The smooth operator: Obama employs the art of persuasion

by   Posted on April 5th, 2010 in Opinion

By Johnetta Saygbe, Broadside Correspondent

Everyone in this country uses the art of persuasion; politicians, however, have perfected this art.

Politicians innately possess, or have been taught, the ability to present themselves and their platform in a way that is the most pleasing to their audience.

While the mode of presentation varies, all persuasive arguments begin at a single point: the speaker must identify an audience and its needs, and then create an environment where the audience feels comfortable with the speaker, which dismisses any skepticism of the argument being presented.

On Friday, March 19, 2010, the speaker was the president of the United States, Barack Obama. The audience was the George Mason University community.

The topic discussed was change in current health care policies. In order to establish the aforementioned comfort level, President Obama refused to acknowledge the obvious hierarchy that existed between him and his audience.

Upon ascending the stage, he immediately removed his suit jacket. His desire to be more comfortable, relinquishing his arms from the restricting threads of a jacket, also brought the audience to an ease. President Obama had the same confidence that most Americans only encounter in reporting.

As he stood on that elevated stage, waving at the Mason Nation, the audience knew that he was the man in those pictures — though he was not so two-dimensional now.

In fact, there was nothing two-dimensional about the president. He was, and is, just as real as the people for whom the health care reform was designed. He was relatable.

I am certain that every audience member looked at President Obama and saw a familiar face — a brother, a neighbor, a family friend, an employer, an employee. Mason Nation knew President Obama on Friday.

And, rest assured, President Obama knew the Mason Nation.

It was quite clear that President Obama was not afraid to voice the message that had instigated the four-hour wait outside of the Patriot Center.

He was aware that his committed supporters had arrived on grounds at 5 a.m., suffering through weather conditions uncommon for the spring season, ignoring their biorhythms, saying no to sleep and classes, simply to sit among the numbers and shout, “Yes, we can!”

Oh, but the sacrifice was worth it. I am pretty sure President Obama heard all the “Yes, we can[s]” I called from my third row seat for his speech. And President Obama delivered.

He documented the pains and frustrations of uninsured America, referencing the names and short anecdotes of people he had encountered. He did not ignore the differences that existed between Democrats and Republicans, but I think President Obama did something that only a handful of Presidents have been brave enough to do.

He acknowledged that it was a Republican who had initially suggested the idea of health care reform, giving credit where credit was due.

But then he continued on to highlight key aspects of the bill. The reform was welcomed with cheers, screaming and clapping — exaggerated expressions of human contentment.

He paused to absorb these accolades, once again acknowledging the audience and the space shared between him and them. Yes, President Obama had persuaded the American people.

His persuasive speech, a well-blended concoction of confidence and accuracy, compassion and humility, was meticulously wrapped in a new layer exotic to past presidents of the United States of America: truth.

Perhaps this was the real way of removing audience skepticism when painting a persuasive picture — speaking the truth.



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