Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Obama on Afghanistan

Using an online tool called "Wordle", I copied and pasted the transcript of President Obama's speech and the website automatically generated a "word cloud" of the text. The more frequently a word (or short phrase, like "al-Qaeda") is utilized, the larger it appears in the "cloud" (colors are irrelevant). Keep in mind, though, that the user has the ability to specify the maximum amount of words to be rendered. For this speech, I chose 30 as the maximum. Click on the Wordle for a larger image.


Keeping in mind how carefully constructed a Presidential address is, what, if anything do these oft-repeated words reveal about the message (or perhaps the story) the President was trying to communicate to the American people?

P.S. Check out CNN's version, by contrast.

10 comments:

Bob P said...

I believe that President Obama was trying to gain some more support for the war by using words like "must" and "future." His troop deployment in Afghanistan must be done because they are the "central front" in the war on terrorism, a war the must be fought for the safety of the future. I also found it interesting when comparing this wordle to one of Bush's speeches about Afghanistan (made on Oct. 7, 2001). The most used word is not Afghanistan, but military, and one of the top used words is patience, on that does not show up on Obama's speech wordle.

Wordle At http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/1404514/Bush_Afghanistan_Speech_Oct._7%2C2001

SamGot said...

The word that really pops out to me is "security". Even though you would expect this word to be in his speech the fact that it shows up here a lot really emphasizes how much Obama talked about it. Everyone wants to feel secure in their country and know they are protected. Talking about the security of the country can really make people click with Obama's ideas.

Lizzy said...

Judging by this wordle, Obama is really trying to unify America, using words such as allies, united, one, and nation. I think that this is a very important aspect of his speech. When he talked about how unified the country was at the start of the war, it made me wonder about our generation. We have been growing up in wartime and in a very argumentative society. This bears stark contrast to when our great-grandparents were helping the war effort during WWII. Obama seems to want to return to that unified time.

Maeli G. said...

Huh! I happened to notice just the same words as you did, Lizzy. Those expressions of unity are scattered all throughout the address, subtly coloring the president's speech with a demand for togetherness. Obama knows how the American population split apart during the last administration and how the divide stopped progress in its tracks. He's afraid that another such divide will keep his goals for foreign policy from advancing. Basically, he's trying to sell us on the idea of becoming "One nation," as we say so often in the Pledge of Allegiance, so that he has the support of the populace behind him during the new military developments. As we've clearly seen in past Perilous Times (I'm thinking of Vietnam, but I'm sure ya'll can find some others), lose the support of the people, and you diminish your own power.

T King said...

I too only saw the last 5 or so minutes, but one word from the 'wordle' that sticks out is, "must", which makes me think that he is trying to make the extra troops in Afghanistan seem absolutely necessary. This is supported by what I heard during these last 5 minutes, when Obama was talking about how we were 'unified' in the years before the Iraq war, and how we need to be unified now. This is interesting to me, whether or not you agree with his view is a whole nother' question.

Sophie M said...

I noticed a lot of the same things as Sam, Lizzy and Maeli. But I think it's important to note that in this speech, the idea of security is reinforced by the idea of unity. If we can unite as a country, we are a secure nation. One relies on and is not possible without the other. I also found this to be an interesting contrast to the Vietnam War era. When the Pentagon Papers were released to the public, the government said that they tried to prevent the release because they were trying to maximize the unity in America. They feared that the Papers contained things that would counteract our unity, therefore diminishing our strength as a nation. But in this speech, President Obama is trying to unify the country by being upfront about what is going on (or at least this is how it appears to the public). For both Johnson and Obama, unity is the root of strength. But what differs about these two presidents is the means of getting there.

Morgan L said...

There were five words that I noticed (surprise surprise I'm pretty sure they were the five biggest besides Afghanistan) "security, America, Afghan, people, and must". Although we don't know the context of these words I'm making an educated guess on why these appeared the most and how maybe they connect with each other.

Security and people are about the same size, same as Afghan and America. Maybe President Obama wanted to show that he is not only looking out for our (our being Americans) security, but for others to show that this need is greater than just our country. He is looking out for the security of "people" as a whole.

And the fifth word was must, also showing the importance that we must do this. We talked in class about how he had many choices with what to do with this war, but must implies this was a clear choice, this is what we must do.

StoneA said...

I see two themes in this wordle, unity and objective. I think that Obama might have used the words country, one, nation, national, and every to express the need for universal support for the mission. The widespread dismay for the War on Terror has been a small roadblock towards victory. He might have been stressing the need for the people to recognize that the U.S. will be at war regardless of their personal opinions and the road to victory will be smoother if the public is supportive.
I think Obama stresses the need for a clear objective by using the words years, clear, effort, future, and must. In his speech he recognizes the U.S. can't devise an unrealistic plan or an open ended one.

The Batman said...

I notice a lot of references to the "War on Terror..." perhaps Mr. Obama is trying to use it to his advantage. Words like "security," "war," "military," "al qaeda," and "taliban" have become powerful, moving words lately. Certainly Mr. Obama's not using scare tactics, but every politician uses at least a little bit of manipulation.

nathans said...

In this "wordle", of course I see the word Afghanistan, because the main topic of Obama's speech was in fact the country and the plan the US has to help it. I also see the words "allies" as well as "military and "force". That kind of troubles me to see this because when I see this combination I just see war. I see that the US plans on ravaging Afghanistan in the next few years and then trying to win the affection of the people in order to have them as an ally. I also see the word "future", which makes me think that Obama has a long term plan for the country which he and future presidents will help the Afghan government attain.