“Balk the enemy’s power; force him to reveal himself.” Sun Tzu

(this will take some rehearsal, but it will be totally worth it)

Step 1) During a live televised debate, while Trump is in mid-sentence, Jeb! slowly, painfully, dramatically turns toward Donald J. Trump and says, “is that a sexual euphemism?”. The twittersphere would start asking, “what did Trump say that Bush heard as a naughty innuendo, a filthy double entendre, a salacious foe paw? The press, who live and breath in Twitter ether, would pick it up and start asking the same question – “what perverted thing did Trump say that we missed that Jeb! got?” At the same time, live on stage, Trump would be, “wha? wtf? sexual euphemism? What kind of perverted mind do you have? euphemism? This Yale flunkie is using big words he doesn’t know the meaning of (translation: Trump doesn’t). etc.,” and the debate would continue because Trump will want to talk, talk, talk, talk… about himself.

Miss USA wins Miss Universe 2012
A handout picture provided by the Miss Universe Organization on 20 December 2012 shows the newly crowned Miss Universe 2012, Olivia Culpo (R), posing with US business magnate and Miss Universe organizer Donald Trump (L) during the press conference after the 2012 Miss Universe Competition in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, 19 December 2012. EPA/VALERIE MACON / MISS UNIVERSE ORGANIZATION

Step 2) An hour or so later, after the toss away “sexual euphemism” question had time to percolate in the partisans’ and pundits’ forever-questioning minds (with veiled tactical help from digital allies), when reporters finally have Jeb! cornered, at least ONE reporter will have to ask, “what sexual euphemism were you referring to, Governor Bush?” That’s when Jeb! gets Trumpesque and gives back cold what we’ve all been getting served piping hot for months.  Jeb! calmly lights up a political cheap shot fatty and takes a big, glowing hit of misdirection and spin like a boss:

“With all the scandals about women, his abusing them, the violence, the misogyny, the “beauty pageants” (Jeb! air quotes for emphasis), the bankruptcies, references to menstruation, shutting down the Internet – it’s hard to know what he means. Not even Al Gore knows what he means. He’ll kill entire families? Including grandparents and cousins? Just Muslim families or would he take out Mexican families, too? You know, it’s reported he’s a terrible cheater in golf. Uses the young boys like in Caddyshack. Just like in politics, he’s a hacker wannabe in a Rolls Royce golf cart. If he had to play an honest links game, Obama would humiliate him on the front and back nine – even his own casinos would give the President odds.  Okay – let’s call it a misunderstanding. But that’s the problem isn’t it?  Who can believe a word he says? (MIKE DROP – END INTERVIEW!).

Step 3) Jeb’s staff immediately supplies reporters with a five page list, single spaced and numbered just like a legal document so that reporters can reference the allegation easier, of all the lies he’s told that starts with a fucking “bone spur” in his fucking foot so he could get a fucking medical deferment – after already getting several education deferments to attend his daddy-payed-for private military prep school – so he wouldn’t be drafted to fight in Vietnam, the fucking pussyshit chickenhawk racist son-of-a-bitch. After denigrating a genuine war hero, a man who put his own life on the line in the skies of North Viet Nam fighting for his country, who made Americans proud in his conduct as a prisoner of war subject to inhuman tortue, Donald J. Trump would just as quickly leave his “buddies” in a rice paddy foxhole alone than even join the fucking U.S. Coast Guard. That’s our nation’s Republican Party today.  Tawdry.


If an American only needs one reason why Hillary is more qualified to be President of the United States and Commander-In-Chief, it’s Trump.

Here’s where The Donald and I agree. The Republican candidates for president are piles of putrefying American bald eagle guano if they can’t take him out and certainly don’t deserve to be their party’s nominee. While tough-talking former federal prosecutor Christy can shout down a political enemy in a news conference, he’s still not a heavy-enough hitter to shut down The Donald. I call that false advertising. It’s nice to see Fiorina get in some jabs, but everyone and their mother knows the failed corporate titan/senate candidate is no match for a Clinton. Like them or hate them, Clintons eat up little trolls like her for lunch. Rubio? He can’t even show up much less get in the ring. Cruz? Straw man walking! Do I even have to describe Dr. Carson? Okay – political malpractice, for God’s sake. A Surgeon General appointment if he’s lucky. Nobody else counts except the most qualified – Senator Graham. There, I said it. He can’t win, but he’d be the best president of the Hardy Boys and girl.

Donald J. Trump perched on a parrot sculpture in his Mar-a-Lago estate in May, 1996, by Brian Smith/Corbis.

No, Trump is going down uuuuuuuuuuuge but it won’t be by the Republicans. They don’t have a party left. Like so many badass rebel factions fighting al-Assad’s army, Republicans have plenty of guns but no real power, much less authority, to lead. Proof: they soundly criticize the Pentegon and the President and will debate bombing ISIS for two hours on cable TV, but can’t lift their index finger enough to vote in Congress to authorize the use of military force. Apparently, their responsibility hasn’t gotten out of committee, yet. That’s America’s definition of leadership? It’s like back-seat driving an Indy car – turn left, left, left. Go faster, faster, faster! Pit! Pit! Pit! 

hug from malia

I blame the Democrats. In specific, I blame Obama’s two campaigns against the Republicans that splintered them into fragments. This isn’t good for our nation’s political health. We are better with a viable two-party system that balances one another through compromise and patriotism. But, it’s the price we are paying for Democrats winning the White House.

