Q and A: Obama’s rhetoric revealed

President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union speech on Wednesday evening, announcing upcoming bills that would affect business, the environment, higher education, healthcare and the military. The Daily Illini interviewed University communication professor John Murphy, who is a Presidential rhetoric expert, to see how the speech went.

The Daily Illini: What do you think are the most important issues discussed in the speech?

John Murphy: I think there were three important issues he talked about. I think they were one, the economy and how to create jobs; two, American’s competitiveness in the world and the things we need to do to compete with other countries; and then health care.

DI: What was the tone of the speech?

Murphy: I thought President Obama talked much more this time on values. Many of his previous speeches have been policy oriented. He got into details this time; he was much more concerned with who we are as an American people and the ways in which his values were aligned with ours.

DI: What do you think about his plans for higher education?

Murphy: I think that this is nothing but good news for students. The president felt very strongly and came out for tuition tax credits, student loans…these (higher education bills) are the kinds of things that Congress is likely to pass.

DI: How did this State of the Union speech compare to others in the past?

Murphy: The State of the Union goes in either one of two directions: either about specific policies or about values. This (speech) was more about value. This speech reminded me of (one given by) Ronald Reagan.

DI: How did the speech remind you of one Reagan would give?

Murphy: He also had a way of talking to Congress such as if he is the adult in the room, and they (Congress) are the children. He’s (Obama) the adult; he’s going to find out what’s going on. These kids (Congress) have just to got to behave, and he (Obama) will have to stop this car if they don’t start behaving.

DI: What is your opinion about Obama cracking jokes during the State of the Union?

Murphy: The president does not often do that. I thought that was a good idea; he made it very conversational. He is openly admitting the problems and difficulties. He has a problem as being too perfect, and cracking jokes is a way to make him seem ordinarily human.