Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Statement Analysis: Barak Obama on Humility

What does President Obama think of humility?  Is it something to be embraced, so that he can work with Congress?  Or, is it something he does not consider a virtue, and perhaps, even an hindrance to what he wishes to accomplish. 

A man is known by his words. 

Even the president's strongest supporters will find the following quote to raise eyebrows:
"You know, the one thing about being president is, after four years, you get pretty humble. You'd think maybe you wouldn't but actually you become more humble--you realize what you don't know," Obama said. 
"You realize all the mistakes you made. But you also realize you can't do things by yourself. That's not how our system works. You've got to have the help and the goodwill of Congress, and what that means is you've got to make sure that constituents of members of Congress are putting some pressure on them, making sure they're doing the right thing."


When is the 2nd person, "you" expected?  When is it not expected?

When someone experiences something acutely intense and personal, we have the expectation that the first person singular will be used.  A good example of this is mother of missing 7 year old Kyron Horman, Desiree Young.

There is no real 'sharing' of the experience of a suspected murdered child.  It is not something common to many others, therefore, the expectation is first person singular.  "I can't sleep; I can't eat.  I can't stop thinking about my son..." and so forth.  (both first person singular, and sentences in the negative; what she cannot do, showing high highly important and personal this is.

"You work hard and you get results..." athletes often say after spending an off-season working hard.  The word "you" is often used, as there are many athletes who experience this:  it is a more commonly shared theme, especially that non-professional athletes number in the millions.  Every weekend warrior in sports shares the principle of work and results.

Robbery.

If you have ever been robbed, you know it is intensely personal and feels acutely violating.  To know how a stranger entered your home is to know a very personal and deep feeling of intrusion and violation.

How about Robbery where a child is taken...almost as an afterthought?

"To know that someone is casing your house...to be waiting for a sheriff to call about your granddaughter..." Phoebe DiPietro said.  It is not common to have someone enter your home, case your house, and take your grandchild.  In fact, it is so not personal to her (it did not happen) that her use of the 2nd person is actually appropriate for one who knows it is a lie.  It is also true:  "you" might be waiting for the sheriff to call about your granddaughter, but she isn't awaiting any such call.

Humility and the President.

I cannot think of a job where more humility would be dished out to its recipient than being president of the United States.  Body language analysts talk about the "Obama chin", the lifted chin of arrogance.  His body language in this area is extreme.  "You're looking down your nose at others!" is an expression that finds its beginnings in the lifted chin.  The person appears to be actually looking downward at others.

Many believe that Barak Obama did not have a resume suited to a position of leadership.  It is said that he had not accomplished anything of significance, had not led anything, nor ran a company or corporation.  His critics said he was not qualified to run a small convenience store, no less a nation, and that he was elected because America wanted to show the world that we were not a prejudiced people.  Had he not been African-American and a good speaker, he would not have been elected to any office.  Spending, his detractors say, has exceeded all the presidents that preceded him combined and the number of Americans living off the government has shattered all records kept.

His supporters say that the belief that government should be caring for its people is the correct world-view, and that eventually all the spending will spur the economy which will then lead people off welfare and reliance upon tax dollars, and that Americans should be paying higher taxes for these services.  His supporters say his lack of experience is a plus, as he is not a "Washington Insider" and his call for change resounded with American voters who gave him 8 years.  His supporters say that the losing side is embittered and racist and that they criticize him because he is black, showing his critics' racism.

It is a powerful division of opinion.

Regardless of your opinion of his critics and his supporters, or your opinion of him politically, what do you learn about him from his statement?

Can you hold an opinion of him, and a view of this statement which may not be congruent?  Can you think of a job that would humble any one of us more than president of the world's most powerful nation?

I cannot. Here is the statement again, with emphasis added:

"You know, the one thing about being president is, after four years, you get pretty humble. You'd think maybe you wouldn't but actually you become more humble--you realize what you don't know," Obama said. 
"You realize all the mistakes you made. But you also realize you can't do things by yourself. That's not how our system works. You've got to have the help and the goodwill of Congress, and what that means is you've got to make sure that constituents of members of Congress are putting some pressure on them, making sure they're doing the right thing."
Statement analysis is in bold type. 