It’s not like it doesn’t come with a few perks.

  • Osama bin Ladin is having caviar with Sponge Bob at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, for starters.
  • We aren’t in a global economic freefall. That’s something.
  • We argue tirelessly over how four Americans were murdered by terrorists in a distant outpost in North Africa instead of solemnly burying three thousands of our fellow citizens because we didn’t take a PDB titled “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike U.S” seriously enough.
  • We have an American automobile industry.
  • Nobody redecorated the White House in gold leaf. Yet.

That said, imagine if Romney were president and he had imposed on him (because even a Republican president can’t get bills through the Congress) Tea Party policies – again. War with somebody – anybody, really – and blithely carefree spending mostly made up of draconian social austerity and inflated defense budgets. Thank you, but no thank you – I’ll take my Obama medicine rather than catch neocon fever again. Clinton vs. Trump. It’ll be uuuuuuuuuuuuuge.


Please note: Top photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images from SLATE article “On energy, Republican candidates sound a lot like Obama.” by Eric Holthaus.


The President Meets The Press

On the day of the “fiscal cliff/sequestration” deadline, President Obama chose to give a lengthy interview on Meet The Press with David Gregory.  One of the key features of Modern Publicity is timing.  This is a perfect example of the use of timing to send a message, generate buzz and shape public opinion.Meet the Press






For the rest of the day and beyond, Democratic and Republican Party spokespersons repeated the talking points on the amazingly insatiable cable news message machines as part of a premeditated, coordinated legislative battle plan.  Truth be told, we’re also  part of the game – especially the “most likely” (to vote) independent voters – who politicians seek to charm as if they’re all lonely girls at final call.

A fascinating read is the Meet The Press LiveBlog – essentially an NBC White House Reporters’ RSS feed.  Anyone (you don’t have to be a highly-paid network news blogger) can set up the same feed up by using #MTP Twitter search and following these personalities:

  • @davidgregory is David’s personal account.
  • @meetthepress is the show account. Follow for video, insights, behind the scenes photos, more.
  • @betsymtp is executive producer Betsy Fischer’s personal account.
  • @AdamVerdugo is senior producer Adam Verdugo”s personal account.
  • @MTPGuest is our account to send out the latest Sunday guest info.

Read the Press Pass Blog for an excellent comprehensive recap. I prefer Facebook comments; lots of good give-and-take.  The best roundtable comment for publicists was made by presidential historian and author Jon Mechem who reminded us of two key leadership communications venues: wholesale and retail.  This Meet The Press appearance is Obama selling ideas wholesale, appealing to the American People as a mass market (3.5 million influential viewers).  Mechem – and others – points out that President Obama notoriously forgets the retail communications needs, to make person-to-person contact.  Phone, text, skype, visit, etc.

Not surprisingly  this is PR advice we give to many clients. Integrated communications is both wholesale and retail.  Often, companies and personalities habitually rest on their advertising and marketing budgets rather than leveraging their personal power to not simply pursued, but to inspire.  And that’s precisely why integrating social media and video with our publicity and marketing campaigns is so powerful. It gives us the ability to interact, to discuss, to communicate on a retail level – to network, chat, shmooze.  Modern Publicity views technology as a tool to establish greater intimacy and client loyalty.

Rather than analyzing the entire interview transcript (Looked up “shambolic“), I simply jotted down the presidential statements that jumped out at me.  Please note how simple, yet powerful, each phrase is.  These are Obama all quotes:

“The pressure is on Congress to produce”

“up or down vote”

“dysfunction in Washington”

“$2 of spending cuts for every $1 of increased revenue”

“[the American people] made a clear decision”

“overriding unifying theme”

“[the fallacy that] deficit reduction is only about cutting”

“a balanced approach”

“shared sacrifice”


President Obama’s Defense of Pragmatic Liberalism

Chuck Todd, host of  The Daily Rundown on MSNBC, once mentioned in passing that the president’s remarks at UOM where his best defense of Democratic Party values.  Given this president’s well-known gift for oratory, I felt it is worth the time and energy to examine both the message and the persuasive techniques.  The links are my own editorialization of the document.



The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
May 01, 2010
Remarks by the President at University of Michigan Spring Commencement, Big House, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

11:40 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you, everybody.  Please be seated.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  (Laughter.)

It is great to be here in the Big House — (applause) — and so may I say, “Go Blue!”  (Applause.)  I thought I’d go for the cheap applause line to start things off.  (Laughter.)

Good afternoon, President Coleman, the Board of Trustees, to faculty, parents, family and friends of the class of 2010.  (Applause.)  Congratulations on your graduation, and thank you for allowing me the honor of being a part of it.  (Applause.)    Let me acknowledge your wonderful governor, Jennifer Granholm; your mayor, John Hieftje; and all the members of Congress who are here today.  (Applause.)

