Editorial: A Tale of Two Presidents
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was a time of solemn hope; it was a time of great uncertainty. Obama bid us farewell, and Trump took the oath of office.
As the rollercoaster ride of the 2016 Presidential Election culminated in the swearing in of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America, and we witnessed the transfer of power from one administration to the next, we at The Mirror News reflect upon Obama’s last address as the outgoing president and Trump’s first address as POTUS. As writers, nothing stands out more to us than the power of words.
We place great value in words because they are the fundamental building blocks of our craft. A writer puts words together to convey information. A good writer puts words together with the intention of evoking a desired reaction in a target audience. A great writer considers the possible latent function of their words and acknowledges great responsibility in the fact that they hold within their words the power to build up or to destroy. In this vein, so too should speeches delivered orally be measured.
Obama delivered his last address as president on January 10. Though slightly departing from his no-drama-Obama fashion, he was consistent in echoing some key themes of the major speeches he has delivered during his presidency. He called for a unified effort in carrying America forward, a bridging of partisan divides that have split the nation, and tolerance and understanding of one another regardless of our differences. He also pointed out the landmark achievements of the country under his administration but at the same time highlighted specific issues which even after his eight years in office still require a great deal of attention. His speech was overall uplifting but with a bittersweet tinge to it.
In his inauguration speech on January 20, President Trump reiterated Obama’s call for a unified front in carrying America forward. However, there was no extension of an olive branch to his opponents in his call for unity. He presented himself as the embodiment of a relentless populist. He stated that his inauguration marked the return of power to the people and he took a step in the direction of the draining of the swamp by indicting the machinery of Washington, including members of his own party, of failing the people. A bold stance that may sit well with the people but begs the question of how the executive branch will efficiently function with a significantly alienated legislature.
Trump also mentioned that the days of a rich elite few running the country were over now that he is president. His cabinet picks however paint an oligarchic image that raises a few brows on the sincerity of this claim. He touched on pertinent issues like the deplorable education system and U.S. military expenditure overseas but in true Trump fashion, he was ominous in painting the bleakest picture possible supported with a lot of hyperbole. His speech seemed a lot more like a campaign speech than what one would expect from a newly sworn in President.
We must admit that it is early yet to fairly judge the Trump presidency. It can also be argued that drawing parallels in the oratory skills of President Trump and former President Obama is like judging a fish on its ability to climb a tree. In one case words shape reality and in the other reality shapes words. Whatever the case, however, there is no denying that this reflection on two presidents is predicated on their individual way with words and our interpretation of the power of their words.
Words hold power. Do words serve to build up or to destroy? That’s for you to decide!