Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The State of the Union: A Word Cloud

Using an online tool called "Wordle", I copied and pasted the transcript of President Obama's 2nd State of the Union Address and the website automatically generated a "word cloud" of the text. The more frequently a word 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 50 as the maximum in this construction. 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. For a completely different look at the words used by Presidents, check out this version featured on the New York Times website:


Jenn M. said...

I think it is very interesting to consider the fact that a speech such as this one is revised over and over again and carefully constructed yet the words continue to appear. The repetition in the words an implies emphasis on them. Such words as "new", "future", and "innovation" were very common in this speech. To me, this sends the message that the President was more focused on what is to come then what is currently happening. He rarely addressed current issues such as Iraq and Afghanistan. It leads me to think that the talk about the future is in preparation for the 2012 elections.

Kristen O. said...

I agree with Jenn in the sense that this speech seemed to be in preparation for the 2012 election. Although I think the speech was very good and intriguing, Obama did not stress many of the nation's important issues. Not once on the word cloud does the word "Iraq" or "Troops" appear. Instead, the words "new" and "future" are used constantly, stressing the President's focus on the future, rather than the present. While I understand that he did focus on many of America's issues, I feel like the speech was a little too 'light'. He chose to focus on more inspirational topics, rather than the heavy ones.This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it seems more like a campaign starter than a State of the Union.

LH&G said...

I took the 2009 and 2010 State of the Union, and made a Wordle with them to compare with the 2011.

Correct me if I am wrong. The top 10 word is 2011 seem to be.
1/2. People, New
3. Jobs
4. Years
5. Make
6. American
7. Work
8. America
9. Just
10. Government
In the 2010 I found the top 10 most used words to be.
1. Americans
2. People
3. Year
4. Years
5. Jobs
6. One
7. Work
8. New
9. American
10. America

in 2009 it was
1. American
2. economy
3. Plan
4. Know
5. Every
6. Health
7. Care
8. New
9. People
10. America

Neither in the 2010 or 2009 the words Iraq or Afghanistan made the top 50 words. Actually besides a few words like "Just", "make", "every", and "plan" there has not been much change between what words were used the most.

I personally believe that a word cloud is the best way to critically think about a speech, unless of course the speech in 2009, and 2010 were set up for the 2012 elections.

-Former American studies student (2008-2009) –L.H&G

Carolyn A. said...

I think it's very interesting to compare this year's state of the union to past years. It makes sense that certain words always seem to appear in these speeches more frequently than others. I feel as if the point of this address is to inform Americans of the condition of the country with a focus on plans to improve the future. The most commonly used words seem to focus on the next step, this may be seen as a technique to start a campaign. However, I think it is necessary for the president to educate the public about his legislative agenda for the upcoming days and months, as well as years. Obama probably has the election on his mind, however, I believe his address was primarily focused on plans to better the nation, not his popularity.

HenryD said...

I honestly thought there would be more focus on the economy and healthcare, but like previous bloggers have mentioned, Obama's attention was on the future. Obama made bold deadlines for the future of our nation's infrastructure and education, but made little reference to how he plans on dealing with healthcare issues and cutting spending.

To address Carolyn's comment, I think that Obama's "[Focus] on plans to better the nation" was, in fact, a strategy to GAIN popularity. If people like his big ideas for the future, they might want him to stick around for another term in order to meet those goals he set. That kind of attention makes the audience excited for the future, thus earning votes for the current prez.

LH&G said...

Here is a reference in the 2011 state of the union of Obama both talking about health care and cutting spending.
"Health insurance reform will slow these rising costs, which is part of why nonpartisan economists have said that repealing the health care law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit. Still, I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year: medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits."

Would you consider this a bold deadline? (HenryD)
"Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway." -Obamas state of the union address 2011

Keep in mind that already 82% of the Population in the USA live in an Urban setting, which already makes it easy to build high speed rails to large parts of the population. (the 82% urbanization comes from the CIA world fact book.

HenryD said...

First, I should mention that I fell asleep watching the speech halfway through, so I don't remember everything that was said. What I was trying to point out was the fact that words like "health", "spending", and "economy" were not as prevalent in the President's speech as were words like "new" and "future".

Another thing to notice is what his deadlines entailed: a hefty cost. Do you think that making "high speed rail" accessible to most Americans is going to be cheap? Plus, in the quote you provided, Obama said he was "willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs", but did not mention if he had a plan of his own to cut spending.

I am not trying to start an argument, I am simply trying to observe this wordle from a different perspective.

Lauren S. said...

Henry- I totally agree with the fact that "Obama made little reference to how he plans on dealing with healthcare issues and cutting spending". This was one of the biggest problems I had with this speech. He presented plenty of optimistic plans for the future, but what about right NOW? I'd like to know about how he plans to resolve current issues, such as the economy. I honesty could care less about installing high speed rails. Is it really in the best interest of Americans, or is it in the interest of "out building" foreign countries? And before we can invest in clean energy, we need to fix the deficit and the economy so there is money to invest. I know this is MUCH easier said than done, but I believe the government needs to focus on priorities before luxuries.

Liesel M. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liesel M. said...

I agree with Lauren in that installing high speed rails is unimportant, and with Henry about how Pres. Obama didn't directly address his plan for healthcare and cutting spending. His speech was moving when he discussed topics of nationalism, but I wasn't satisfied with the nation's plans for the future. However, Obama's ideas must have pleased many other people because his approval ratings went up to 55%, 7% higher than in December, according to

Jackie said...

Like previously stated by the other bloggers, it's obvious that Obama was "looking to the future" in his State of the Union address. I agree with what Carolyn said. That she "feel[s] as if the point of this address is to inform Americans of the condition of the country with a focus on plans to improve the future." I mean the address itself is titled the STATE of the union, yet I agree with others when they say it seemed more of "campaign starter" speech.

However, I think people to need realize how necessary a speech like this was. If you look at the state of our country today, it's incredibly divided. Especially since the Arizona shooting, we needed something like this to bring us to together and I applaud Obama for emphasizing American unity. I thought it was remarkable to see Republicans and Democrats sitting with one another.

Regardless if it satisfied the State of the Union purpose, it was a great strategy for Obama to look to the future. With the War on Terror and the recession, etc., Americans need hope for the future. And if Obama wants to be reelected, he has to give it to them.

Alex S said...

To address Lauren's point- I think that we need to invest in the future to help our current problems. You say, "I'd like to know about how he plans to resolve current issues, such as the economy... And before we can invest in clean energy, we need to fix the deficit and the economy so there is money to invest." Investing in clean energy technology will create lots of jobs. Obama calls this "an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people." Sooner or later our non reusable resources are going to get depleted and we are going to end up spending more money on them if we don't create ways to use clean energy.Also, to help pay for this Obama states, "And to help pay for it, I'm asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies." Investing in clean energy will create jobs which will help mend the economy and paying for the research is a small price to pay, especially if we no longer pay oil companies.