Jan 272010
Authors: Sara Michael

In the eyes of some CSU faculty members, President Barack Obama made a clear shift toward populism in his State of the Union address Wednesday night.

Rather than be the target of an aggravated America, he joined their voices and shared the frustration, English professor John Calderazzo said.

“He positioned himself not as the commander-in-chief, but as the listener-in-chief,” he said.

English professor Sarah Sloane agreed, pointing out his appeals to emotion that, in Wednesday night’s address, echoed back to the days of his campaign.

“You can’t go wrong with children or puppies,” she said, referring to Obama’s anecdote of an 8-year-old boy in Louisiana who mailed the president his allowance and asked him to use it for the recovery efforts in Haiti.

“It’s a technique that Time magazine has recently employed, called ‘nuggeting,’” she said. “The stories, the parables. It brings it back to the hearts of America.”

In most of his speech, the president held a very rational tone, said Communication Studies assistant professor Karrin Anderson.

He saved the “sweeping rhetoric” that was seen throughout his campaign for the conclusion. Instead, he tried to rally the American public with a tone of sincerity, spelling out the facts but drawing it back to small-town America, back to the common people,” Anderson said.

Obama’s choice of topics surprised some people. “He waited 30 minutes in to mention his health care program,” said English professor David Milofsky.

Obama focused mostly on the job crisis that has struck much of middle-class America.

One particular phrase that resonated with CSU professors employed the use of parallel phrasing to emphasize a point.
“We face more than a deficit of dollars,” Obama said. “We face a deficit of trust.”

“He was uniting the frustration over the economy with the frustration of politics,” Anderson said.

“In the end, it is our ideals, our values, that built America,” Obama said. “These aren’t Republican values or Democratic values they’re living by; business values or labor values. They are American values.”

Sloane mentioned Obama’s burial technique of hot topics. He hid them, but they stuck around, she said.

Amid a list of goals, Obama said he planned to work with the military and with Congress to repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve in the military “because of who they are.”

“A lot of the Facebook statuses are posted as ‘Ask. Tell.’ He bracketed the controversial stuff in rhetoric, but it’s there,” Sloane said.

Obama also called out the Supreme Court’s decision last week to “open the floodgates” and allow unlimited spending on elections.

“I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people,” he said.

Obama encouraged Democrats and Republicans to unite and “right this wrong.”

The president coined a phrase tonight, said Calderazzo. “He referred to the last 10 years as ‘The Lost Decade.’” Obama made it clear that he inherited the last eight years, but in his speech, he redefined the decade.

“The final invocation was of generations who made it through,” Calderazzo added. Obama referred back to big challenges in history, and in that, Calderazzo said, he implied that Americans have very large, very important challenges ahead.

“Let’s seize this moment –– to start anew, to carry the dream forward,” Obama said. “We don’t quit.”

Staff writer Sara Michael can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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