Visual Comparisons: States of the Union Speeches

Jeff Alworth

Long before (okay, a year or two) the New York Times got hip to doing word searches and making spiffy graphics, I used to blog a thing I called "State of the Union by the Numbers." It seems a little redundant now, but I did plug the text of tonight's speech into Wordle. For fun, I compared it to Bush's third SotU, given in 2003, just before the war with Iraq. What's surprising is how similar they are. I guess it's true what they say: the State of the Union isn't really the speech where news gets made.

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    What? In what way are those wordles alike? I see incredibly little overlap, particularly given two speeches that are ostensibly on the same topic.

    Yes, "people" and variations on "America" are big in both but not surprising since the topic of the speech is basically the United States of America and Americans. The big other things in the 2003 speech are "weapons, Saddam and Hussein"--nowhere to be found in 2011.

    "Schools, innovation, education, research, work, jobs" are significant in 2011 and non-existent in 2003.

    Clearly two very, very different speeches.

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