Kairos in the Let’s Move! Campaign: Crafting Moments of Change through Humanistic Rhetoric

Betzer, Brittany
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Research has established a concerning upward trend of obesity rates in America. The government, including the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Health and Human Services, has attempted to change American’s poor eating habits by creating public health guides and by making nutrition information publicly available. Public health guides and initiatives have the potential to influence Americans to change, but it is vital to simultaneously help Americans understand the guidance and convince them to use it in their daily lives. Through close textual analysis of Michelle Obama’s announcement speech for Let’s Move! and the updated food guide, MyPlate, this thesis argues kairos is essential to public health rhetoric. The primary goals of this thesis are (1) to increase our understanding of how kairos functions within successful nutrition rhetoric and (2) to enrich our definition of kairos in the field of rhetoric. Since successful public health efforts targeted at obesity necessitate changing beliefs, a rhetor must utilize a kairic moment to create a sense of urgency and interrupt complacency. This understanding of kairos is aligned with existing scholarship that defines kairos as an opportune moment that a rhetor must be sensitive to. This thesis suggests a rhetor may also advance the kairic potential of presented rhetorical situations. Specifically, Let’s Move! advances kairos through humanistic rhetoric that appeals to individualized memories and personal knowledge of good dietary options. By addressing cultural beliefs, personal values, and real-life experiences with food, nutritional information is made comprehendible and relatable. The public can better understand the guidance and implement it into their lives at the times they find it relevant.

humanistic rhetoric, kairos, Let's Move, Michelle Obama, MyPlate, public health rhetoric