Obama’s SOTU: A less than grand finale

The White House’s advance billing set the bar high. The president addressed four key questions in a breezy style, but his usually fiery oratory felt only lukewarm, this speech teacher opines.

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The first lesson of public relations is to downplay expectations.

If you set the bar too high, you’re asking for trouble.

Yet that’s precisely what the White House did before President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address. Aides had promised a “nontraditional address,” eschewing the usual laundry list of policy initiatives, focusing on an “overarching vision” and being among the shortest in modern history.

The pressure on the president was enormous.

How’d he do? Well, if this address had been delivered in my public speaking class, here’s what I would have concluded:


You never get a second chance to make a first impression. You have to start strong, perhaps with a compliment to bond with the audience and even a touch of humor.

Obama smiled broadly and started confidently, commending new House Speaker Paul Ryan for his “constructive approach” in passing a budget and pledging to sponsor “bipartisan priorities” like criminal justice reform and battling prescription drug abuse.

He then vowed to make this speech shorter, “’cause I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.”

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