It is a privilege to be with you on this happy occasion, and, you know, it’s nice to spend a little time outside of Washington.  (Laughter.)  Now, don’t get me wrong -– Washington is a beautiful city.  It’s very nice living above the store; you can’t beat the commute.  (Laughter.)  It’s just sometimes all you hear in Washington is the clamor of politics.  And all that noise can drown out the voices of the people who sent you there.  So when I took office, I decided that each night I would read 10 letters out of the tens of thousands that are sent to us by ordinary Americans every day –- this is my modest effort to remind myself of why I ran in the first place.

Some of these letters tell stories of heartache and struggle.  Some express gratitude, some express anger.  I’d say a good solid third call me an idiot — (laughter) — which is how I know that I’m getting a good, representative sample.  (Laughter and applause.)  Some of the letters make you think — like the one that I received last month from a kindergarten class in Virginia.

Now, the teacher of this class instructed the students to ask me any question they wanted.  So one asked, “How do you do your job?”  Another asked, “Do you work a lot?”  (Laughter.)    Somebody wanted to know if I wear a black jacket or if I have a beard –- (laughter) — so clearly they were getting me mixed up with the other tall guy from Illinois.  (Laughter.)  And one of my favorites was from a kid who wanted to know if I lived next to a volcano.  (Laughter.)  I’m still trying to piece the thought process on this one.  (Laughter.)  Loved this letter.

But it was the last question from the last student in the letter that gave me pause.  The student asked, “Are people being nice?”  Are people being nice?

Well, if you turn on the news today, or yesterday, or a week ago, or a month ago –- particularly one of the cable channels -– (laughter) — you can see why even a kindergartener would ask this question.  (Laughter.)  We’ve got politicians calling each other all sorts of unflattering names.  Pundits and talking heads shout at each other.  The media tends to play up every hint of conflict, because it makes for a sexier story -– which means anyone interested in getting coverage feels compelled to make their arguments as outrageous and as incendiary as possible.

Now, some of this contentiousness can be attributed to the incredibly difficult moment in which we find ourselves as a nation.  The fact is, when you leave here today you will search for work in an economy that is still emerging from the worst crisis since the Great Depression.  You live in a century where the speed with which jobs and industries move across the globe is forcing America to compete like never before.  You will raise your children at a time when threats like terrorism and climate change aren’t confined within the borders of any one country.  And as our world grows smaller and more connected, you will live and work with more people who don’t look like you or think like you or come from where you do.

I really enjoyed Alex’s remarks because that’s a lot of change.  And all these changes, all these challenges, inevitably cause some tension in the body politic.  They make people worry about the future and sometimes they get people riled up.

But I think it’s important that we maintain some historic perspective.  Since the days of our founding, American politics has never been a particularly nice business.  It’s always been a little less gentile during times of great change.  A newspaper of the opposing party once editorialized that if Thomas Jefferson were elected, “Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced.”  (Laughter.)  Not subtle.  Opponents of Andrew Jackson often referred to his mother as a “common prostitute,” which seems a little over the top.  (Laughter.)  Presidents from Teddy Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson have been accused of promoting socialism, or worse.  And we’ve had arguments between politicians that have been settled with actual duels.  There was even a caning once on the floor of the United States Senate -– which I’m happy to say didn’t happen while I was there.  (Laughter.)  It was a few years before.  (Laughter.)

The point is, politics has never been for the thin-skinned or the faint-of-heart, and if you enter the arena, you should expect to get roughed up.  Moreover, democracy in a nation of more than 300 million people is inherently difficult.  It’s always been noisy and messy, contentious, complicated.  We’ve been fighting about the proper size and role of government since the day the Framers gathered in Philadelphia.  We’ve battled over the meaning of individual freedom and equality since the Bill of Rights was drafted.  As our economy has shifted emphasis from agriculture to industry, to information, to technology, we have argued and struggled at each and every juncture over the best way to ensure that all of our citizens have a shot at opportunity.

So before we get too depressed about the current state of our politics, let’s remember our history.  The great debates of the past all stirred great passions.  They all made somebody angry, and at least once led to a terrible war.  What is amazing is that despite all the conflict, despite all its flaws and its frustrations, our experiment in democracy has worked better than any form of government on Earth.  (Applause.)  

On the last day of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was famously asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got -– a republic or a monarchy?”  And Franklin gave an answer that’s been quoted for ages:  He said, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

If you can keep it.

Well, for more than 200 years, we have kept it.  Through revolution and civil war, our democracy has survived.  Through depression and world war, it has prevailed.  Through periods of great social and economic unrest, from civil rights to women’s rights, it has allowed us slowly, sometimes painfully, to move towards a more perfect union.

And so now, class of 2010, the question for your generation is this:  How will you keep our democracy going?  At a moment when our challenges seem so big and our politics seem so small, how will you keep our democracy alive and vibrant; how will you keep it well in this century?

I’m not here to offer some grand theory or detailed policy prescription.  But let me offer a few brief reflections based on my own experiences and the experiences of our country over the last two centuries.

First of all, American democracy has thrived because we have recognized the need for a government that, while limited, can still help us adapt to a changing world.  On the fourth panel of the Jefferson Memorial is a quote I remember reading to my daughters during our first visit there.  It says:

“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but…with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.”

