State of the Union varies over the years

17 Apr

Since President Obama gave his first State of the Union address in 2010, his vocabulary has changed pretty dramatically. In 2010, the vocabulary in the address was very positive. He emphasized the present with words like now, year and new. He mentioned words such as jobs, work and businesses, but they weren’t his focus. Americans, people and right were also prominent in the speech. I think the word choice in this speech was mostly due to the positivity and optimism that comes at the beginning of a presidential term.

Then in 2011, the vocabulary changed only slightly and jobs became the focus of his speech. People, work, and jobs were some of the largest words in the wordle graphic.  New, years and American remained among the biggest words though.

His speech in 2012 still highlights America and American, but some new words also made an appearance. Now issues like energy, taxes and the economy were seeping into his address. I think all the problems that Obama was experiencing during his term were finding their way into his speech. He also needed to address the country’s biggest issues and how he plans on fixing them since the presidential election is right around the corner.

I think journalists can learn a lot from a tool like wordle. In long texts, like the State of the Union speeches, it makes it very easy to quickly analyze. It also make comparing the subject matter from multiple writings very simple. In just a few minutes, we can learn a lot, from who emphasizes what words and how patterns change over time. It can give us clues to everything going on around the speaker. Looking back from the future, it will also give us a lot of context about the time period certain things were written. I think it’s potentially one of the most useful analytical tools we’ve discussed.


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