From hope to promise to a new America tonight – Obama’s speeches since 2004

There seems to be a bit of traffic to and through this blog, looking for word clouds of and/or commentary on President-elect Obama’s acceptance speech in Chicago. Given that until now there was nothing on that topic, I have a feeling they left relatively empty-handed. Let me fix that now, with a quick zip through Obama’s three key speeches, at the DNC in 2004, at the same event in 2008 and his most recent speech, in Chicago following his election as President.

Obama in 2004: A man of hope

The speech that marked Obama’s “explosion” on to the national scene in 2004 revolved primarily around the Democratic candidate, John Kerry, and the country at stake, America, as might be expected. The key concept aside from that which shines out is hope – one very much associated with the President-elect again since his election. A full word cloud is on wordle.net and previewed below.

Obama in August 2008: A man of promise

Four years later, as I’ve posted about previously, he’d moved from his hope to his promise – very apposite, seeing as his was now the focal points for others’ hopes, on which he was promising to deliver, rather than expressing his own views and hopes.

As I said at the time, this tied in a motif from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s famous “I have a dream” speech – again, something widely referenced in recent days – on America’s promissory note, of liberty for all, which it had up to then failed to cash.

Obama in November 2008: A new America tonight, people

Earlier this week, when elected President from next January, he gave another speech which was destined to be analyzed to death by those with nothing better to be doing, such as myself! (His inauguration speech will presumably be the next one to be put under such scrutiny…) The link to and preview of a word cloud of his most recent speech is below.

Hope, promise – and indeed that third keyword perhaps most associated by his campaign, change – do not feature in any meaningful way. It’s perhaps surprising that promise makes no appearance, given that his Chicago speech is really the national equivalent of his DNC speech, to just his party. He obviously decided that the time was not right for more promises, it was instead a time to reflect on what his election meant, not for him but about his country.

His clear message from the speech seems to be: “Tonight, people, we have a new America!”. Whatever about the internal reaction to the election – after all, only 52% of voters voted for him – global reaction would seem to agree with his main sentiment!

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It’s the promise, stupid! Obama’s DNC speech

The pre-speech favourite would no doubt have been “change”. Some thought it would be George Bush. Others John McCain, or Iraq. Others again thought it would actually be the economy, stupid – or something related, like jobs. Some commentators were speculating about Martin Luther King, given the date of the acceptance speech. Admittedly, very few thought it would be bowling and only the most tongue-in-cheek observer would have said frappacino or Chardonnay. Still, on the topic of what Obama talked about most when accepting the nomination for President from the Democratic party, they were all wrong!

So what was the top topic on Barack Obama’s mind – or at least in his mouth – when he gave his DNC acceptance speech yesterday evening in Denver? It turns out to have been promise – at least according to the official version of the speech given to the media. A full word cloud of the speech is below and makes for interesting reading, at least if you go away first and try to come up with a list of words you expect to make the top five:

Word cloud from Barack Obama's DNC acceptance speech, Aug 2008

Obama DNC speech word cloud

Does this really tell us anything? Well, for a start, there were indeed lots of good old reliables. John McCain and George Bush do feature strongly, while change and the economy also feature. But the singular prominence of promise is striking. And I think it does go back to Martin Luther King.

To me, the concept of “promise” – both in the sense of something that is owed and in the sense of potential for the future – ties in quite strongly with the theme of the promissory note from Dr King’s speech 45 years ago. The exact passage from Dr King’s speech is:

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

You can see quite clearly both sides of promise coming out in that speech too. It then got me thinking about what were the great themes in Dr King’s speech. What did his word cloud look like? The answer is below:

Dr King I have a dream speech cloud

Dr King I have a dream speech cloud

Freedom is of course the clear winner, Negro probably wouldn’t make too many speeches these days, but if you look closely, you can of course see ‘promissory’ up in the top.

Interesting that a motif of Dr King’s speech could emerge as the key theme, replacing ‘change’, for Obama’s campaign. It will be interesting to see over the coming weeks whether “promise” suffers from the same problem “change” suffered from, and which all currencies suffer from when there is over-supply, a fall in real value!

