What is your opinion of President Obama’s first state of the union speech? I thought it was long on delivery, but very short on substance and tactics. I will begin with positives and then move into negatives.
Because I am a member of one of Toastmaster’s most advanced speaking groups, I am very critical of any speech’s nuances. As a result, I am a very difficult grader. However, in President Obama’s case, I rated his style and delivery an “A” because: a) he was very poised before, during and after the speech b) his navy blue suit, white shirt, red tie and U.S. flag lapel pin delivered a maximum impact consistent with the American flag over his shoulder c) he was very articulate with a very strong, uplifting, inspirational and confident tone throughout (e.g. “again we are tested and again we must answer history’s call”) d) he employed good vocal variety e) he had excellent eye contact with the entire room constantly moving his head from side to side as if speaking to everyone individually f) he used a lot of timely pauses to emphasize points g) there were a lot of good hand gestures and non-verbal communication to match his verbal communication h) he offered a lot of examples to support his assertions i) he often employed humor to evoke positive responses from the audience (e.g. “we all hated the bank bailout”) j) he added a lot of memorable one liners (e.g. “I do not accept 2nd place for the United States of America”) to evoke many positive applauses from the audience and k) he ended with a very strong and memorable statement, “We don’t quit, I don’t quit.”
He also began his speech with a strong statement about employment; “jobs need to be our number one focus in 2010.” Furthermore, 2/3’s of his speech was devoted to the economy. This is important because most polls show that jobs and the economy are of paramount importance to most voters. This contrasted with such topics as health care and closing Guantanamo Bay, which have preoccupied the Administration up until now.
Unfortunately, there were a lot of items both that he shared and didn’t mention that are cause for concern. They include:
1. His language and tone was defiant continuing to cling onto his three main goals, which will distract him from a jobs creation focus. He was like a gun fighter emphasizing that he is in this gunfight to win. Furthermore, he stated and implied that his agenda has not changed and he is going to continue to pursue health care, education and energy reform. All are commendable goals, but in a time of crisis and limited resources, one needs to focus all of their attention and political capital on the most important concern of voters, creating jobs. Once this is fixed, the other items will be easier to address.
2. I question his numbers. For example, he claimed to have saved 2 million jobs. Before the speech, the administration had been trumpeting that their stimulus plan has saved or created 640,329 jobs at http://www.recovery.gov With three straight months of 10%+ unemployment, which is the first time that has occurred since June, 1983, added to figures from the Economic Policy Institute at http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/jobs_crisis_fact_sheet/ which show 17.3% of those working that are underemployed (i.e. 1 in 6), I seriously question those numbers. Where’s the proof Mr. President?
3. He continues to blame others. For example, he repeatedly blamed former President Bush for his ills. One year into his administration with a majority of both houses of Congress in his favor why is he still blaming the past administration? Furthermore, he took an unprecedented swipe at the Supreme Court in the front row. Wake up and smell the coffee President Obama, you own this problem now!
4. There are huge contradictions between what he stated and what his actions will be. For example, he talked about providing incentives to small businesses, but there was little talk about freeing them up from all the bureaucratic red tape that he has added in his one year in office. Furthermore, his mantra continues to be: the federal government is going to solve this problem. This will interfere with that process of jobs creation. Also, he talked about spending an additional $82 to 115 billion dollar on jobs creation. Wasn’t the $787 billion he already spent enough? This is going to further plunge this country into debt! Lastly, instead of what President Bill Clinton did when he was in trouble in 1995 by: a) adding a more centrist adviser in David Gergen and b) moving to the center to gain Republican’s support, President Obama has added another far left advisor to his already extreme left leaning team in David Plouffe. This signals more of the same!
5. He has the wrong people trying to solve America’s problems. For example, Arne Duncan, who had only limited success as Chicago’s school superintendent, is heading up his educational reform plan. Instead, we need more creative minds who can generate revolutionary ideas in our time of crisis. For example, 46% of all U.S. PhD’s are foreign born according to the most recent figures by the U.S. Energy Department’s Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. If we wish to truly improve technology then we need to vastly improve our math, science and educational training in this country. In the process we need to convince more students to enter the fields of R&D, chemistry, engineering and technology. To do so we need to vastly improve the educational process to make such training fun and effective.
6. Too little, too late. If he had been focused on small business creation at the beginning of his administration, this problem may not be so dire today. Instead, he spent $787 Billion on bailouts of the banks, Big 3 automakers and other new society programs, which sapped his energy and America’s resources.
In closing, I see no reason to change my one-year grade of F for this administration. Therefore, I stick by what I mentioned on WGN Radio on Saturday, January 23rd and WGN TV on Monday, January 25th. Please go to http://www.strategicsearch.com/media.php to view both appearances.