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The 'Obama Effect' on Our Language

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When I first heard Obama make a major speech, I felt pulled toward the screen and was deeply moved by what he said – but maybe even more by the consciousness that came with his words. This was something I had not heard  from an American politician since Bobby Kennedy, forty years ago.

When Obama first came to my city, I failed to get into the packed venue. Obama made a visit to the mass of people who were outside the venue. I was walking back to my car when I heard his voice rise above the crowd's cheering and all the ambient noise of the city. Electrifying!   

And so, of course, this enormous power of Word has been derided and attacked continually by everyone from Hillary to McCain and Palin.

But Obama has created a wave of awakening in this country and his powers of thought, speech and communication are the messenger, the vehicle, of what he thrusts forward. And as this wave of awakening moves through our country, I hear friends, strangers and even myself, beginning to use some of his rhythms and voicing in our daily conversation. Perhaps most easily observed, is Obama's way of ending statements with a decrescendo – settling his statement into a soft landing in the deeper part of his baritone range. It sounds beautiful and it is, in a way, naturally reassuring in its resonance. The power of what he says is settled into the peace (especially the emotional surety) that he carries inside. And so we begin to 'pick up' and 'plug in' this appealing style, one by one.

I have watched this for several months now as it sweeps through our culture. I am writing this article today, however, because now I have found new proof of the innate power of this man, his message and his style. Today I could hear John McCain using this same style of speaking in his campaigning!

Whether this is being done consciously or not is unknowable – except that McCain is certainly compromised in his speaking abilities and there are many stylistic things that his handlers would probably change if they could, before adding a little 'Obama' to his delivery. This suggests that this change in McCain's speaking tone is an unconscious addition to his presentation style. And what greater compliment could he be giving Senator Obama than emulating his manner of speaking?

When people do this, it is always an expression of admiration and respect, isn't it? It is wonderful to feel the Obama messenger-wave reaching even up to the top of the Republican opposition - and causing John McCain to copy Obama's power and the effectiveness of his communication. As an unconsciously chosen display of respect, this very subtle speech variable can be understood as being a very important indicator of who is having the greatest effect in our culture. I don't know if Sarah Palin can 'do' Obama, with her higher, more strident voice. But I suspect that we will soon find out.         


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Jai Daemion (MS, MEd couns) explores a meta-perspective that integrates realms of psychotherapy, psychophysical integration and the study of culture and consciousness, using eastern-western and inner-outer tools. Still holding (more...)

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