During the 2007 Presidential election campaigns people began talking about certain candidates looking or sounding “Presidential”. Mr. Obama was often praised for sounding “more Presidential than George W. Bush.” Tuesday night, after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made a speech at the Reagan Presidential Library, people and pundits were talking about how “Presidential” he sounded. As I’m writing this I’m listening to someone talking about how “Presidential” Mitt Romney looked and sounded during the last debate.
Maybe it’s me but I just don’t understand how someone “sounds Presidential”. Does that mean he or she is a good speaker? If so, there are plenty of people in the world who can sound Presidential. Does it mean they can read well from a teleprompter? Again, there are many people who can do that well. Is it as much about appearance, presence and delivery as it is the speech itself? If so then the Reverend Billy Graham, one of the greatest (in my opinion) evangelists who ever lived, could have been President. For that matter, so could have Madeline O’Hare or even Sarah Palin. (Yes, I said it. Sarah Palin may not be the best Presidential candidate but she has a knack for public speaking. Listen to any of her speeches – particularly her impromptu speeches - and watch the audience.)
I’m of the opinion that sounding Presidential is merely in the mind of the listener. As someone who used to teach adult training classes I’m impressed by a good speaker for his speaking abilities but not necessarily for the message. I could teach a class and motivate my students with my words and actions. All it really takes is to connect with your audience, whether that audience is a group of students or a group of your best followers, and to be very familiar with your subject matter. Connecting with your audience means talking to them in a manner that makes them feel comfortable and making them feel like you’re talking directly to each of them. Sarah Palin has that ability. She connects with her audience because she talks to them on their level without being pretentious or arrogant. Some others who have been called great speakers can’t do that.
One of the marks of a good public speaker is their ability to ad lib as necessary. Sarah Palin was ridiculed for writing a couple of notes on her hand before an impromptu appearance yet the President is praised for his speaking abilities even though he can barely put two sentences together if his teleprompter goes down. So geez, in that situation who sounds more Presidential – a person who can think on their feet or someone who is lost if their prompter goes down? By the way – I’m not writing this to praise Sarah Palin. I’m simply using her as an example of someone who has great public speaking ability. Even if you don’t like Sarah Palin, if you look and listen to her giving a speech and judge her solely (and honestly) on her ability to deliver it, you’ll agree. Mr. Obama has the ability to do the same thing yet, to me, he often comes across as dry and haughty. Perhaps it’s because he’s trying to appear “Presidential.”
I’m sure I’ll be attacked for posting this. I’ll also be attacked for saying that Obama’s speech the other day to the Congressional Black Caucus was pretty pathetic as well. I suppose he felt he was connecting to his audience on their level. If a conservative President attempted that they’d be ridiculed to no end. The main stream, Obama supporting media won’t comment on things that obvious. They must figure if they don’t talk about it, it didn’t really happen. But it did, and not for the first time. Of course, Hillary did the same thing on March 5, 2007, putting on a Southern drawl during a campaign speech in Alabama. And again the main stream media ignored it.
I don’t really care if President Obama wants to change his speech pattern between one audience and the other. What bothers me more is when it’s factually reported and those reporting it are called racist simply for pointing it out. There was no doubt the President was changing his normal speech pattern to suit his audience. So why is it racist to point that out? Truth is truth. It may be unimportant but it’s certainly not racist.
Let’s all hope that whoever we choose as leader of the free world in next year’s election doesn’t get elected based solely upon his/her ability to look or sound Presidential. Is it a plus? Certainly. But I’d rather have a person who is competent and able who struggles a little with speeches than someone who talks a great game and can’t do the job. Wouldn’t that be more “Presidential”?