The student blog for Drake University first year seminar entitled Visual Politics

Saturday, September 4, 2010

As I observed President Barack Obama’s September 1 Oval Office speech regarding the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, I noticed several subtle, yet powerful symbols strategically placed throughout the viewing area. First and foremost is the centerpiece, the President himself, situated at an empty desk with hands firmly intertwined. His overall stature signifies confidence and pride in the landmark decision to allow the Iraqi citizens to take command of their own domestic issues within their war-torn country. The empty desk further symbolizes his firm resolve by demonstrating that the “table has been cleared”, so to speak, and we, as American citizens, are prepared to start anew.

Behind the President are several photographs of him and his family, representing the peacefulness that once was and will be, and two flags flanking an unconcealed window. The flag on the viewer’s left, the American flag, denotes that the United States’ population as a whole supports this long-awaited resolution, as well as President Obama himself. The flag to the viewer’s right, which sports an eagle clutching a bundle of arrows and olive branches, has been tactfully positioned with the latter raised high above the former, further exemplifying a (hopefully) more peaceful future for the United States and the Middle East.

Finally, the window, unobstructed by the curtains, embodies the President’s open mind and positive attitude towards improving relations with the Middle East.

— Nikki Edmiston


  1. I never though of his clear desk in that way. I think that is a very good way of viewing the open desk thanks for sharing! :) Hadley

  2. I totally see where you are coming from with the idea of "wiping the slate clean" because the desk is clear, but I want to assume that whenever a president has ever made a speech in the past the desk has been clean. So is it the recent events in our country's history that makes us want it to symbolize this, or does it actually symbolize something else entirely? Just a thought. -Katie

  3. I definitely see how the window could signify a positive attitude towards improving relations with the Middle East. I also wonder if that is really what they were going for when they didn't pull the curtains closed or if it was possibly just a lighting issue? -Lauren

  4. I really like the idea of the clean table. Now that i think of it it is a good symbol of his intentions to focus on the future of our country. It would have been cool also if he were to have something to represent the trials of the future as well but that would have been harder to represent. Nonetheless it was very good imagery
    -Travis Ormsby