Diary

SOTU Priorities: Wordles Reveal the True Obama, Ryan and Bachmann

I’m certainly not the only person on the web to do this, but it’s worth posting anyway. The more people who see it, the better.

For those not familiar with “Wordles,” they are graphic representations of speeches, created by computer analysis of the repetition of words and phrases. Words used most often show up the largest and most prominent, words used less often show up smallest and least prominent.

So, what are the priorities (speech-wise, at least) of the three people who gave a “State of the Union” speech last night (President Obama, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachman)? To find out, I took the text of each person’s speech as provided to the press, and fed them into the “Wordle Machine.” Nothing was removed – if a speaker included a stage direction, such as “Pause” or “Applause” in their text, those words were included. You can tell almost as much about a speaker (and speechwriter) by the private direction they give themselves in a speech text as by their publicly spoken words. Sometimes even more.

[An aside: As a speechwriter, what amazes me is that Obama and his staff actually distributed to the media texts of the speech that contained the cue “APPLAUSE.” One includes such cues in the speaker’s copy of the text, BUT YOU DON’T LEAVE THEM IN THE DISTRIBUTED TEXT!!! If anything, you write “PAUSE” in the public text, but to actually include the word “Applause” shows either 1) your incompetence/inexperience; or 2) your ego, because you really EXPECT people will applaud at that point, and you don’t care who knows it.]

When you see the Wordles, the “verbal priorities” of each speaker won’t surprise you. But neither will they allow any honest viewer to believe that President Obama has “changed his spots.”

Here are the Wordles (click on them to enlarge for viewing).

President Obama’s Wordle:

2011 State of the Union Speech

Rep. Paul Ryan’s Wordle:

Paul Ryan 2011 SOTU Response

Rep. Michele Bachmann’s Wordle:

Michele Bachmann 2011 SOTU Response</a