The President's State of the Union Address on Tuesday has left me feeling under whelmed. I do not mean to single out the President as I must note that the Democratic response from Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia was just as painful to watch. Instead I intend to comment on something that has bothered me for some time. Is it too much to hope for prose and poetry from our leaders and politicians? I have grown weary of speeches from politicians from both sides of the aisle who use the latest catch phrase while remaining careful not to jump off the reservation. Speeches today are short on analysis and long on fluff. The problem does not end there. Preachers adapt their language to the lowest common denominator of their congregation. PowerPoint is becoming the preferred means of presentation and is even invading the ranks of old school academics. Let's not even get started on MTV.
Granted, Presidents are rarely remembered for their State of the Union address as its purpose and forum constrain its format. But what has happened to the great orators? Why was Abraham Lincoln able to capture the realities of the moment in his second inaugural address? It is funny that he thought the Gettysburg Address was a bomb. Why is Winston Churchill still quoted today? "Hindsight is the luxury of the few" yet Teddy Roosevelt already captured this point over 90 years ago. Is this a new problem or was George Orwell on to something?
These individuals were able to capture the moment. They mesmerized audiences and galvanized the will of their followers. Perhaps they were visionaries with exceptional foresight. Many exuded credibility while others were attracted to their strength. There is one lowest common denominator that I can agree with, all exercised exceptional command of the English language.