January 21, 2015
We gave our advice to President Obama and now that he has delivered his sixth State of the Union address, we have some feedback on language we loved and language that made us wonder whether what we heard was what he really meant to say.
“So tonight, I want to focus less on a checklist of proposals, and focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us."
This wasn’t a policy State of the Union. It was a message State of the Union. President Obama and his staff have already spent the last few weeks describing his policy proposals. So he didn’t have to waste time getting bogged down in the details. Instead, he used his time to tell all of us exactly what the terms of the debate will be for the next two years. That’s a smart way to own the message.
“…it’s up to us to choose…” “…[we gave] tools they needed to go as far as their effort will take them.” “…helping folks afford…” “…to earn seven days of paid sick leave.” “…help Americans upgrade their skills.” “…you’ve got to earn it [community college education]” “…give workers the chance…” “…giving them the tools…”
President Obama focused on language that demonstrated his goal isn’t to give handouts, and success is still in the hands of the individual. Instead of saying “give workers seven days of paid sick leave” he emphasized that it’s still something that workers have to earn. Ultimately, his policies won’t guarantee success for everyone, but he wants to put that opportunity into the hands of Americans and let them succeed, or fail.
“We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix.”
Here the President is reminding us of his accomplishments, without simply bragging about all that he’s done. By framing his accomplishments as facts of life that his opponents are trying to dismantle, he was able to imply their success and necessity without coming off as arrogant.
“If a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will veto it.”
President Obama set a SOTU record last night, threatening to veto four bills that would undo what he has accomplished, and stood for, during his presidency. Overall, his speech was positive and uplifting: America sure has a lot to be proud of. But, these statements changed the tone. Though he urged for bipartisanship, by the fourth time, this sounded like he was raising his hand to the now GOP-controlled Congress saying, “Hey guys, remember me, I’m still in charge.”
“I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what —I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities.”
“I’m not a scientist” became the automatic statement for climate change deniers during 2014 mid-term elections. President Obama flipped the script last night, saying he’s not a scientist either, to underscore the false logic of this argument.