"You know, the one thing about..."
Note that it is "the" one thing, and not "one thing" of many.  by using the instinctive article, "the", the subject is bringing home a very powerful point for him.  It is "the" one thing for him. Will this personal theme continue?  It is "the" one thing, not "one of many" or even, "you know, one thing about being president is..."  
This is very strong and we now expect the language to be consistent: 
being president is, after four years, you get pretty humble. 
1.  Note that he said "you" get pretty humble.  This is not expected, but very unexpected.  There are not many people who get to be president of the United States so it is rare in the extreme. 
In Statement Analysis, we allow the subject to guide us, and ask the reader to believe the subject unless strong evidence exists that the subject is lying. 
He does not say that "I have gotten humble" but that "you" get pretty humble. 
This is distancing language that does not use a possessive pronoun to describe humility. 

2.  Note the verb tense "get" is present tense.  He does not say that, after this time, he has gotten humble, but that "you", not him, "get", present tense. This is a further weakening of the statement. By saying "you", he weakened it, but saying "get", he has weakened it even more so. 

3.  "pretty" humble is to describe the word "humble."
"It is hot out today" is a strong statement.  It is "pretty hot" is not as strong nor definitive.  Since we are speaking about the single highest office in the world today, we do not expect it to be "pretty" humble. 
This weakens the assertion of humility further.  First he used "you" and not himself, then he used the verb "get" instead of past tense, and now he qualifies humble with only "pretty" humble. 
Statement Analysis:  the subject is dead; the statement is alive.  
You'd think maybe you wouldn't
1.  Note the continuation of the distancing language of the 2nd person, "you" is used.
2.  Next, however, realize that "you'd" is a contraction for "you would", which is future, conditional tense.  
3.  Note that which is in the negative:  "you wouldn't"
Question:  Who would not think the highest job in the world  would humble someone?
Answer:  Only the arrogant who is blinded by pride.  
"You'd" is to make something like this common:  Who, in their right mind, wouldn't think being president of the United States would humble someone?  This appears to be an absurdity.  Most people find any form of promotion to be humbling, as they expected it to be. 
If you were being promoted, would you anticipate some humbling lessons headed your way?
This statement shows that the subject did not anticipate being humbled in any way.  
Tom Seaver, in warming up in the bullpen before his very first professional game, threw up during warm ups.  
I cannot imagine any promotion anywhere where I would not anticipate some humbling lessons. Here, the subject is revealing something about himself that is likely to cause most to divide along partisan lines, but what about those who are simply listening to the subject speak?  
Will they express shock at this sentence?
 but actually you become more humble--you realize what you don't know,
Note the word "but" in contrast to what preceded it.  
Note that "you" become, not that he has become.
Note the weakness of the 2nd person combined with the present tense language. 
Note "more" humble, presupposes humility. 
Note "what" you don't know does not emphasize plurality.  
It is expected that any subject would be humbled by the vastness of the lack of knowledge.  At any given time, any country in the world has a change in leadership, or in currency, or in any of a hundred topics, that are unknown to any single leader in our country.  "What you don't know" does not specifically remove the plural, but it does not emphasize it either.  
The vastness and plurality of what is not known in such a lofty position was the expected for this analysis. 
It's absence is striking. 
"You realize all the mistakes you made
The subject does not realize the mistakes he has made; only that "you", the distancing language, does.  The same theme continues.  We look for a change to the pronoun, "I"to be something of importance in a statement where the 2nd person is used.  
But you also realize you can't do things by yourself. 

The consistent use of "you" keeps things very distant from the subject, including "yourself"
That's not how our system works. 

Here is the first use of the plural "our" introduced.  Thus far, it has all been the 2nd person, "you" and here it is "our", when speaking of "the system."

President Obama has been accused of issuing orders in a dictatorial manner, without the "goodwill of Congress", including the Obamacare medical bill of enormous size; so great that no one seems to know its contents nor understand it.  
You've got to have the help and the goodwill of Congress, and what that means is you've got to make sure that constituents of members of Congress are putting some pressure on them, making sure they're doing the right thing."

