Barack Obama is growing on me. As a public speaking professional, I found it a bit difficult to transition from watching the pyrotechnics of The Clintons to the calming candlelight of Barack Obama. But from the moment he opened his 100 day press conference on April 29, I found myself hooked in a whole new way.
Obama grabbed my attention by starting with an update on the H1N1 virus. He was much like the good doctor, reminding us to wash our hands, cover our mouths when we cough, stay home from work if we are sick and keep our children home if they are sick. But it seemed to me that he has played this role long before the Swine Flu scare. For the last 100 days he has been Dr. Barack Obama to our ailing country.
Dr. Obama is an audacious president with a big agenda and a great bedside manner. His tone is calm, sober and serious. He never threatens or blames. He never talks over our heads. He does not breathe fire or strike fear into the hearts and minds of his patients. Instead he delivers a complicated message in a direct and simple way. He is patient and reassuring. He helps us believe that we will overcome our illness. Above all, he is consistent.
Consistent in his calming bedside manner: He tells us the difficult news that we are ill but that our illness is curable…and he will help us heal.
Consistent in his rigor and practicality: He tells us that we have come a long way but that he is still not satisfied. He expects more.
Consistent in his delivery: He delivers a sober but hopeful message using a slow cadence and predictable vocal resonance. He doesn’t smile but neither does his face look bland. His furrowed eyebrows tell the subtle story of restraint and concern. His gestures are graceful but restricted in keeping with his message of control and constraint.
Consistent in his use of vivid metaphors: “Even as we clear away the wreckage on this recession, we can’t go back to an economy that is built on a pile of sand.” Wreckage and sand—powerful images of two extremes: hard, twisted metal, or soft, shapeless sand. He says neither extreme will work. We will instead, “lay a new foundation for growth.”
Barack Obama may not have the electricity of Bill Clinton. He may not have the fireworks, the stage mechanics, the large sweeps of spontaneous brilliance, the voluminous personality or the grand smile, but nonetheless, he succeeds every time he stands up to speak.
Dr. Obama is the master of consistency. He is not the flashy heart surgeon who can perform a quadruple bypass with a latte in hand. He is instead the country doctor, quietly telling us that we are sick and providing assurance that we will get better. And that’s pretty good medicine for tough times like these.