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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Learning From the Past and Connecting to the Future

The State of the Union address was held on January 25,2011. While watching the televised address I kept thinking about the first televised debate between Robert Kennedy and Richard Nixon. I watched this debate in U.S. history last year, and was shocked by how put together and attractive Robert Kennedy looked compared to how uncomfortable Richard Nixon appeared. It has been said that those watching the debate on TV were convinced Kennedy was the winner, but those who listened to the debate thought Nixon was the winner. Just goes to show how important appearance and presences can be.

I realized while watching President Obama give the State of the Union address that seeing the speaker is much more impactful than just hearing or reading their speech. President Obama had a lot of expression in his face while he spoke, he made eye contact with his audience during important moments, and I could see he really cared about what he was addressing. All of these things would go virtually unnoticed to anyone listening or reading the address.

Learning from the PAST…

Similar to Kennedy, Obama wore a navy suit during his TV time. Navy is not as harsh as black, it looks professional, and it doesn’t wash you out like grey does (Richard Nixon made that mistake during his debate against Kennedy). Nixon was also criticized for being sweaty and having a 5-O-clock shadow, making viewers assume he was nervous, sloppy, and uncomfortable. During the debate Kennedy’s skin was glowing with a tan and he was conscience to keep the sweat from his face. Obama looked healthy, fresh-faced, strong, and confident in front of the millions of viewers who tuned in Tuesday night. That is just the way American’s want their leader to be perceived.

So…does presentation matter?

One can argue that it is not about how you present the information but, the information. I am not saying that the information does not matter, but presentation is KEY. You can have the best ideas, but if you don’t present it in the right light, no one will listen. Obama made sure that his presentation was top of the line. Besides the measure he took to make his appearance as appealing as possible, he had speechwriters help him construct the best possible sentences to convey his message in an impactful way. He consulted his advisors about the content in the address, making sure it would be understood and well received by the masses, and he added anecdotes and comedic elements to make the address more entertaining.

All the effort that went into this address made me think about the ways teachers present information. I cannot count the number of times I have zoned out in class because the teacher was just talking at the class. The information was important, but the presentation was dull. Luckily, sometimes there is some effort and creativity put into the presentation, and the results are always positive! I will use Spanish vocabulary as an example. There are some days when my teacher just shows us a PowerPoint with all of the words and translations. However, on certain occasions we will play a vocab game instead, Jeopardy, the fly swatter game, and charades are some of the favorites. It takes a little bit of planning, but the effort is worth it. My history teacher also had a way of making his lectures more entertaining by incorporating in personal anecdotes. While learning about the Soviet Union, he told us about his time in East Germany driving on the highways and getting his car searched by police at the border. It was engaging, funny, and memorable.

Obama’s State of the Union address is being talked about, the U.S. is more informed and more interested about the State of the Union, and he represented America well. President Obama’s extensive preparation is expected, however, there are opportunities in all of our lives where we can take the extra step (even when it is not required); make something more interesting, more exciting, more relevant. It will make a difference, and your efforts will be remembered.

Thanks for reading and I would love to hear your reaction to President Obama’s address and to my post!

Until next time…



  1. Ali, I really liked this post. I'm always curious to learn more about the aesthetic effort that goes into preparing politicians for televised speeches. I know there are numerous reports of senators (and more) getting face lifts or other forms of plastic surgery between terms, and of course makeup is used quite a bit before addresses like the State of the Union. My question is this: Do you think that we should care so much about what our leaders look like? Are they simply demonstrating that they care about their appearance and representing our country, or are they taking it too far? Should politicians concentrate more on helping their country and less on helping their looks? And how does that play into other forms of "luxury" (e.g. family vacations) while on the job? Can't wait to hear what else you have to say on similar topics.-- Kate H

  2. Hi Kate!

    Thank you for your comment :)

    I too and very interested in the "behind the scenes" aspect of politics. As much as I would like to say I don't believe looks matter, I think the way a person carries them self plays a big role in how they will be perceived by the public. If they are oozing confidence and authority, people will be more likely to listen and follow them. I think sometimes, as long as a politician looks healthy and is personable, good looks are not imperative.

    I think face lifts and such are way too extreme, but i understand their desire to put their best "face" forward.

    I am going to do some more research on the topic and get back to ya!

    Thanks again for your comment :)