Law and Public Policy

A Course in Presidential Linguistics, Cartwheels Included

September 14, 2012

Problematic Problems
Thaler Pekar’s latest blog post for the Stanford Social Innovation Review advises non-profits to deploy messages based on paradox, not problems. Pekar smartly points out that target audiences don’t need to know the problem as you know it; what they want is an opportunity to think for themselves about your proposed solutions in relation to their lives. And lives can be a tiny bit messy. Or better yet, downright paradoxical.

Poker Face
Illustrators Marc Scheff and Daniel Nyari want us to know that the lack of effective banking regulation is dangerous. So they’ve partnered with 28 artists to create 52 Shades of Greed, an illustrated deck of cards designed to educate the public about the 2008 meltdown and Wall Street’s “culture of greed.” In a recent interview, Scheff was asked if they had thought of marking the back of the cards…for easier cheating, of course.

Speaking like a President
In an opinion piece for The New York Times, H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman explore what presidential language tells us about America’s anxiety over race. Looking at President Obama’s speeches to different constituencies, they tease out a “linguistic flexibility” that speaks to our country’s increasing diversity. As advocates know, talking to a specific audience requires that you think about more than just content.