Note the reason of "you" needing the help and goodwill of Congress:
"to make sure" Congress is pressured.   Here the subject gives the reason of having to have the help and good will of Congress.  This is difficult:
"and what that means" is for the subject to explain what it means for "you" to have the help and goodwill:

He defines it as making sure that constituents of members "are putting", present tense, "some" pressure, "making sure" they're doing "the right thing"

This is a very sensitive sentence to the subject who does not define what "the right thing" is, but that the "help and goodwill" is explained as getting people to put pressure on them. 

This highlights the strategy within very distancing language, and seems to explain the extreme avoidance of humility.  

The lack of humility;
The distancing language moving away from humility;
the coercive action defined as "help and goodwill" in order to accomplish a goal which the subject states is "the right thing" which comes from the subject, himself. 

The subject does not need nor cherish humility, will do what he wants, and will make members of Congress do what he wants, which is, in his mind, the right thing.   Humility would cause pause, and debate on what is the right thing, and warrant listening to others (Congress), which will not be done. 

This statement will likely cause some consternation on part of the President's supporters who may believe that working with Congress is the right thing.  The words reveal that this is not what the President believes. 

27 comments:

sha said...

Sadly, I think many people use the "you" when they should be using, in "proper" English, the word "ONE". When one has been president for several years one becomes much more humble.
When I see (or hear) someone using the word "you" I have to be very careful to discern if they SHOULD be using "I" or if they should be using "one".
Almost no one uses "one" anymore when speaking.
Please don't take this as any type of defense of President Obama because I believe almost all politicians are accomplished liars.

Trigger said...

I don't believe that president Obama knows what humility is. His arrogance overshadows all his appearances.

Peter Hyatt said...

sha,

pronouns are instinctive. When something is personal, we go to the pronoun, "I", a word we have, as humans, used millions of times. We have used it so often that we are perfect in our usage, which is why Statement Analysis' number one guide is pronouns.

Pronouns are instinctive and exempt from the principle of personal, subjective internal dictionary.

They are reliable.

With the president, this distancing language from the topic of humility is not only shocking to many, but the statement confirms why he disparages humility.

Peter

Peter Hyatt said...

1992 Hillary Clinton on Gennifer Flowers:

"It is hard to hear when the man I love, the man I respect is attacked..."

1998 Hillary Clinton on Monica Lewinsky:

"It is hard to hear when the man you love, the man you respect, is attacked..."

The pronoun "I" was ejected from her language. It may have taken years, but Bill did it.

Peter

ANita said...

"You" is the modern casual form of the more archaic "one". We were taught to use "one" in high school but now it can be interpreted as sorta high falutin'. At any rate, they equal the same idea - "people".

But Obama here does a trick with the word. He starts by using "you as in "one" as in "people" and then turns it into a "you" as in "you out there" and by doing so issues a directive and command to his followers and supporters and then puts the responsibility on their backs.It's a call to mob action. Afterall, he's a "community organizer. He's a machine politician. This is union speak and union tactic.

Very slick. Slick Willy had nothing on this guy.

Julie Moon said...

Peter, Just today I have read/heard dozens of statements that reflect the improper use of "you", including one where a scientist talks about "well when you use this machine you get a tiny particle..." when obviously it was the scientist that performed the experiment and neither you nor I would ever be allowed to touch said machine. This scientist should have been using "I" or "we" because he and his team did the experiment, yet he was using "you" during his entire description. I'm fairly sure he wasn't lying as his teams experiment was published and is being recreated.

I agree with Anita ""You" is the modern casual form of the more archaic "one". We were taught to use "one" in high school but now it can be interpreted as sorta high falutin'. At any rate, they equal the same idea - "people". "

I'm not saying that Obama did this, just saying it IS a possibility, just like a truth-teller slipping into PRESENT tense when recalling a traumatic event in their life.

Excruciating Headache said...

I find the analysis interesting, but presidents rarely, if ever, speak extemporaneously. So I don't think for even a moment that these are Mr. Obama's own words. Presidential speeches are crafted, word for word, by political science majors turned English majors. Ronald Reagan was an expert speaker, but Peggy Noonan wrote the words and created the masterpieces.

Excruciating Headache said...

I find the analysis interesting, but presidents rarely, if ever, speak extemporaneously. So I don't think for even a moment that these are Mr. Obama's own words. Presidential speeches are crafted, word for word, by political science majors turned English majors. Ronald Reagan was an expert speaker, but Peggy Noonan wrote the words and created the masterpieces.