The democracy designed by Jefferson and the other founders was never intended to solve every problem with a new law or a new program.  Having thrown off the tyranny of the British Empire, the first Americans were understandably skeptical of government. And ever since we’ve held fast to the belief that government doesn’t have all the answers, and we have cherished and fiercely defended our individual freedom.  That’s a strand of our nation’s DNA.

But the other strand is the belief that there are some things we can only do together, as one nation -– and that our government must keep pace with the times.  When America expanded from a few colonies to an entire continent, and we needed a way to reach the Pacific, our government helped build the railroads. When we transitioned from an economy based on farms to one based on factories, and workers needed new skills and training, our nation set up a system of public high schools.  When the markets crashed during the Depression and people lost their life savings, our government put in place a set of rules and safeguards to make sure that such a crisis never happened again, and then put a safety net in place to make sure that our elders would never be impoverished the way they had been.  And because our markets and financial systems have evolved since then, we’re now putting in place new rules and safeguards to protect the American people.  (Applause.)

Now, this notion — this notion, class, hasn’t always been partisan.  It was the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, who said the role of government is to do for the people what they cannot do better for themselves.  And he’d go on to begin that first intercontinental railroad and set up the first land-grant colleges.  It was another Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, who said, “the object of government is the welfare of the people.”  And he’s remembered for using the power of government to break up monopolies, and establish our National Park system.  (Applause.)  Democrat Lyndon Johnson announced the Great Society during a commencement here at Michigan, but it was the Republican President before him, Dwight Eisenhower, who launched the massive government undertaking known as the Interstate Highway System.

Of course, there have always been those who’ve opposed such efforts.  They argue government intervention is usually inefficient; that it restricts individual freedom and dampens individual initiative.  And in certain instances, that’s been true.  For many years, we had a welfare system that too often discouraged people from taking responsibility for their own upward mobility.  At times, we’ve neglected the role of parents, rather than government, in cultivating a child’s education.  And sometimes regulation fails, and sometimes their benefits don’t justify their costs.

But what troubles me is when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad.  One of my favorite signs during the health care debate was somebody who said, “Keep Your Government Hands Out Of My Medicare” — (laughter) — which is essentially saying “Keep Government Out Of My Government-Run Health Care Plan.”  (Laughter.)

When our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it ignores the fact that in our democracy, government is us.  We, the people — (applause.)  We, the people, hold in our hands the power to choose our leaders and change our laws, and shape our own destiny. 

Government is the police officers who are protecting our communities, and the servicemen and women who are defending us abroad.  (Applause.)  Government is the roads you drove in on and the speed limits that kept you safe.  Government is what ensures that mines adhere to safety standards and that oil spills are cleaned up by the companies that caused them.  (Applause.)    Government is this extraordinary public university -– a place that’s doing lifesaving research, and catalyzing economic growth, and graduating students who will change the world around them in ways big and small.  (Applause.)

The truth is, the debate we’ve had for decades now between more government and less government, it doesn’t really fit the times in which we live.  We know that too much government can stifle competition and deprive us of choice and burden us with debt.  But we’ve also clearly seen the dangers of too little government -– like when a lack of accountability on Wall Street nearly leads to the collapse of our entire economy.  (Applause.)

So, class of 2010, what we should be asking is not whether we need “big government” or a “small government,” but how we can create a smarter and better government.  (Applause.)  Because in an era of iPods and Tivo, where we have more choices than ever before — even though I can’t really work a lot of these things  — (laughter) — but I have 23-year-olds who do it for me — (laughter) —  government shouldn’t try to dictate your lives.  But it should give you the tools you need to succeed.  Government shouldn’t try to guarantee results, but it should guarantee a shot at opportunity for every American who’s willing to work hard.  (Applause.)

So, yes, we can and should debate the role of government in our lives.  But remember, as you are asked to meet the challenges of our time, remember that the ability for us to adapt our government to the needs of the age has helped make our democracy work since its inception.

Now, the second way to keep our democracy healthy is to maintain a basic level of civility in our public debate.  (Applause.)  These arguments we’re having over government and health care and war and taxes — these are serious arguments.  They should arouse people’s passions, and it’s important for everybody to join in the debate, with all the vigor that the maintenance of a free people requires.

But we can’t expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down.  (Applause.)  You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it.  You can question somebody’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism.  (Applause.)    Throwing around phrases like “socialists” and “Soviet-style takeover” and “fascist” and “right-wing nut” — (laughter) — that may grab headlines, but it also has the effect of comparing our government, our political opponents, to authoritarian, even murderous regimes.

Now, we’ve seen this kind of politics in the past.  It’s been practiced by both fringes of the ideological spectrum, by the left and the right, since our nation’s birth.  But it’s starting to creep into the center of our discourse.  And the problem with it is not the hurt feelings or the bruised egos of the public officials who are criticized.  Remember, they signed up for it.  Michelle always reminds me of that.  (Laughter.)  The problem is that this kind of vilification and over-the-top rhetoric closes the door to the possibility of compromise.  It undermines democratic deliberation.  It prevents learning –- since, after all, why should we listen to a “fascist,” or a “socialist,” or a “right-wing nut,” or a left-wing nut”?  (Laughter.)

