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

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Created Focal Points

While it is widely known that much time and thought go into crafting political speeches, it does not always immediately come to mind that a significant amount of time also goes into arranging and creating the space that the speech is going to be given in. Specifically, look to President Obama’s speech, or rather, the location of the speech that he presented from the Oval Office this past August 31st. The scenery and the ambiance of this exact location creates vibes that the public consciously or unconsciously notice and remember.

While the content of the speech will be a current topic for some time, the image Obama presents to the American public is one that will stand out within their minds for even longer. Attention is brought to analyzing how the president presents himself and this country. In No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy, the authors, Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites, confirm the idea that pictures “always seem to stand above the welter of news, debate, decisions, and investigations” (1). For example, the family photos that were arranged on the table behind President Obama serve a specific purpose. They are there not only to humanize Obama as Hadley, Jake, and Lucas refer to, but also to demonstrate to the American people that he does not fit the typical corrupt, scandalous politician mold. Instead, Obama wants to craft the idea that he is a man of morals, and a man who is a loving father and husband. To some extent, the personal pictures inspire Americans to fix broken homes. The photographs tell the American people that Obama is not only the president of an entire country, but he is also still a sufficient father and husband. If Obama can handle all that he is dealing with, then there is hope for the average person to do the same.

During this speech, it was almost impossible not to glance around the space that Obama chose to deliver his oration. From the American flag to the spotless desk, to the closed curtains in the background, everything that was within the camera’s frame of view was perfectly arranged and placed. Obama and his advisors probably spent many hours just deciding upon the set up and organization of the scene within the oval office. They wanted a certain message to be conveyed to the American people simply by the objects surrounding Obama and the way that he portrays himself. This idea within it itself demonstrates the focus that our society places on what is visually observed.

The visual effect surrounding President Obama’s speech presented lasting images to the public of a president who is not only a man of morals, but also a man who wants to come across to the people in a certain way. The emphasis placed upon how a scene’s image is displayed is only going to continue to be a focal point in today’s society.

- Mary Rometti


  1. Mary this is very well written! I think you laid out the facts of the speech in a clear concise way and it made it very easy and pleasing to read. Overall, thumbs up! :) Hadley

  2. I second Hadley's comment this is one of the best written posts. I would question referencing the other posts, but that the author's choice. Using the reading to explain the importance of your subject was a great idea. You might have wanted to go a bit more in depth into the individual elements of the image.


  3. I like how you related the President's pictures to the fact that Americans should be able to accomplish the feats of being a father and husband because he has such a hard job and can still accomplish these things. I never thought about it conveying that kind of message.