Obama's Card Trumps Clinton's

Both Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama have played their respective cards from the deck of protected classes under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- gender and race.

Clinton, with the help (or hindrance) of former President Clinton, slapped down the gender card with the heavy-handedness of an auto mechanic.  It didn't work.

Obama lithely played the race card at the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Iowa with great oratorical skill as he delivered, arguably, the best speech of the Presidential campaign to date.  And it did work.

Obama's oratory was clearly patterned after Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech.   Obama reinforced the comparison between himself and King with one clear allusion, placed toward the end of his speech, as he cited "...what Dr. King called ‘the fierce urgency of now.'"  It's a quote from King's famous speech.  Furthermore, both the construction and delivery of Obama's speech mirrored King's.

(1) Both speakers frequently used the repetition of phrases at the beginning of sentences.  King used repetitions of, "Now is the time to...," "We can never be satisfied as long as...," "I have a dream that one day...," and, his immortal close,  "Let freedom ring from..."   Among several sets of repetitions used by Obama were these five,

  •  "We were promised...and all we got...," "We were promised...and we got...," "We were promised...and instead we have..."
  •  "And that is why the same old Washington textbook campaigns...," "And that's why not answering questions...," "And that's why telling the American people what we think they want to hear..."
  •  "A party that offers...," "A party that doesn't just focus...," and "A party that doesn't just offer..."
  •  "I'm in this race to tell...," "I'm in this race to take those tax breaks...," "I'm in this race because I want to...," "I am running for President to make sure...," "I am running for President because...," and "I am running in this race because of what Dr. King called ‘the fierce urgency of now.'"
  •  "I don't want to wake up four years from now...," "I don't what to see that the oceans rise...," "I don't want to see more American lives put at risk...," and "I don't want to see homeless veterans..."
(2) Both speakers used a rhythmic delivery cadence that appeals to an audience's ears for two reasons:  It conveys the aura and emotion of fluid preaching, regardless of one's religious beliefs.  And, it lacks the stilted flatness of conventional, political discourse. 

Fortunately for Clinton, Obama's speech was not televised nationally, although we'll no doubt see excerpts from it in his forthcoming campaign ads.  Unfortunately for Mrs. Clinton, her delivery style cannot compete with Obama's in the formal platform setting.  Her efforts to stir an audience invariably end in a crescendo of decibels, not of lyrical phrases.

The challenge for Obama going forward is to deliver mini-speeches in upcoming debates where he recaptures the style of his Jefferson-Jackson speech.  Although he may offer nothing more substantive than Clinton's recent efforts to evade answering direct questions, the emotional appeal of his style will, in the ears of an audience, cover the absence of clear content.   Why?  Because in a political environment people often listen more with heart than with head.

Dr. Lee Cary is a freelance writer in North Texas.  Before retiring, for 22 years he taught communication skills to business executives representing hundreds of companies in fourteen countries.
Both Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama have played their respective cards from the deck of protected classes under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- gender and race.

Clinton, with the help (or hindrance) of former President Clinton, slapped down the gender card with the heavy-handedness of an auto mechanic.  It didn't work.

Obama lithely played the race card at the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Iowa with great oratorical skill as he delivered, arguably, the best speech of the Presidential campaign to date.  And it did work.

Obama's oratory was clearly patterned after Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech.   Obama reinforced the comparison between himself and King with one clear allusion, placed toward the end of his speech, as he cited "...what Dr. King called ‘the fierce urgency of now.'"  It's a quote from King's famous speech.  Furthermore, both the construction and delivery of Obama's speech mirrored King's.

(1) Both speakers frequently used the repetition of phrases at the beginning of sentences.  King used repetitions of, "Now is the time to...," "We can never be satisfied as long as...," "I have a dream that one day...," and, his immortal close,  "Let freedom ring from..."   Among several sets of repetitions used by Obama were these five,

  •  "We were promised...and all we got...," "We were promised...and we got...," "We were promised...and instead we have..."
  •  "And that is why the same old Washington textbook campaigns...," "And that's why not answering questions...," "And that's why telling the American people what we think they want to hear..."
  •  "A party that offers...," "A party that doesn't just focus...," and "A party that doesn't just offer..."
  •  "I'm in this race to tell...," "I'm in this race to take those tax breaks...," "I'm in this race because I want to...," "I am running for President to make sure...," "I am running for President because...," and "I am running in this race because of what Dr. King called ‘the fierce urgency of now.'"
  •  "I don't want to wake up four years from now...," "I don't what to see that the oceans rise...," "I don't want to see more American lives put at risk...," and "I don't want to see homeless veterans..."
(2) Both speakers used a rhythmic delivery cadence that appeals to an audience's ears for two reasons:  It conveys the aura and emotion of fluid preaching, regardless of one's religious beliefs.  And, it lacks the stilted flatness of conventional, political discourse. 

Fortunately for Clinton, Obama's speech was not televised nationally, although we'll no doubt see excerpts from it in his forthcoming campaign ads.  Unfortunately for Mrs. Clinton, her delivery style cannot compete with Obama's in the formal platform setting.  Her efforts to stir an audience invariably end in a crescendo of decibels, not of lyrical phrases.

The challenge for Obama going forward is to deliver mini-speeches in upcoming debates where he recaptures the style of his Jefferson-Jackson speech.  Although he may offer nothing more substantive than Clinton's recent efforts to evade answering direct questions, the emotional appeal of his style will, in the ears of an audience, cover the absence of clear content.   Why?  Because in a political environment people often listen more with heart than with head.

Dr. Lee Cary is a freelance writer in North Texas.  Before retiring, for 22 years he taught communication skills to business executives representing hundreds of companies in fourteen countries.