June 19, 2010 7:32 AM
Is Obama really that smart? His speeches say noWhile I'm not one to fault any leader of speaking simply so more people can access the message, what grates is the false image we're presented with of this Super Intelligent So-Far-Above-Us-All Gift to the Masses.
These simplistic speeches are written for him. He delivers them with his unique, hypno-lecture style with assorted unnatural hand gestures (which some believe to be part of the hypno-package).
When he is off teleprompter, he stammers and stutters and gets in a lot of trouble from foot-in-mouth disease. Which is why he takes a teleprompter even to address students in school gyms.
We have been fed - and countless fellow citizens have swallowed - so many lies about who this pretender is. There's a reason - well, probably several - he is the only president whose school records have not been released. Here's another myth-buster for my readers with English teacher blood coursing through their veins:
btw, Microsoft Office has a feature that allows you to check the Flesh-Kincaid of anything you write. And here's a Readability Index Calculator for anything you want to measure.
Professor' Obama? President's State of the Union Address Notches 4th Lowest Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Score Since FDR
Text of Obama's Address has a readability score for an average 8th grader - two grades lower than George W. Bush's Addresses and the historical average for modern presidents
Barack Obama's ability as a public speaker since his 2008 presidential campaign has been alternately viewed, often depending on whether or not one is an Obama supporter, along various dyads: being inspirational versus being aloof, intellectualizing versus lecturing etc.
Along those lines, in her first month as a commentator for FOX News, Sarah Palin criticized Obama's first State of the Union Address on Wednesday night as "lecturing" the American public.
Unlike the criticisms hurled at his predecessor, however, few have ever charged that the President, a former senior lecturer in Constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School, has written or spoken too simplistically or catered his words to the lowest common denominator.
However, a Smart Politics analysis of nearly 70 oral State of the Union Addresses since the mid-1930s finds the text of Obama's speech on Wednesday evening to have one of the lowest scores on the Flesch-Kincaid readability test ever recorded by a U.S. President.
The Flesch-Kincaid test is designed to assess the readability level of written text, with a formula that translates the score to a U.S. grade level. Longer sentences and sentences utilizing words with more syllables produce higher scores. Shorter sentences and sentences incorporating more monosyllabic words yield lower scores.
Smart Politics ran the Flesch-Kincaid test on each of the last 68 State of the Union Addresses that were delivered orally by presidents before a Joint Session of Congress since Franklin Roosevelt. Excluded from analysis were five written addresses (Truman in 1946 and 1953, Eisenhower in 1961, Nixon in 1973, and Carter in 1981) and two addresses that were delivered orally, but not by the President himself (Roosevelt in 1945, Eisenhower in 1956). Prior to FDR, most, but not all, such Addresses were delivered in writing.
Obama's Flesch-Kincaid grade level score of 8.8 for his first State of the Union Address was the fourth lowest score since FDR's first Address in 1934.
What this means is that Obama wrote and delivered a speech that incorporated shorter sentences, with those sentences containing shorter words, than nearly every such Presidential Address in the modern era.
Across the more than 75 years of speeches under analysis, the average sentence in State of the Union Addresses is 20.6 words in length.
But the average length of sentences comprising Obama's 2010 address was just 16.6 words in length - or 19.4 percent shorter than average. This also marks the fourth lowest average words per sentence used in State of the Union Addresses during the period under study.
President Obama's comparative brevity in his sentence structure and his frequent use of monosyllabic words can be seen in the following excerpts from his Address:
"Again, we are tested. And again, we must answer history's call."
"Now, let me repeat: We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college."
"We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don't quit. I don't quit."
As such, the speech by 'the professor' stands in contrast to his predecessor, 'the cowboy,' George W. Bush, who was frequently skewered by the left and late-night talk show hosts for his public speaking abilities, his intelligence, and his misuse of the English language.
Bush averaged a Flesch-Kincaid score of 10.4 across his seven State of the Union Addresses - or nearly two full grades higher than Obama's speech. Bush's speeches also averaged 2.4 more words per sentence than Obama, at 19.0.
In other words, the text of George W. Bush's speeches are expected to be understandable (in written form) by an average sophomore in high school, whereas Obama's speech should be understandable by a junior high school student.
Interestingly, George W. Bush's 10.4 Flesch-Kincaid score was also higher than several of his predecessors, including Ronald Reagan (10.3), Bill Clinton (9.5), and his father George H.W. Bush (8.6).
Overall, the Flesch-Kincaid grade level of presidential State of the Union Addresses has decreased in recent decades - with the last five presidents notching the five lowest scores.
John F. Kennedy's Addresses averaged a Flesch-Kincaid grade level of 12.0 - with these speeches averaging 23.8 words per sentence. Dwight Eisenhower was close behind with a Flesch-Kincaid score of 11.9, with Nixon at 11.5, FDR at 11.4 and Gerald Ford at 11.2.
Average Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level for Orally Delivered State of the Union Addresses by President Since FDR
Data compiled by Smart Politics.
Rank President Words per sentence Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 1 Kennedy 23.8 12.0 2 Eisenhower 20.5 11.9 3 Nixon 23.5 11.5 4 Roosevelt 24.3 11.4 5 Ford 19.3 11.2 6 Carter 19.7 10.8 7 Truman 18.9 10.5 8 Johnson 20.3 10.4 8 Bush 43 19.0 10.4 10 Reagan 19.6 10.3 11 Clinton 19.0 9.5 12 Obama 16.6 8.8 13 Bush 41 17.4 8.6
The only other orally delivered State of the Union Addresses that were written with fewer average words per sentence than Obama's 16.6 average in his 2010 Address, and that scored lower than Obama's 8.8 Flesch-Kincaid score, were:
Â· George H.W. Bush's final Address in 1992 (7.5, 15.8 words per sentence)
Â· Lyndon Johnson's 1965 Address (8.6, 16.1 words per sentence)
Â· Harry Truman's 1951 Address (8.6, 16.3 words per sentence
Read more at Smart Politics
Barbara - Thanks for sharing this interesting info. What I've never understood is why so many commentators (even conservative) preface their remarks by saying that obviously Obama is a smart man or he's highly intelligent. I don't believe it. He's just a thug politician who hates America. Unfortunately he has fooled so many Americans who didn't even look at his past when they voted for him.
Posted by: Monte | June 19, 2010 8:35 AM
He has fooled us!
Posted by: Diana | September 26, 2010 11:10 PM