Anita said...

I like that Bob Woodward is calling him out on the sequester being his idea. He may be the only honest journalist left on the left. I read All the President's Men so many years ago, and I was wondering when he was going to speak up. He's old school. His reputation as a real investigative journalist matters to him.

http://www.businessinsider.com/bob-woodward-obama-sequester-republicans-2013-2

Woodward's about an inch from calling Obama a madman now. I am good with that. It's about time someone on the left saw that and reported it.

Lis said...

Could a person use "you" because they are trying to make the experience accessible to "you" (others)?

I've been watching this in news articles lately and find people using "you" pretty often and so I am confused as to where the line is drawn as to when it is expected and when it is not. In this story, for example, http://www.komonews.com/news/local/190304351.html the victim of a sexual assault says, "I felt so, you know, violated at that point. You're so angry. You're mad, you want to cry"

Obama's body language says it all to me. If anything, I'd guess he is further from humility than he ever was before the presidency. In the eyes of the majority, he can do no wrong, and he knows it.

sidewalk super said...

Sadly for us, and the world dependent on us, this speech shows, once again, the community organizer at work destroying..
He's like Peter Pan, he will not grow up.
He is forever a destructive activist who is happy with being just that.

He is Peter Pan.

Anonymous said...

Obama was raised in large part by his grand parents. Back in the late 70s/early 80s they played bridge at the same club my folks did. Both my mom and dad have told me of how often the grand parents would brag about their grandson, Barack. Later, when Obama was home during his college years my mom got to chat with Barack when he came to the bridge club to give the grand parents a ride home. Having heard so much about what a prodigy he was, my mom asked what he planned to do after college. His reply: "I may go into politics."

Not a deep insight but you're all aware how grand parents dote over their grand kids. Mine did. I also find it unusual that a 20 something y/o aspires to a career in politics. That usually comes later in life.

Anonymous said...

Did Obama say that alone or did someone write that for him? Appears everyone is attempting to find ways to impress upon others that the devestation of the potential sequestration is another's fault. If only what happens/affects the common American affected them at an equal level, then there would be more solutions but Obama, and probably other solution-makers, is exempt.

casual observer said...

Does he somehow think that he is the only person who knows the "right way" to do things?
Is that the reason for the insufferable arrogance?
So he is out roaming the countryside at taxpayer expense trying to organize his community because Congress is exercising their part of the power equation?
Because Congress is balking at his instructions, at his assumption of dictatorship?

Aside to anon 7:45
What was he a prodigy in?

Peter Hyatt said...

Anonymous said...
Obama was raised in large part by his grand parents. Back in the late 70s/early 80s they played bridge at the same club my folks did. Both my mom and dad have told me of how often the grand parents would brag about their grandson, Barack. Later, when Obama was home during his college years my mom got to chat with Barack when he came to the bridge club to give the grand parents a ride home. Having heard so much about what a prodigy he was, my mom asked what he planned to do after college. His reply: "I may go into politics."

Not a deep insight but you're all aware how grand parents dote over their grand kids. Mine did. I also find it unusual that a 20 something y/o aspires to a career in politics. That usually comes later in life.
February 27, 2013 at 7:45 PM >>

I thought he was young "Barry" back then?

Sarah said...

His arrogance is palpable. Yes, I am a conservative, and admittedly I don't agree with ANYTHING he stands for, and his positions on certain issues make it impossible for me to respect him as a person. I do respect the office, though, and wish he was not so very arrogant. I wish there was some kind of redeeming quality I could find, even if it were a small one. I am sure there is one, but I just don't know about it. His absolute refusal to protect the most innocent and helpless babies leaves me with no choice, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. He goes beyond the average pro-abortion advocate and won't even vote to pass a law that would make it illegal to kill a baby born alive after a botched abortion attempt. It really doesn't get any worse than that.

and no, I don't like Bush either. The older I get, I am learning that I don't like very many politicians at all. Maybe one or two, and they will never be president. In the end it does not surprise me, knowing the nature of man.

My husband wants me to add "go Rangers!"

Anita said...

I haven't read The Amateur, but according to Ed Klein, about Jeremiah Wright "the controversial pastor thinks President Barack Obama has become a liar since running for president."

