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FIRST-PERSON: President delivers effective State of Union address

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–While President Bush’s recent State of the Union address may not go down in history as particularly memorable, it was all it needed to be — incredibly effective. From sea to shining sea and across Europe response to the president’s speech was swift and positive. The overwhelming majority of those who listened to his 65-minute address gave it a thumbs-up, particularly as it pertained to Saddam Hussein.

Polls conducted by CNN-USA Today-Gallop and ABC News found that of the 62.1 million Americans who tuned into the president’s speech, 81 percent indicated Bush’s priorities for the country mirror their own. Concerning Iraq, 67 percent said the president made a convincing case about the need for the U.S. to take military action against Saddam’s regime.

If American reaction to President Bush’s speech was not dramatic enough, the response abroad might be more compelling. Two days following the State of the Union address eight leaders of European countries released a letter voicing support for the president’s position against Iraq.

On January 30, the leaders of Spain, Portugal, Italy, the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Denmark went on the record for the world — and in particular France and Germany — to see that they support President Bush in taking action against Iraq. One day following the release of the aforementioned letter and London’s Daily Telegraph reports that 21 nations have agreed to give the United States access in any war against Iraq. Gone is the argument against unilateral action and going it alone.

However, of all the responses to President Bush’s State of the Union speech the most interesting has come from Hillary Clinton. The senator from New York and leading Democrat has made no comment on the president’s address. One of Bush’s most ardent critics, Clinton has been mum not only on the content of the president’s speech, but she has offered absolutely no comment on the positive reaction it has garnered. Silence is indeed golden.

Liberal commentators and Democrat critics are scratching their heads over the positive reaction to the president’s speech. They just don’t get it. However, if Winston Churchill were alive today he would likely give President Bush positive marks for his recent State of the Union address. Britain’s bulldog would no doubt salute the president’s ability to make a simple but compelling case against Saddam Hussein.

Churchill will forever be remembered for his stirring oratory during the dark days of World War II. His ability to motivate was no accident. Churchill had a strict guide he followed when seeking to convey any message. There are certain elements of “The Scaffolding of Rhetoric,” the title Churchill gave to his communication “formula,” President Bush uses quite well.

When communicating, whether verbally or in writing, Churchill believed strongly in “correctness of diction” and “accumulation of argument.”

On the “correctness of diction” Churchill felt the best words possible should be chosen in order to convey and idea. In his mind the most appropriate word was always a short word. Churchill disdained what he termed, “professional intellectuals who revel in polysyllables.” Critics have often mocked Bush’s simplicity as indicative of a lack of intellect. However the president understands, as did Churchill, the goal of communication is to persuade, not to impress.

The “accumulation of an argument” was something Churchill thought necessary in order to motivate. He wrote, “A series of facts is brought forward all pointing in a common direction. The end appears in sight before it is reached.” In the State of the Union address President Bush carefully laid fact upon fact like a skilled bricklayer. When he was finished he had constructed a compelling wall of evidence that showed Saddam Hussein has not, and is not, disarming.

In a day when catch phrases and sound bites are what politicians specialize in, President Bush communicated a simple and compelling message to America and the world. While Winston Churchill may not have given Bush’s State of the Union speech an “A” — Churchill would no doubt reserve all “A’s” for himself — he would certainly have given him a capital “E” for effectiveness. Why? Because the vast majority who heard the president’s words have thus far embraced them. And that, my friend, is the goal of effective communication.
Boggs is pastor of Valley Baptist Church, McMinnville, Ore.

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  • Kelly Boggs