowed us to rise above the voices of doubt and division, of anger and fear that we have faced in our own lives and in the life of this country. Our hope that if we work hard enough and believe in ourselves, then we can be whatever we dream, regardless of the limitations that others may place on us.”
She ended her speech with a final plea for empowerment which she framed in the context of education:
“Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise.”
As far as presentation skills and public speaking are concerned the one thing every speaker wishes to achieve is the delivery of a clear and powerful message. A message that will create an emotional connection with their audience, inspire action and be remembered.
I don’t think that anyone could have asked any more of America’s First lady in her final speech.
Watch it here:
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