State of the Union

State of the Union Speech Analysis

As an executive speech coach, I’ve become accustomed to analyzing State of the Union speeches and presidential debates for many years.

Bottom-line: If Obama performed like a motivational speaker, Trump delivered like a CEO. To be more specific, Obama’s speeches were often eloquent and motivational––but short on specifics. Trump’s speech sounded like the corporate CEO’s list of “done’s” and “to-dos” about to be delegated to his team.

Let’s break that summary down this way:

Strengths of the State of the Union Speech

  • Focused immediately on commonality and areas of agreement (heroism of individuals during the recent hurricanes and fires)
  • Individual stories of real citizens to illustrate key points
  • Appealed to logic (statistics on the economy and on tax reform)
  • Appealed to emotion (stories of the two couples who lost teenage daughters, killed by the MS13 gang; the North Korean defector who held up his crutches; the Otto Warmbier family; the police officer who adopted the baby from the opioid addicted mother)
  • Unique metaphors (Example: speaking of the capitol building as a monument to the people)
  • Several quotable lines: “Americans are dreamers too.” “….American aid goes only to friends of America, not enemies of America.” “The people dreamed this country. The people built this country. And it’s the people who are making America great again.” “…lift citizens from welfare to work, from dependence to independence, from poverty to prosperity.”)
  • Upbeat tone

Weaknesses of the State of the Union Speech

  • Wooden delivery (Trump still needs training to use a teleprompter. He kept pausing in odd places for the next phrase to scroll on the screen, not remembering that the prompter would follow him—not the reverse.)
  • Body language: The chin tilted upward looks arrogant.
  • Applauding at this own speech lines (While very appropriate to applaud for his audience heroes, it’s not so appropriate to applaud at his own entrance and otherwise.)
  • His use of “we” (The term is inclusive—but the meaning was often divisive, drawing a line in the sand.)
  • Too long at 80 minutes

What else would you add as a strength or weakness?