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Following the State of the Union address, many people around the internet posted different visualizations of what the president said. The one I like most is a tag cloud of words used in presidential speeches. The most recent entry is for last Tuesday's speech, but it includes the commonly-used words of presidential speeches all the way back to January 1776 (with a nifty sliding scale!)

It appeals to my inner language and computer geek, but the changes in politics are interesting, too -- we move from focusing on "Indians" and "war" in the 18th and 19th centuries to on "terrorists" and "Iraq" today, for instance. It's also interesting in what it indicates: Bush likes words like "commitment" and doesn't like words like "constitution"; Clinton liked "economic" and "families". In W's first speech, he bridged the gap between the presidencies by also using words like "econonic" and "families" -- and then he seems to lose a bit of focus (or is betraying the priorities he entered his term with) and he talks about "funding" and "tax" for a couple speeches, until he reaches "terrorism", which has persisted as the most common word in his speeches for the past five years.

I ♥ metadata.


Jenna L said...

I particularly appreciate the evolution in names of speeches. All of GWB's included in the database are "State of the Union Addresses". That's boring.

I'm more of a fan of the poetry of the past. FDR delivered "Four Freedoms", Wilson talked about a "League of Nations", and Lincoln proffered a speech entitled "House Divided", followed quickly by the "Emancipation Proclamation". Even Teddy Roosevelt gave us "False Sentimentality About the Indians".

My absolute favorite is one of the oldest speeches included. Two hundred and twenty years ago this week, Thomas Jefferson delivered a speech called "The Need for a Little Rebellion Now and Then". Love it.