Michelle Obama Interview Speech at Simmons College Leadership Conference
I was asked to do an analysis on a recent interview with Michelle Obama as she spoke at Simmons College. I watched about 15 minutes of the interview. Here are my initial thoughts, from a macro standpoint:
Interview or Speech?
The YouTube that I watched is titled “Michelle Obama Interview Speech at Simmons College Leadership Conference”. I thought that was rather appropriate because as I was listening, I thought that it sounded way more like a speech than an interview.
The part I listened to sounded much more like parts of a speech with canned philosophical soundbites, and less of a conversational interview.
This is relevant because to do a true forensic statement analysis, reviewing for credibility, it’s important to have a free-flowing statement. It can be written or oral, but something like a prepared speech would not be a good sampling because it’s just that – prepared.
Content analysis works best when someone is just speaking without having had time to prepare a response, because it’s in that spontaneity where the deception is most likely to leak out.
Use of the Word You
The one word she used repeatedly is “you.”
When asked: Now being on the sidelines and watching the world, what is it that you think about when you see things happening in the world in a way that obviously isn’t any longer reflecting your and President Obama’s influence? Directly from the transcript, Michelle responded:
“What I learned is that you know, the, as he said the arc of history is long and what we’re here to do is make a mark and you do what you do because you know it’s the right thing to do. Not because you’re gonna get credit for it. Not that you think it’s gonna last. Not you, because you think it’s, it’s, it’s gonna say something about your personal legacy but you do the work because you’re slowly moving the needle. And there are times in history when we feel like we’re going backward but that’s part of the growth. You know, you take two steps forward and one step backward. But you’re constantly moving forward. …”
There are many things you can learn by closely looking at the pronouns used, and not used, by the subject. Pronouns give us responsibility. Sometimes people do not want to take responsibility for their actions or they aren’t willing to mention someone by name. Some people may choose not to use any pronouns including the pronoun “I.” The missing “I” indicates there is tension and a lack of commitment to their statement.
In Michelle’s statement above, she only once used the pronoun “I.” She has not told us who does what they do because they know it’s the right thing or who is doing the work and moving the needle. We cannot believe she did these things or believes them because she has not told us that she did them.
There is a good chance she is not fully committed to her response. The missing “I” or any other name means she did not personalize her response to what she really thinks about when she sees things happening in the word today.
In summary, it appears she’s not fully committed to revealing how she really personally feels about things; however as mentioned above, it also was not the best example of a free-flowing statement.