SPEECH PLANNING AND GREAT EXPECTATIONS
By Marilyn M. Barnewall
February 6, 2011
No one seemed to notice it but me. Maybe I’m getting old. Or, maybe the media is.
Charles Krauthammer – who never misses anything – missed it.
Brit Hume of Fox News missed it.
Sean Hannity of Fox News missed it.
Shepard Smith missed it, too. So did Juan Williams.
Michelle Bachman missed it – but she came closer to actually giving it than the person charged with the responsibility.
Congressman Paul Ryan from Janesville, Wisconsin, missed it, too.
And, Barack Hussein Obama certainly missed it.
What did I get that everyone else seemed to miss?
I missed input from President Barack Obama on the State of the Union in his State of the Union address. Maybe I’m still groggy from anesthesia.
Instead of discussing the dangers posed by America’s debt, or possible solutions for the mortgage foreclosure frauds running rampant throughout our court system (please note my non-use of the words “system of justice”), or the war in Afghanistan – or the state of anything – the President filled the airwaves with words like “I’ve ordered … I’m willing … I am prepared … I will veto … I know … I urge … I’m proposing … I disagree … I would” and a lot of other words were placed after the pronoun “I.”
Good grief! Is Washington totally bereft of decent speech writers? Does anyone in this White House understand good communications? Based on performance to date, a very good case can be made that no one in White House communications – including the Press Secretary – has any insight into what constitutes effective communications.
When planning a speech, what is the primary objective?
Gee, knowing the topic one is expected to speak about used to be at the top of my priority list. When someone requested me to give a speech, it was because they had a topic they wanted explained to an audience. They invited me because I was qualified to give that explanation. The media seemed to be looking for a well-delivered speech designed to motivate people. Bill O’Reilly certainly was looking for that.
Maybe someone needs to remind the media that a President’s State of the Union address is supposed to be about the State of the Union – and it’s on how well that topic is covered their speech reviews should focus.
It is called “State of the Union” for a reason. It is on this night the President of the United States is supposed to tell the citizens of this country the problems faced by the nation and the impact the problems had on the Union during the past year.
Let’s see how gently this can be put. The subject of a sentence defines what the person who says or writes the sentence considers the most important part of the sentence. When the word “I” is the subject of so many sentences, the speaker obviously considers “I” the most important. If he didn’t, the word “I” would not be the subject of so many sentences.
The President’s sense of self importance rather than compassion and respect for the people of the United States came through loud and clear. The media didn’t catch that, either.
But Obama is supposed to look, and sound, like a leader. How can he do that without making the word “I” the subject of his sentences? By making “the people” the subject of his sentences and expressing his leadership as a part of the sentence sub-structure. He says “The people want” rather than “I want.” He says “The people deserve” rather than “I urge…” and completes the sentence by saying “…and as their President, I intend to support them by doing the following things.” Such a sentence makes “The people” the subject – the most important element of what’s being said – not the President. Take a look at the text of this speech and count the number of times the word “I” is used!
This is called “Communication 101.” This administration needs someone who passed the course – and took at least one semester in sales and another in marketing – to help write this man’s speeches. President Obama sounds like a narcissist of the first order (and may be – but the job of his “people” is to keep him from sounding like one).
Obama began the “meaningful” part of his speech by saying: “At stake right now is not who wins the next election -- after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It's whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It's whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but the light to the world.”
If we are a light to the world, why has Obama found it necessary to apologize for America whenever he steps onto foreign soil?
He referred to jobs numerous times in his speech. Creating jobs is a hot button issue with the American people – and with unemployment over 9 percent (and most of us believe it’s far higher than that), it should be. He should have provided statistical data on this subject and given his projections for improving it. The truth is, liberal democrats don’t have a clue about how to create jobs because to do so requires government to get out of the way and let independent businesses (not multi-nationals whose loyalties lie with providing jobs to the least expensive labor pool in the world) grow and hire people.
“These steps we've taken over the last two years may have broken the back of this recession…”
Yes. He had the – nerve – to say that. He didn’t even flinch when he said it. Broken the back of this recession? What gall! It will make all of the people who have been illegally foreclosed against and all of those who are still unemployed hopeful, I suppose, to know President Obama has “broken the back of the recession.”
The only thing worse than Barack Obama’s failure to understand how to define and give a speech that explains the State of the Union is the media’s inability to perceive and report the failure.