It makes it nearly impossible for people who have legitimate but bridgeable differences to sit down at the same table and hash things out.  It robs us of a rational and serious debate, the one we need to have about the very real and very big challenges facing this nation.  It coarsens our culture, and at its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response

So what do we do?  As I found out after a year in the White House, changing this type of politics is not easy.  And part of what civility requires is that we recall the simple lesson most of us learned from our parents:  Treat others as you would like to be treated, with courtesy and respect.  (Applause.)  But civility in this age also requires something more than just asking if we can’t just all get along.

Today’s 24/7 echo-chamber amplifies the most inflammatory soundbites louder and faster than ever before.  And it’s also, however, given us unprecedented choice.  Whereas most Americans used to get their news from the same three networks over dinner, or a few influential papers on Sunday morning, we now have the option to get our information from any number of blogs or websites or cable news shows.  And this can have both a good and bad development for democracy.  For if we choose only to expose ourselves to opinions and viewpoints that are in line with our own, studies suggest that we become more polarized, more set in our ways.  That will only reinforce and even deepen the political divides in this country.

But if we choose to actively seek out information that challenges our assumptions and our beliefs, perhaps we can begin to understand where the people who disagree with us are coming from.

Now, this requires us to agree on a certain set of facts to debate from.  That’s why we need a vibrant and thriving news business that is separate from opinion makers and talking heads. (Applause.)  That’s why we need an educated citizenry that values hard evidence and not just assertion.  (Applause.)  As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously once said, “Everybody is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”  (Laughter.)

Still, if you’re somebody who only reads the editorial page of The New York Times, try glancing at the page of The Wall Street Journal once in a while.  If you’re a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post website.  It may make your blood boil; your mind may not be changed.  But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship.  (Applause.)  It is essential for our democracy.  (Applause.)

And so, too, is the practice of engaging in different experiences with different kinds of people.  I look out at this class and I realize for four years at Michigan you have been exposed to diverse thinkers and scholars, professors and students.  Don’t narrow that broad intellectual exposure just because you’re leaving here.  Instead, seek to expand it.  If you grew up in a big city, spend some time with somebody who grew up in a rural town.  If you find yourself only hanging around with people of your own race or ethnicity or religion, include people in your circle who have different backgrounds and life experiences.  You’ll learn what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes, and in the process, you will help to make this democracy work.  (Applause.)

Which brings me to the last ingredient in a functioning democracy, one that’s perhaps most basic — and it’s already been mentioned — and that is participation.

Class of 2010, I understand that one effect of today’s poisonous political climate is to push people away from participation in public life.  If all you see when you turn on the TV is name-calling, if all you hear about is how special interest lobbying and partisanship prevented Washington from getting something done, you might think to yourself, “What’s the point of getting involved?”

Here’s the point.  When we don’t pay close attention to the decisions made by our leaders, when we fail to educate ourselves about the major issues of the day, when we choose not to make our voices and opinions heard, that’s when democracy breaks down.  That’s when power is abused.  That’s when the most extreme voices in our society fill the void that we leave.  That’s when powerful interests and their lobbyists are most able to buy access and influence in the corridors of power –- because none of us are there to speak up and stop them. 

Participation in public life doesn’t mean that you all have to run for public office -– though we could certainly use some fresh faces in Washington.  (Laughter and applause.)  But it does mean that you should pay attention and contribute in any way that you can.  Stay informed.  Write letters, or make phone calls on behalf of an issue you care about.  If electoral politics isn’t your thing, continue the tradition so many of you started here at Michigan and find a way to serve your community and your country –- an act that will help you stay connected to your fellow citizens and improve the lives of those around you.

It was 50 years ago that a young candidate for president came here to Michigan and delivered a speech that inspired one of the most successful service projects in American history.  And as John F. Kennedy described the ideals behind what would become the Peace Corps, he issued a challenge to the students who had assembled in Ann Arbor on that October night:  “on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country,” he said, will depend the answer whether a free society can compete. I think it can,” he said.

This democracy we have is a precious thing.  For all the arguments and all the doubts and all the cynicism that’s out there today, we should never forget that as Americans, we enjoy more freedoms and opportunities than citizens in any other nation on Earth.  (Applause.)  We are free to speak our mind and worship as we please.  We are free to choose our leaders, and criticize them if they let us down.  We have the chance to get an education, and work hard, and give our children a better life.

None of this came easy.  None of this was preordained.  The men and women who sat in your chairs 10 years ago and 50 years ago and 100 years ago –- they made America possible through their toil and their endurance and their imagination and their faith.  Their success, and America’s success, was never a given.  And there is no guarantee that the graduates who will sit in these same seats 10 years from now, or 50 years from now, or 100 years from now, will enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities that you do.  You, too, will have to strive.  You, too, will have to push the boundaries of what seems possible.  For the truth is, our nation’s destiny has never been certain.

What is certain -– what has always been certain -– is the ability to shape that destiny.  That is what makes us different. That is what sets us apart.  That is what makes us Americans -– our ability at the end of the day to look past all of our differences and all of our disagreements and still forge a common future.  That task is now in your hands, as is the answer to the question posed at this university half a century ago about whether a free society can still compete.

If you are willing, as past generations were willing, to contribute part of your life to the life of this country, then I, like President Kennedy, believe we can.  Because I believe in you.  (Applause.)

