Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How Obama's Words Look to Us

A great way to revise and refine your copy is to run it through visualization tools (more on this in another post). Then there are times when you just want to admire how those words look. Here's what one visualization of Barack Obama's inauguration speech looks like, courtesy of the IBM-backed tool Many Eyes. Click on the image for a better view.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Writer in Chief

It seems appropriate to re-energize this blog on Inauguration Day, as Barack Obama takes office as the 44th (and first African-American) president of the United States. It's not just about the theme of hope that we so dearly need right now, but it's, as Peggy Noonan points out, the theme of language.
Imagine that: A writer in the White House. It's a been a while. Maybe not since Kennedy (although Profiles in Courage was a bit of an outsourced endeavor).
Noonan wrote in this weekend's Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Obama is a writer, and he sees himself as a writer. It is an important part of his self-perception. He is the author of two books, the first of considerable literary merit. He loves words. It is in writing that he absorbs, organizes data, thinks his way through to views and decisions, all of which adds to the expectations for his speech.
I can relate to that.
On Greeley's Ghost last year, I wrote of Obama's muse, Abraham Lincoln and how gracefully he describes his favorite portrait of Lincoln.
Could it be that a writer--The Writer in Chief--could navigate our troubled waters? We've had a businessman, two career politicians and an actor in the Oval Office since 1980. We've had good times and bad. And, I'd suggest, we've been frustrated at one level or another.
We need someone who can articulate not only our troubles but the way forward. In an age of sound bytes, text messages and IM, the complexities of the world around us are lost, vaporized in unknowing, uncaring, inarticulate ones and zeroes.
With his savvy use of new media, it could very well be that Obama, the writer, is the right man at the right time, able to analyze, synthesize and articulate complex problems and bridge old forms of communications with new, while using language to inspire and lead.
There's hope yet.


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