Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Thoughts on the State of the Union Address

Many blogs have already posted their comments on the State of the Union and I don’t want to rehash what’s already been said. I will leave it to the political pundits to critique the specific details of the President’s plan. However, I want to point out a couple pieces of the speech which I found interesting from a communication and persuasion perspective.

The Greeting
One thing I noticed right at the beginning is when President Obama greeted everyone. He said “welcome” to everybody, but did not look into the camera when he said “welcome to my fellow Americans.” The audience is left with a disconnect between his verbal and nonverbal communication. The lack of eye contact results in the audience at home not being as engaged in the message and with his approval numbers at record low, this address is as much about winning over the American public as it is about reporting to Congress.

Because I Said So
"Democracy in a nation of three hundred million people can be noisy and messy and complicated. And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy. That's just how it is."

This is a fabulous quote, or at least it starts out that way. He provides us with a visual image we may not have come to in our own heads, one that makes us more accepting of the idea that change takes time. However, his version of 'because I said so' not only gave us some insight into his parenting strategies but was a killjoy to the positive moment he had just created for himself. He might have instead ended by using the social proof technique to influence his audience. An example of how long it took to legislate some desirable American law would have reminded the American public that he is working towards the same kind of good and it has taken a long time for others as well.

A Suggestion for the Future
And finally, let's make a trade. Let’s eliminate the opposition’s rebuttal statement, which is a ridiculously divisive two party tactic that serves no productive purpose whatsoever. In turn, the party in power will give up clapping and standing during the speech which is at best distracting and at worst a cheap attempt at telling the public what the good parts are.

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