Congratulations on your graduation, 2010.  May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.  Thank you. (Applause.)

END               12:11 P.M. EDT

A Taoiseach and a President

Published on Monday 23rd May 2011

Taoiseach Enda Kenny speech to introduce President Barack Obama at College Green, Dublin


If there’s anyone out there who still doubts that Ireland is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our ancestors is alive in our time; who still questions our capacity to restore ourselves, reinvent ourselves and prosper…..

Today… is your answer.

Because… today….on this day….the President of the United States, Barack Obama, comes to visit.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

To show he believes in Ireland…..

To make that precious connection with his Irish family, his Irish roots, as thousands before him have done.

Today….. the 44th American President….. comes  HOME.

When Falmouth Kearney started out on the long Atlantic crossing……

He might have dreamed…….but hardly imagined……

That, one day, his great-great-great grandson would return as the President of the United States.

That boy said goodbye to a ravaged island.

Millions had died.

Or were leaving.

Packing their hopes and dreams…. in beside the remnants of a life….

Stepping onto ships…..

Which, for some…. was like stepping into space.

Every one of them…..and all their people……are our people…..ár muintir féin.

Their past is our past.

Their story is our story.

This evening, my call is directly to those 40-million Irish-Americans…..

Whether you’re listening or watching in New York or New Haven… or in San Diego or St Louis…

Whether you’re Irish by blood, or by marriage, or by desire….

We…..your Irish family… are right here…….

To welcome you.

To follow your President home.

Last week, Queen Elizabeth came…

And bowed to our dead….

The Irish harp glittered above the heart of the English Queen…

With pride and happiness, and two words of Irish … we closed a circle of our history.

A cháirde

Today, with President Obama…..we draw another circle.

One in which we tell the world of our unique, untouchable wealth.

Wealth that can never be accumulated in banks, or measured by the markets or traded on the stock exchange.

Because it remains intact and alive….deep inside our people.

In the heart-stopping beauty of our country.

In the transforming currency of the Irish heart, imagination and soul.

This is our Uaisleacht….. it has sustained us over the centuries.

We pass from mother to daughter, father to son…

In our dreams and imagining….

In our love for our country…. our pride in who we are..

Long into what must be….and will be…. a brighter and more prosperous future .

President Obama is part of that proud past….. part of that prouder future.

In 1963, the 35nd President of the United States stirred our hearts.

In 1995 the 42nd President lifted our country’s spirits.

But the 44th President is different.

He doesn’t just speak about the American dream.

He is the American dream….

The American dream…… come home….

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m honoured to introduce….. the President of the United States….. Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama.


The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

May 23, 2011

Remarks by the President at Irish Celebration in Dublin, Ireland

College Green, Dublin, Ireland

5:55 P.M. IST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!  (Applause.)  Hello, Dublin!  (Applause.)  Hello, Ireland!  (Applause.)  My name is Barack Obama — (applause — of the Moneygall Obamas.  (Applause.)  And I’ve come home to find the apostrophe that we lost somewhere along the way.  (Laughter and applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I’ve got it here!

THE PRESIDENT:  Is that where it is?  (Laughter.)

Some wise Irish man or woman once said that broken Irish is better than clever English.  (Applause.)  So here goes:  Tá áthas orm bheith in Éirinn — I am happy to be in Ireland!  (Applause.) I’m happy to be with so many á cairde.  (Applause.)

I want to thank my extraordinary hosts — first of all, Taoiseach Kenny — (applause) — his lovely wife, Fionnuala — (applause) — President McAleese and her husband, Martin — (applause) — for welcoming me earlier today.  Thank you, Lord Mayor Gerry Breen and the Gardai for allowing me to crash this celebration.  (Applause.)

Let me also express my condolences on the recent passing of former Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald — (applause) — someone who believed in the power of education, someone who believed in the potential of youth, most of all, someone who believed in the potential of peace and who lived to see that peace realized.

And most of all, thank you to the citizens of Dublin and the people of Ireland for the warm and generous hospitality you’ve shown me and Michelle.  (Applause.)  It certainly feels like 100,000 welcomes.  (Applause.)  We feel very much at home.  I feel even more at home after that pint that I had.  (Laughter.)  Feel even warmer.  (Laughter.)

In return let me offer the hearty greetings of tens of millions of Irish Americans who proudly trace their heritage to this small island.  (Applause.)  They say hello.

Now, I knew that I had some roots across the Atlantic, but until recently I could not unequivocally claim that I was one of those Irish Americans.  But now if you believe the Corrigan Brothers, there’s no one more Irish than me.  (Laughter and applause.)

So I want to thank the genealogists who traced my family tree.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  — right here!

THE PRESIDENT:  Right here?  Thank you.  (Applause.)  It turns out that people take a lot of interest in you when you’re running for President.  (Laughter.)  They look into your past.  They check out your place of birth.  (Laughter.)  Things like that.  (Laughter.)  Now, I do wish somebody had provided me all this evidence earlier because it would have come in handy back when I was first running in my hometown of Chicago — (applause) — because Chicago is the Irish capital of the Midwest.  (Applause.)  A city where it was once said you could stand on 79th Street and hear the brogue of every county in Ireland.  (Applause.)

