I listened to President Barack Obama’s speech in Tucson last night — after reading it online. I’ll admit it: I cried.
Naturally. The words he used last night hit all of my cognitive reward centers: humility, empathy, listening, love, family, children, partner, future, better, community, hope.
Hope. Barack Obama always did have me at hope. I elected this man because I knew he would be the Dad In Chief: the leader who is also a father, one who continues to aspire to the hopes and dreams of his own (and indeed all) children.
This is lovely enough, but it is not what I remember. Where is empathy? Humility? Why isn’t hope bigger?
My own surprise on this visual result got me thinking.
So I decided to make my view of the overall discourse fair. I listened to Sarah Palin’s comments on the same event (posted here). Predictably, her remarks bothered me: there is something about her voice, her tone, that I have never found appealing. She has always sounded quite preachy to me.
But I wanted to make a Wordle for her as well. Again, this is not what I remember hearing:
I remembered hearing blood. Where is the blood? Was I wrong about what she said?
This was upsetting, and not the picture I want. I tried doing an edit of both speeches, just the second part of each:
Whether or not the second results got me closer to the image I wanted to build of each public person is not the point. The point is that I wanted to edit those words — his and hers — to better remember, and prove, the parts that confirmed for me who I think each of those people is.
Of course, I get to do this. I’m a writer; I have the right to edit what I post here. But I also understand that every word I take away from the full text of what each of them has prepared changes the truth of what both President Obama and Sarah Palin meant to say. The President worked on his speech all night Tuesday, Palin on her remarks for several days.
What gives me the right to make either of these people more like the Anne Version of themselves?
Perhaps my problem is not in my leaders, or their positions, but in my perception of them.