Michelle Obama’s Democratic National Convention speech: transcript and leadership analysis

September 5, 2012

Michelle Obama took the stage in Charlotte on Sept. 4. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Michelle Obama’s speech Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention is getting rave reviews as a subtle but devastating attack on Mitt Romney, a heartfelt and gripping tale of personal struggle, and a warm and moving message that successfully linked biography to policy.

It also provided a telling if (naturally) biased examination of her husband’s leadership.

Without using the word “leadership” once (just as she never uttered the name Romney), the first lady delivered a powerful send-up of the philosophies that guide the president, the moral code that shapes his decision-making and the character that defines how he approaches his job. This did not come off as a transparent effort to humanize the candidate or to reach out to female voters—even if it helped to do both of those things—but as an authentic and genuine look at what she believes to be her husband’s vision and values.

Michelle’s effectiveness may have been her warm-yet-fiery delivery rather than simply the words on the page. That said, here’s my take on how she did it.

(Scroll through the full text of her speech, and click on the yellow highlighting to read my notes.)

More from On Leadership:

Why Condoleezza Rice’s speech stood out

VIDEO: Michelle Obama’s convention speech

The GOP’s deep bench of rising stars

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Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.
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