So naturally a politician like me craved a slot in the St. Patrick’s Day parade.  The problem was not many people knew me or could even pronounce my name.  I told them it was a Gaelic name. They didn’t believe me.  (Laughter.)

So one year a few volunteers and I did make it into the parade, but we were literally the last marchers.  After two hours, finally it was our turn.  And while we rode the route and we smiled and we waved, the city workers were right behind us cleaning up the garbage.  (Laughter.)  It was a little depressing.  But I’ll bet those parade organizers are watching TV today and feeling kind of bad — (applause) — because this is a pretty good parade right here.  (Applause.)


PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Go Bulls — I like that.  (Laughter.)  We got some Bulls fans here.

Now, of course, an American doesn’t really require Irish blood to understand that ours is a proud, enduring, centuries-old relationship; that we are bound by history and friendship and shared values.  And that’s why I’ve come here today, as an American President, to reaffirm those bonds of affection.  (Applause.)

Earlier today Michelle and I visited Moneygall where we saw my ancestral home and dropped by the local pub.  (Applause.)  And we received a very warm welcome from all the people there, including my long-lost eighth cousin, Henry.  (Laughter.)  Henry now is affectionately known as Henry VIII.  (Laughter.)  And it was remarkable to see the small town where a young shoemaker named Falmouth Kearney, my great-great-great grandfather, my grandfather’s grandfather, lived his early life.  And I was the shown the records from the parish recording his birth.  And we saw the home where he lived.

And he left during the Great Hunger, as so many Irish did, to seek a new life in the New World.  He traveled by ship to New York, where he entered himself into the records as a laborer.  He married an American girl from Ohio.  They settled in the Midwest. They started a family.

It’s a familiar story because it’s one lived and cherished by Americans of all backgrounds.  It’s integral to our national identity.  It’s who we are, a nation of immigrants from all around the world.

But standing there in Moneygall, I couldn’t help but think how heartbreaking it must have been for that great-great-great grandfather of mine, and so many others, to part.  To watch Donegal coasts and Dingle cliffs recede.  To leave behind all they knew in hopes that something better lay over the horizon.

When people like Falmouth boarded those ships, they often did so with no family, no friends, no money, nothing to sustain their journey but faith — faith in the Almighty; faith in the idea of America; faith that it was a place where you could be prosperous, you could be free, you could think and talk and worship as you pleased, a place where you could make it if you tried.

And as they worked and struggled and sacrificed and sometimes experienced great discrimination, to build that better life for the next generation, they passed on that faith to their children and to their children’s children — an inheritance that their great-great-great grandchildren like me still carry with them.  We call it the America Dream.  (Applause.)

It’s the dream that Falmouth Kearney was attracted to when he went to America.  It’s the dream that drew my own father to America from a small village in Africa.  It’s a dream that we’ve carried forward — sometimes through stormy waters, sometimes at great cost — for more than two centuries.  And for my own sake, I’m grateful they made those journeys because if they hadn’t you’d be listening to somebody else speak right now.  (Laughter.)

And for America’s sake, we’re grateful so many others from this land took that chance, as well.  After all, never has a nation so small inspired so much in another.  (Applause.)

Irish signatures are on our founding documents.  Irish blood was spilled on our battlefields.  Irish sweat built our great cities.  Our spirit is eternally refreshed by Irish story and Irish song; our public life by the humor and heart and dedication of servants with names like Kennedy and Reagan, O’Neill and Moynihan.  So you could say there’s always been a little green behind the red, white and blue.  (Applause.)

When the father of our country, George Washington, needed an army, it was the fierce fighting of your sons that caused the British official to lament, “We have lost America through the Irish.”  (Applause.)  And as George Washington said himself, “When our friendless standards were first unfurled, who were the strangers who first mustered around our staff?  And when it reeled in the light, who more brilliantly sustained it than Erin’s generous sons?”

When we strove to blot out the stain of slavery and advance the rights of man, we found common cause with your struggles against oppression.  Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave and our great abolitionist, forged an unlikely friendship right here in Dublin with your great liberator, Daniel O’Connell.  (Applause.) His time here, Frederick Douglass said, defined him not as a color but as a man.  And it strengthened the non-violent campaign he would return home to wage.

Recently, some of their descendents met here in Dublin to commemorate and continue that friendship between Douglass and O’Connell.

When Abraham Lincoln struggled to preserve our young union, more than 100,000 Irish and Irish Americans joined the cause, with units like the Irish Brigade charging into battle — green flags with gold harp waving alongside our star-spangled banner.

When depression gripped America, Ireland sent tens of thousands of packages of shamrocks to cheer up its countrymen, saying, “May the message of Erin shamrocks bring joy to those away.”

And when an Iron Curtain fell across this continent and our way of life was challenged, it was our first Irish President — our first Catholic President, John F. Kennedy, who made us believe 50 years ago this week — (applause) — that mankind could do something big and bold and ambitious as walk on the moon.  He made us dream again.

That is the story of America and Ireland.  That’s the tale of our brawn and our blood, side by side, in making and remaking a nation, pulling it westward, pulling it skyward, moving it forward again and again and again.  And that is our task again today.

