The State of the Union through Speech

Xavier Sigelko

Obama’s State of the Union this year was in many ways very similar to addresses in past years. He summarized the past year in America with an extremely positive tone and made huge promises to make our country perfect. I was trying to find something that set this address apart from the rest. I had found that most people were noticing his primary focus on economics. He did speak about foreign and military affairs as well but much of what he spoke about lead back to economics in some way or another. I was trying to find more information that set him apart from past addresses and I found speech patterns from 1937 up to 2011.

The site showed how many times each president used commonly occurring words such as “jobs”, “innovate” and “freedom”. The speech patterns show the general focus of the president and the issues relevant at the time. For instance, if we look at the frequency of the word “power” we see that it is commonly used until 1939, the beginning of World War Two, and it is not frequently used again until 1945, the end of World War Two. We also see during the George W. Bush presidency, especially right before the start of the war on Iraq, that there was a dramatic increase in the words, “terror”, “enemies” and “freedom” and was the only president to say “human-animal hybrids”.

Looking at the site I noticed the majority of the words that Obama said the most were about economics such as “jobs”, “invest”, “small business”, “innovate” and “tax”. In 2011 he actually said the word “jobs” 31 times,more than any other president in history. He also uses many economic words more often than any other president excluding Clinton.

Because the site I was using only had records up to 2011. I used the transcript of this years state of the union and looked up how many times the same words were said. I found that although many people claimed that Obama’s speech was primarily economically based he actually used the words more closely associated with economics less than he has on average in past years. I noticed then that this year was not surprisingly economically based year, but his entire presidency has been very focused on economics.

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