I didn’t say I was sorry…(speech acts)

Yes I took notes on the debate. I didn’t think there were any big reveals, gaffes, or serious revelations. Personally, I thought it was a push. I agree with others, if you haven’t made up your mind by now, go back to France and surrender.

So, this is old and tired, and not that it matters, because apparently it doesn’t, but I’m going to make the point anyway, because at least it interests enough to take the time to explain it.

Just to be clear, you don’t have to actually say a word to invoke the meaning. The intention of your words can be considered a “speech act”…there’s three parts to the speech act theory, and in the case I am making, I am referring  to the “perlocutionary act”…which means “What you’re trying to accomplish with what you’re saying”… considering its intended effect, such as persuading, convincing, inspiring, apologizing.

Definition of apology, from the Merriam Webster’s online dictionary.

1)      a formal justification : defense

2)      an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret

Here are direct quotes of what Obama said in the beginning of his term:

“ There have been times when America’s shown arrogance, been dismissive, even derisive.”

“We’ve at times been disengaged, and at times sought to dictate our terms.”

“Unfortunately faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions; in other words, we went off course.”

“Our Government was making decisions that undermine the rule of law.”

Yes, these quotes are made out of context of the larger speech. However, I do believe they are representative of his message (please YouTube these for yourself for your own determination).

What do you think Obama was trying to accomplish with these words?

I believe a large part of the president’s job is to establish the vision for the country, set the tone, and communicate to the rest of the world on our behalf. It’s called leadership, and public communication is a large part of how you do it. It’s an important part of a president’s toolkit. Reagan did it expertly.   Like any leader, a presidents’ communication at the beginning of his term establishes his thoughts and his path. So, a president’s communication at the start of his presidency should be considered important, shouldn’t it?

Sure, America’s made mistakes. That’s not my issue here. All countries have. Are we, as a country, arrogant? Perhaps, but I don’t think it’s anything to apologize for. If you think other countries are incapable of arrogance, (if indeed countries can be characterized as such) you haven’t been to many countries. We’re just currently the most powerful of them.

So, again, I ask you, what do you think Obama was trying to accomplish with those words? You’re free to make up your own mind. There are a million ways to deliver a message. I believe Obama could have been so much more positive and inclusive in his message and tone. He could have used language that simply indicated that America was establishing a new direction, and whether I liked him or not, I could have felt included in the remarks. The old “I’m everybody’s president now” thing.  He could have elaborated on the “Hope and Change” schtick. Being a veteran and knowing, first hand, the immense amount of good America accomplishes all over the globe, seeing first hand arrogant American GIs performing incredible acts of kindness in the service of their country, his remarks alienated me from the start by, in my mind, apologizing for who America was and what we’d done.  For me, that’s what he accomplished with those words.

An apology tour.