I think we all realize that both of our nations have faced great trials in recent years, including recessions so severe that many of our people are still trying to fight their way out.  And naturally our concern turns to our families, our friends and our neighbors.  And some in this enormous audience are thinking about their own prospects and their own futures.  Those of us who are parents wonder what it will mean for our children and young people like so many who are here today.  Will you see the same progress we’ve seen since we were your age?  Will you inherit futures as big and as bright as the ones that we inherited?  Will your dreams remain alive in our time?

This nation has faced those questions before:  When your land couldn’t feed those who tilled it; when the boats leaving these shores held some of your brightest minds; when brother fought against brother.  Yours is a history frequently marked by the greatest of trials and the deepest of sorrow.  But yours is also a history of proud and defiant endurance.  Of a nation that kept alive the flame of knowledge in dark ages; that overcame occupation and outlived fallow fields; that triumphed over its Troubles –- of a resilient people who beat all the odds.  (Applause.)
And, Ireland, as trying as these times are, I know our future is still as big and as bright as our children expect it to be.  (Applause.)  I know that because I know it is precisely in times like these –- in times of great challenge, in times of great change -– when we remember who we truly are.  We’re people, the Irish and Americans, who never stop imagining a brighter future, even in bitter times.  We’re people who make that future happen through hard work, and through sacrifice, through investing in those things that matter most, like family and community.
We remember, in the words made famous by one of your greatest poets that “in dreams begins responsibility.”
This is a nation that met that responsibility by choosing, like your ancestors did, to keep alight the flame of knowledge and invest in a world-class education for your young people.  And today, Ireland’s youth, and those who’ve come back to build a new Ireland, are now among the best-educated, most entrepreneurial in the world.  And I see those young people here today.  And I know that Ireland will succeed.  (Applause.)

This is a nation that met its responsibilities by choosing to apply the lessons of your own past to assume a heavier burden of responsibility on the world stage.  And today, a people who once knew the pain of an empty stomach now feed those who hunger abroad.  Ireland is working hand in hand with the United States to make sure that hungry mouths are fed around the world — because we remember those times.  We know what crippling poverty can be like, and we want to make sure we’re helping others.

You’re a people who modernized and can now stand up for those who can’t yet stand up for themselves.  And this is a nation that met its responsibilities -– and inspired the entire world -– by choosing to see past the scars of violence and mistrust to forge a lasting peace on this island.

When President Clinton said on this very spot 15 years ago, waging peace is risky, I think those who were involved understood the risks they were taking.  But you, the Irish people, persevered.  And you cast your votes and you made your voices heard for that peace.  (Applause.)  And you responded heroically when it was challenged.  And you did it because, as President McAleese has written, “For all the apparent intractability of our problems, the irrepressible human impulse to love kept nagging and nudging us towards reconciliation.”

Whenever peace is challenged, you will have to sustain that irrepressible impulse.  And America will stand by you — always. (Applause.)  America will stand by you always in your pursuit of peace.  (Applause.)

And, Ireland, you need to understand that you’ve already so surpassed the world’s highest hopes that what was notable about the Northern Ireland elections two weeks ago was that they came and went without much attention.  It’s not because the world has forgotten.  It’s because this once unlikely dream has become that most extraordinary thing of things:  It has become real.  A dream has turned to reality because of the work of this nation.  (Applause.)

In dreams begin responsibility.  And embracing that responsibility, working toward it, overcoming the cynics and the naysayers and those who say “you can’t” — that’s what makes dreams real.  That’s what Falmouth Kearney did when he got on that boat, and that’s what so many generations of Irish men and women have done here in this spectacular country.  That is something we can point to and show our children, Irish and American alike.  That is something we can teach them as they grow up together in a new century, side by side, as it has been since our beginnings.

This little country, that inspires the biggest things — your best days are still ahead.  (Applause.)  Our greatest triumphs — in America and Ireland alike — are still to come.  And, Ireland, if anyone ever says otherwise, if anybody ever tells you that your problems are too big, or your challenges are too great, that we can’t do something, that we shouldn’t even try — think about all that we’ve done together.  Remember that whatever hardships the winter may bring, springtime is always just around the corner.  And if they keep on arguing with you, just respond with a simple creed:  Is féidir linn.  Yes, we can. Yes, we can.  Is féidir linn.  (Applause.)

For all you’ve contributed to the character of the United States of America and the spirit of the world, thank you.  And may God bless the eternal friendship between our two great nations.

Thank you very much, everybody.  Thank you, Dublin.  Thank you, Ireland.  (Applause.)

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he’s fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation’s next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House. And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics – you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to – it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington – it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn’t do this just to win an election and I know you didn’t do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor’s bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.
So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers – in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends… though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America – that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Seven Social Media Tips For Local Government

Increasing Constituent Satisfaction and

Citizen Involvement

 Step 1: Understand how the agency is being portrayed in social media.

A person, business or institution does not have to be an active user of social media to have a social media presence.  People online are already talking about you – the good, the bad and the ugly.  Moreover, for a public agency, there are important topics and issues that are being addressed in social media that government can have a positive role if it is aware of online public sentiment.  So, the first step to engaging in social media is to listen to cyberspace and analyze what is happening.  Continue reading “Seven Social Media Tips For Local Government”