For example, he could have told us:
1. “I have issued 733 waivers for Obama Care…” (more than 500 granted in December – but that wasn’t made public until the day after his State of the Union “address,” a/k/a his opening 2012 campaign speech). “The waivers exempt recipients from the increased costs of health insurance” (which means the rest of us will pay higher insurance premiums so those with waivers can be exempted from the higher costs). Nothing new there… a vigorous redistribution of wealth continues.We, the People, deserve to know what’s going on with regard to the BP oil spill – what is the status of offshore drilling? In what prison cell is Secretary of the Interior Salazar languishing because his lax offshore drilling policies (which have never been called before Committee) caused broad-based human suffering? Too, we deserve to know the status of the Afghanistan conflict. As of the date of the State of the Union speech, 27 American servicemen had been killed during 2011.
2. Those who are receiving waivers for enforced Obama health care mostly include unions, businesses, cities that support him politically (like Detroit – where unemployment exceeds 25 percent), states that have either proven to be loyal or which he needs for reelection – Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, and Tennessee. Democrat Senators Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana have already received payment for the Obama Care support of their votes.
3. The new Republican Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, rejected President Obama’s offer of funds for a high-speed rail line between Madison and Milwaukee. Why? First, because what is planned isn’t high-speed rail. It’s rapid transit. Second, because Governors in other states have discovered the offers are designed to gain voter support by promising (rather than providing) jobs. Otherwise, why was former Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger in Shanghai a couple of months before the New Year asking the Chinese for funding and assistance in building California’s high-speed rail project? Why did Governors in Florida, New Jersey, and Ohio also reject or suddenly question the offer of federal funds to build high-speed rail? (Maybe because there are no federal funds?) After President Obama’s 2010 State of the Union speech, I wrote about the high-speed rail boondoggle and I wrote about it again last fall. In spite of union activist interruptions at his Inauguration, Governor Walker said “We’re going to focus on things we can afford.” He promptly rejected the phony financing backed by collateral consisting of worthless mortgage-backed derivatives. Good grief! Even Bill O’Reilly did a 15 minute segment last week on why high-speed rail needs to be done by private investors!
4. Remember the 2009 and 2010 State of the Union addresses given by President Obama? In both years, he recommended government spending be frozen for a period of three years. The Democrats controlled both the Senate and the House during those two years. It’s funny how Harry and Nancy just ignored the President. This year, though, he said “I want to freeze spending for five years.” Of course, since he gave his 2009 and 2010 speeches, the budget Obama now wants to freeze is 84 percent larger – and growing every day. Since the Republicans want to take a hatchet to spending, the budget will not be frozen, it will be cut.
There are many things we deserve to know, but there are few that will be willingly revealed. If I ever hear the word “transparency” associated with this man’s name again, I will barf. He can’t even be transparent in a State of the Union speech where he’s supposed to be transparent.
As an aside: Thanks to so many of you who took the time to write and wish me well during my recent surgical “experience.” Your prayers were the greatest gift you could have given and were most gratefully accepted. God bless all of you. To answer the question many of my readers are asking, Flight of the Black Swan is completed and will soon be published in final format. At the moment, a pre-publication version has been printed. For those of you who use Kindle to read e-books, it is available at Amazon.com.
© 2011 Marilyn M. Barnewall - All Rights Reserved
Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall began her career in 1956 as a journalist with the Wyoming Eagle in Cheyenne. During her 20 years (plus) as a banker and bank consultant, she wrote extensively for The American Banker, Bank Marketing Magazine, Trust Marketing Magazine, was U.S. Consulting Editor for Private Banker International (London/Dublin), and other major banking industry publications. She has written seven non-fiction books about banking and taught private banking at Colorado University for the American Bankers Association. She has authored seven banking books, one dog book, and two works of fiction (about banking, of course). She has served on numerous Boards in her community.
Barnewall is the former editor of The National Peace Officer Magazine and as a journalist has written guest editorials for the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Newsweek, among others. On the Internet, she has written for News With Views, World Net Daily, Canada Free Press, Christian Business Daily, Business Reform, and others. She has been quoted in Time, Forbes, Wall Street Journal and other national and international publications. She can be found in Who's Who in America (2005-10), Who's Who of American Women (2006-10), Who's Who in Finance and Business (2006-10), and Who's Who in the World (2008).