Any takers on what McCain’s top phrase will be?

John, Mary & Anastasia, take a bow: Cork’s Smiddys and Beausangs in 1901

The Irish Family History Foundation has started to put online its researchers’ work on the earliest complete Irish Censuses – those of 1901 and 1911. (Permit me to digress and lament the various circumstances, from bizarre mid-Great War bureaucratic decisions to Irish Civil war tactics, that led to the destruction of the 1821-1891 Irish censuses, one of the longest-running censuses in the world, in less than ten years.)

Being a quarter Cork, I decided to avail of the Cork North & East service and examine two of my main Cork surnames, both of which are relatively rare – Smiddy (could be a Catholic offcast of a branch of the Smithwicks, or maybe a Scottish name, no-one seems to know for sure) and Beausang (lots of fancy stories about this, most involving France, naturally enough – previously Boozan, Bouzane, Boosean and whole host of further variants!)

The first thing I did was check out all the first names in each of the Censuses. Being now entirely won over by the phenomenon that is word-clouds, I made a cloud of Smiddy 1901 Census first names from Cork, you can preview it below, or click on the link to see the full details.

Plain old John and Mary lead the way – no surprises there – followed by Patrick, Timothy, Maurice, Thomas and Michael for the men, and Catherine, Bridget, Margaret and Johanna for the ladies. Of all the names, only Timothy and Maurice stand out for being particularly family-related – all the others are very common 19th century Catholic names altogether.

I did the same for Beausang and all its variants here:

In the Beausang clan, poor old John is dumped off top spot by James, although Mary continues to dominate the ladies. William, Patrick, Michael and Thomas are still there – but sure enough, no sign (well hardly any) of Timothy or Maurice and instead Richard features. James and Richard would be expected to be there, given their prominence in the 1820s/1830s Tithe Allotment returns and again in the Griffith’s Valuation returns.

What I found fascinating, though, is the presence of Anastasia/Anastatia on both lists. The 1901 Census was conducted just as Irish society was connecting to the wider world in a less step-shift way than permanent emigration. Looking a the full database in my extended family tree, international communications seem to have caused a revolution in naming from the late 19th Century in Ireland. New names enter families as the old Irish naming procedure was replaced by a desire for the unusual. I must check up on which royal family boasted an Anastasia in the 1890s – presumably the Romanovs? – to inspire Cork-based copycats!

I’ve also wordled up the parishes where they lived, so I know which parish records to go back and have a look at. I did it for both the 1901 and 1911 censuses, for both surnames. Here’s Smiddy, 1901:

And here’s Smiddy, 1911.

Here’s Beausang, 1901:

And here’s Beausang, 1911:

I’m a bit sceptical about making comparisons across time based on the IFHF census records, as I don’t believe that all Beausangs and Smiddys based in St. Mary’s – presumably St. Mary’s Shandon – moved from there to Youghal on the Cork-Waterford border between 1901 and 1911. Much more likely, I should think, is that not all civil parish returns are there for both years. We’ll have to play the waiting game on that one, but in the meantime

As you can see, there’s a huge overlap between the two surnames, particularly in the four civil parishes furthest east on Cork’s coast – Ightermurragh, Kilmacdonogh, Clonpriest and Youghal – home incidentally to all our Anastasias!

Growth, inflation and investment: hot topics in emerging markets

Having recently discovered the fantastic word-cloud abilities of wordle.net, I decided to play around with it. I took the top 500 stories on Google News, for the term ‘Emerging Markets’, from June 2008. I had to make quite a few adjustments to take out names of newspapers etc., and the cleaning still isn’t complete, but nonetheless, this kind of thing will probably become a lot more common as we try and develop ways of managing the flood of information out there.

Perhaps no surprises in the word cloud, but I still found it very interesting. Growth, inflation and investment/investors are the major news topics online for emerging markets. Oil and demand are also important. I find it interesting that global is so large – presumably that’s the online news world coming to terms with the ever greater importance of emerging markets in the global economy. Previously ‘hot topics’ such as development or sustainability don’t really register, while emerging topics such as diversification or decoupling are not taking centre stage yet.