The Rhetoric Of Childhood Obesity

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The Rhetoric Of Childhood Obesity

Historical and cultural context

Childhood obesity has been in the limelight of America’s recent history for decades. According to the healthy eating campaign being led by First Lady Michelle Obama, the major cause of childhood obesity is consumption on non-nutritious foods in schools.  This obesity in children has been increasing rapidly in the United States with over 17% of children being recorded as overweight. Research shows that one in every five children in the United States is obese. This translates to about 17 million of the total population. This can be attributed to availability and affordability of fast foods within the region. Way back in 1960, the president-elect John Kennedy, expressed his concerns on the weight increase among the American citizens and especially children aged between 9-17 years. He went ahead to mention that the increase in rates of overweight/ obese citizens was a threat to the country’s security. He called for government officials in the Health, Education and Welfare department to take part in engaging the country in physical fitness regimes by coming up with policies directly related to this issue. It is five decades later, and the White House is still interested in tackling weight issues, with the first Lady Michelle Obama leading the pact through holding nutrition-themed rallies that are geared towards enlightening the parents of these children on the measures that have been taken to try and curb the overweight situation in children, in all states of America (The White House: Office of the First Lady).

The campaign which is called, “Let’s Move!” targets school going children and emphasizes on eating the provided government school meals which have healthy ratios and servings with more fruit and vegetables.  Parents are also being advised to encourage their children to exercise more, and the importance of proper proportions of food. The feeding culture in the United States has been seen to mostly comprise of high calorie, high sugar, salt and sugar ratios, especially in the food consumed by children and teenagers/adolescents. The government, through the newly set up policies, is enlightening parents to take charge of the feeding habits of their children by incorporating the proposed ‘more vegetables-more fruit’ policy that the president has put in place, coupled with regular exercise and external activities. Adopting this new culture will go a long way in curbing the problem of obesity especially in children.

Relation to course readings and critical thinking

To develop a decent rhetorical analysis on childhood obesity or any other topic for that matter, critical thinking, resulting from critical reading, is an absolute necessity. A reasonable and logical analysis can only be made when one has acquired full comprehension of the artifact that needs to be analyzed. In this case for instance, it helps to break down Michelle Obama’s speech into parts in order to identify the message being conveyed and the impact the message is anticipated to have on the selected audience. In order to come to the conclusion of whether or not the message was effectively communicated, one has to investigate how the writing style and the mediums of communication used to deliver the speech contributed to its effectiveness.  This topic addresses the lessons of rhetoric, writing processes, making arguments, understanding persuasion, critical reading and rhetorical analysis which are the recommended readings for this course. Critical thinking leads one to understand the subject, deduce the key idea, figure out the target audience, the tone of the sender, the intentions of the author and the methods used to achieve those intentions.  Also, important to critical thinking is how the author chooses to arrange the key ideas in the message, how he makes the transition between ideas and how he uses diction, odd punctuation, repetition, imagery and devices such as humor or sarcasm to give the desired effect to his/ her message. In rhetoric analysis, critical thinking encourages one to explore the persona and the authority the author has on the subject. Who the author is with respect to the subject in question also helps in understanding what the author’s position is when delivering the message. The more the authority the author has on the subject, the more credibility his/her message is likely to be and the more the impact it is going to have on the target audience.

What is the purpose of this rhetoric

This rhetoric is aimed at involving the reader critically with the aim of fostering effective communication of the intended message to the addressed audience. The determination of the success of passage of the intended message is effected through an analysis of the craftiness of the author in delivery of the message in question. Rhetoric, as a term, carries a number of meanings, for example, in association with politics, it is also used in the naming of the voice in a text, and it can also refer to the nature of a particular stance. This is based on the way one phrases their utterances and the factors affecting what is uttered. Rhetoric, then, refers to the ability of a specific speaker to use forms of communication like persuasion, argumentation, honesty, exaggeration etc, to relay the intended message in the most effective manner possible. The purpose of this rhetoric then, is to analyze Michelle Obama’s speech on the First anniversary of her “Let’s Move” campaign with the aim of establishing what her message was, its intended purpose and whether or not it was effectively communicated to her target audience. Michelle Obama’s case is well passed to the intended audiences and she achieves this through the use of communication forms such as: persuasion (to the parents/ guardians and the children and teenagers), repetition (of phrases, words, relay of the message in different forums), odd punctuation (dramatic pauses, italics in writing, other forms of emphasis).

Common forms of this rhetoric

Michelle Obama’s speech was delivered during the one-year anniversary celebrations of her Let’s Move! Campaign, in front of an audience consisting of students, teachers, parents, elected officials, clergy-men and an array of leaders representing various institutions and organizations.

Medium of this rhetoric

Transcripts of the speech have been made available on the “Let’s Move!” website, the white house website, newspapers and other websites. Wherever this speech is cited, it is normally accompanied with Michelle’s picture: either alone or with children. Excerpts and quotes of this speech have also been massively reproduced and used as slogans, on banners, billboards and on a variety of campaign materials such as fliers and brochures. Michelle has also authored a book in 2012 called “American Grown: The story of the white House Garden and the Gardens across America” where she shares her thoughts on the benefits of homegrown food and organic kitchen gardens.

The effects of technology on the speaker – audience relationship

From the day this speech was delivered, its content has been made available across multiple media platforms from newspapers, television, radio and nearly all other platforms available during our times. The speech was rapidly transmitted to almost every corner of the world, taking advantage of the notion known as media convergence; a term used to describe the collaboration among multiple media industries.  This convergence process has led to the creation of a more participatory and interactive audience. During this speech, Michelle cites letters she has received, Facebook posts, comments on posts published on the “Let’s Move” Campaign website and positive reactions from people who share in her passion to tackle childhood obesity (The White House: Office of the First Lady). A quick search on the internet for Michelle’s speech will flood your computer with pictures, texts and sound recordings of this artifact because the audiences now have the opportunity and freedom to download, upload and share the content among them. Apart from improving the interaction between the speaker and the audience, media convergence has proven to be an asset in ensuring the effectiveness of the messages designed by the “Let’s Move” campaign.

Persuasive strategies and appeals of this rhetoric

Persuasive strategies used in this speech are logos, ethos and pathos. They were established by Aristotle, and they are also referred to as the rhetorical triangle. Logos refer to the logical charm that a spoken or written work could have. This means that the particular communication piece must carry a certain believable aspect; one that carries an agreeable meaning to the intended crowd if it is said to have logos. Logos then, refers to the factual information in a speech, book etc, that applies to the majority of the target group for which the message is intended.

In Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” first anniversary speech, she uses logos to show the relevance, importance and log.............


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