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I, Virginia Bergman, pledge not to vote for a male presidential candidate in 2016 just because he's male.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Obama’s SOTU and ranking the oratorical gifts of contemporary American presidents


Barack Obama's oratorical style imitates that of former civil rights leaders and evangelical pastors, including that of his former pastor Jeremiah Wright.

I listened to President Obama’s state of the union speech last night and concluded that he had basically taken the safe path in summarizing where the nation is and where he would like to see it move in the next two years. I thought it was a decent, though uninspiring speech.

I awoke this morning feeling no different about the state of the union than I felt the day before yesterday. How about you? This is an open thread.

On Facebook, however, Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic (a Minn. company) and currently a professor of business management at the Harvard Business School, posted on his way to Davos: “Just arrived in Switzerland. Pres Obama hit all the right notes in last night's State of Union, with "U.S. must compete" and an optimistic outlook for economy.”

George linked to this article in the Wall Street Journal that provides reasonably objective coverage of both Obama’s speech and the Republican response offered by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan: Obama: U.S. Must Compete.

George is widely respected here in Minn. and having read True North, his book on leadership that emphasizes the importance of personal integrity, I tend to respect his judgment on economic issues. So I’ll defer to him in the matter of what Obama had to say in his second SOTU.

However, I’m still not persuaded of Obama’s oratorical gifts. In scanning today’s online news coverage in general, I paused at Aaron Couch’s article in the Christian Science Monitor that cites Richard Greene’s ranking of the top five presidential orators in his book, Words that Shook the World: 1. JFK, 2. FDR, 3. Obama, 4. Reagan, and 5. Clinton.

Unlike his impassioned followers in 08 and the fawning media, I’ve never been impressed by Obama’s oratory skills as I recognized early on that he was imitating the style of African-American civil rights leaders and evangelical preachers, including that of his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

Evidently, Greene thought it was to Obama’s credit that he sounded like MLK, Jr. Couch quotes Greene as saying that Obama comes closer than any other president to using the “rhythm, body language, pauses and punctuation and nuances in voice tone to ‘sing’ a speech,” like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Personally, I would prefer that our president speak in his own voice.

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