2 February 2011

More 3-part lists and a touch of management speak from Obama on Egypt


From his five minute speech yesterday, it was yet another three-part list was singled out from President Obama's statement about Egypt to become the most widely quoted line in the news headlines:

"An orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now."

I say 'yet another' because I've commented before on Obama's frequent use of three-part lists, of which there were 29 in his ten minute victory speech in Chicago.

And yesterday's headline was only one of six such lists in his five-minute statement, the others being:
  1. "Over the past few days, the American people have watched the situation unfolding in Egypt.
  2. "We’ve seen enormous demonstrations by the Egyptian people.
  3. "We’ve borne witness to the beginning of a new chapter in the history of a great country, and a long-time partner of the United States."
"And throughout this period, we’ve stood for a set of core principles.
  1. "First, we oppose violence ...
  2. "Second, we stand for universal values ...
  3. "Third, we have spoken out on behalf of the need for change ... "
  1. "Furthermore, the process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties.
  2. "It should lead to elections that are free and fair.
  3. "And it should result in a government that’s not only grounded in democratic principles, but is also responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people."
"I want to be clear:
  1. "We hear your voices.
  2. "I have an unyielding belief that you will determine your own destiny and seize the promise of a better future for your children and your grandchildren.
  3. "And I say that as someone who is committed to a partnership between the United States and Egypt."
  1. "That truth can be seen in the sense of community in the streets.
  2. "It can be seen in the mothers and fathers embracing soldiers.
  3. "And it can be seen in the Egyptians who linked arms to protect the national museum."
Management-speak?
However smooth the rhetoric written into this hastily prepared statement (produced, as it was, very soon after Mubarak's speech in Cairo) might have been, I was surprised to hear the inclusion of a participle that's been featuring more and more in management presentations over the past few years, namely the use of 'going forward' when speakers are talking about the future:

"And going forward, I urge the military to continue its efforts to help ensure that this time of change is peaceful."

"And going forward, the United States will continue to stand up for democracy and the universal rights that all human beings deserve, in Egypt and around the world."

Personally, I find it almost as irritating and distracting as the growing preference for using 'ahead of' when the speaker or writer (journalists being the worst offenders) actually means 'before' (HERE) - and I recommend people on my courses to avoid using either of them.

Unless President Obama really does want to sound like an MBA graduate who's just swallowed a dictionary of management jargon, I think it's time he had a word with his speechwriters. And, while he's at it, he might like to remind them that one 'furthermore' in a speech is one too many.

Full script of President Obama's statement on Egypt
Good evening, everybody. Over the past few days, the American people have watched the situation unfolding in Egypt. We’ve seen enormous demonstrations by the Egyptian people. We’ve borne witness to the beginning of a new chapter in the history of a great country, and a long-time partner of the United States.

And my administration has been in close contact with our Egyptian counterparts and a broad range of the Egyptian people, as well as others across the region and across the globe. And throughout this period, we’ve stood for a set of core principles.

First, we oppose violence. And I want to commend the Egyptian military for the professionalism and patriotism that it has shown thus far in allowing peaceful protests while protecting the Egyptian people. We’ve seen tanks covered with banners, and soldiers and protesters embracing in the streets. And going forward, I urge the military to continue its efforts to help ensure that this time of change is peaceful.

Second, we stand for universal values, including the rights of the Egyptian people to freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and the freedom to access information. Once more, we’ve seen the incredible potential for technology to empower citizens and the dignity of those who stand up for a better future. And going forward, the United States will continue to stand up for democracy and the universal rights that all human beings deserve, in Egypt and around the world.

Third, we have spoken out on behalf of the need for change. After his speech tonight, I spoke directly to President Mubarak. He recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and that a change must take place. Indeed, all of us who are privileged to serve in positions of political power do so at the will of our people. Through thousands of years, Egypt has known many moments of transformation. The voices of the Egyptian people tell us that this is one of those moments; this is one of those times.

Now, it is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt’s leaders. Only the Egyptian people can do that. What is clear — and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak — is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.

Furthermore, the process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties. It should lead to elections that are free and fair. And it should result in a government that’s not only grounded in democratic principles, but is also responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people.

Throughout this process, the United States will continue to extend the hand of partnership and friendship to Egypt. And we stand ready to provide any assistance that is necessary to help the Egyptian people as they manage the aftermath of these protests.

Over the last few days, the passion and the dignity that has been demonstrated by the people of Egypt has been an inspiration to people around the world, including here in the United States, and to all those who believe in the inevitability of human freedom.

To the people of Egypt, particularly the young people of Egypt, I want to be clear: We hear your voices. I have an unyielding belief that you will determine your own destiny and seize the promise of a better future for your children and your grandchildren. And I say that as someone who is committed to a partnership between the United States and Egypt.

There will be difficult days ahead. Many questions about Egypt’s future remain unanswered. But I am confident that the people of Egypt will find those answers. That truth can be seen in the sense of community in the streets. It can be seen in the mothers and fathers embracing soldiers. And it can be seen in the Egyptians who linked arms to protect the national museum — a new generation protecting the treasures of antiquity; a human chain connecting a great and ancient civilization to the promise of a new day.

Thank you very much.

3 comments:

John said...

Great stuff, Max. Especially given that you had to crank out the article soon after Obama had to crank out his speech soon after Mubarak had to crank out his speech!

I look forward to more such analyses going forward. Err ... I mean, in the future.

John
http://mannerofspeaking.org

Chris Witt said...

Max, Thanks for pointing out his use of three. Lately, I've been wishing that Obama would make better use of more of the rhetorical techniques you set out so well in your book. I don't know if he's intentionally trying to sound like business leaders -- why would anyone want to use them as a model? -- but too often I find him mouthing flat-footed phrases and sentences that lose their punch at the end.

Michelle said...

JEB BUSH..he's that LA bee.
And he's with CLINTON.
Don't kid yourself.
MANN doesn't.
None of them are delusional anymore about " politics".
Especially with OLIVER NORTH and RIZAFF.
BOWHILL- WHINNYHILL- KILLA HILLA- included.
And so it goes with French mob.
They say REMY- IRENE are with the PRENSE.
And they 're all with SQUALL - the QUEEN.