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

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Obama's Iraq War Speech

Obama’s nationally televised primetime speech last Tuesday announcing the end of combat operations in Iraq had several powerful visuals used to influence viewers in addition to his speech.  These visuals are important as the President was on almost all major stations during one of the most watched TV hours.  The goals of these images varied greatly for the types of messages the President wanted to convey.
The first major symbol was President Obama’s very formal dress attire. His full suit gives an image of responsibility and power.  The dark suit also blended with the somberness of his speech, as even though Obama was announcing the end of combat operations in Iraq, he also used the speech to touch on the growing conflict in Afghanistan and the issue of how our veterans, especially the injured ones who receive inadequate treatment at home.  The suit also has an American flag lapel, a (needless) symbol of reassuring Americans the President doesn’t hate the country.
The next biggest symbol was the pictures of Obama’s family, including a wedding photo. These photos are in clear view and are intended to remind viewers that Obama is a person too, with a wife and children. Obama is often portrayed as an aloof elitist, so these photos are clearly there to help get rid of that notion.  The photos are numerous and cover a large portion of the background.
The two flags behind The President are important symbols too. The American flag is a staple of the Oval Office, and its absence would have been greatly noted. The other flag, bearing the Seal of The United States is open to show both the talon clutching arrows and the other clutching the olive branch. The arrows show the determination of the US to fight for what it believes is right, and the olive branch to show that peace is always an option.  These are the symbols I picked up on while watching the speech.
-           Lucas Oshman


  1. They family photographs were in the background yes, but could they have been placed there on purpose to make him appear as the ideal family man? I know where you are comming from and I really hope President Obama is a family man, but remember he has hundreds of staff members that plan every inch of the speech before it takes place. So I just have the feeling as if they were placed there on purpose not by Obama himself. :) Hadley

  2. It's his office there, isn't an office of a married man on earth without a picture or two of his family. I think the pictures were on hand because Obama wanted them there, but they were absolutely used to his political advantage: if they weren't and it was an accident he should fire his team.