Chances are he already was.



"Wright said, too, that when Obama came to meet with him, “he was confident, he was very hopeful [about getting elected to the presidency]. But he saw me as a deterrent.”

“One more thing he said to me that day, he said, ‘You know what your problem is?’ I said, ‘What’s my problem?’” Wright added.

According to Wright, Obama told him his “problem” is “You have to tell the truth.”


Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2012/05/17/new-rev-wright-audio-controversial-pastor-thought-obama-became-a-liar-video/#ixzz2MAj3mzrA

Anita said...

No, arrogant is the word for arrogant. Arrogant knows no color. Look it up.

Lemon said...

Anita said-
"No, arrogant is the word for arrogant."…

Touché.

sidewalk super said...

Pathetic to read that the community organizer holds telling the truth in such a negligible light. But, we knew that based on his body language, how he talks, what he says today, versus yesterday, and then tomorrow. And the blame game...if he has no truth, who is he to "blame" anyone? Labels are fluid to him. And it is our nation he holds in the most disrespect as he exhorts his community to follow him blindly as he avoids his elected government duties.

Anonymous said...

Peter Hyatt said:
I thought he was young "Barry" back then?

Hey Peter,
The name Barry may well have been used even as the story was given to me. Once I get a usage of a name fixed in my head I tend to be unable to change it. For instance, if you and I met and you said "Just call me Pete." I wouldn't be able to do it because I've read this blog for over a year and the name "Peter" is set in my mind.

Other than that I believe the Obama story is accurate. I also tend to use given names rather than nicknames. My business partner of 20 years was known to everyone as Mike but I always called him Michael. Only me.

This makes me wonder if someone, like me, who tends to fix on proper names has some kind of personality quirk. Maybe I'm an anal retentive...or something.

Anonymous said...

"Anita"Is arrogant for ANT EATERS!!! I'm dating a prawn shrimp.(miss marple is Satan)

Excruciating Headache said...

I'm stunned that people interested in statement analysis find a comment about the word "arrogant" sufficiently offensive to warrant removing it. That's okay but consider the irony: In many circles, the word "arrogant" is a euphemism for "uppity", an adjective that many African Americans are sensitive to. That went completely over your heads.

I rarely quote Keith Olberman, but this was the first example that popped up when I googled it: "When racist white guys get together and they don't want to be caught using any of the popular epithets in use every day in this country about black people - and there's a chance one of them, or worse still a white guy who doesn't get it might wander in and hear the conversation, when there's a risk even in saying 'uppity' or 'forgetting his place,' the racist white guys revert to euphemisms and code words. And among the code words that they think they're getting away with are 'cocky,' 'flippant,' 'punk,' and especially 'arrogant.'"

So, I really enjoy the statement analyses on this blog. I don't think Peter is racist. Unfortunately, I notice that the claws come out when Obama is the subject of conversation and I think many of the comments border on racist.

Politicians have speech writers. It may not fit your Fox News narratives, but it is 100% true. Reciting someone else's words is almost certainly going to result in an odd delivery.

Cheers!

Excruciating Headache said...

Oh, and someone analyze Anonymous' sentence above. I'm thinking mushrooms. LOL

Lemon said...

Is there a code word for 'code word'© we should know about so as to not use as a, well, code word?

Anita said...

Lemon said...
Is there a code word for 'code word'© we should know about so as to not use as a, well, code word?


Touché.


Excruciating Headache said...

"100% true"

This is a troubling choice of words. Obama prefers his truth on the half shell, you know, of the 50% variety - that is, half truths. Dangerous business.

Serously, what you are saying in effect is that people can't criticize Obama because he is black, just in case any criticism might be because he is black and therefore racist in origin. So that would give this POTUS impunity from criticism. How convenient. How dangerous.

Have you thrown common sense to the wind?

Excruciating Headache said...

I believe that if you want to argue intelligently about politics, you should discuss policies, not personality.

My first career was cardiovascular nursing in Detroit. I become acquainted with language people use to avoid sounding racist. Other white nurses said dispicable things about my black patients.

My second career involved majoring in political science and I took a course in speech writing. I'm not an expect, but I know a little bit about speech writing and avoiding divisive language.

I'm off to work. Have a great day.