Executive Communications Expert Has Advice for Bush’s State of the Union

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Executive Communications Coach and Commentator LeeAundra Temescu lays out what one of our most "rhetorically challenged" presidents must do to make his State of the Union Address a success.

Even Bush’s most ardent admirers, when pressed, will admit that our current Commander in Chief is not exactly what you would call an orator. Some of his detractors would go so far as to say he is an embarrassment behind a podium. Executive communications coach LeeAundra Temescu falls somewhere in the middle. “He has yet to make a truly awful gaffe in any of his important speeches but I still cringe a lot when I hear him.” And his State of the Union address on January 31st? “This speech is a chance to shore up a lot of lost support. He better not mess up.” She adds bluntly.

A national award winning public speaker and speechwriter, Temescu is also a political commentator and author of the forthcoming “POTUS Flubs: Lessons from the Ten Not-So-Greatest Moments of Presidential Rhetoric” and this time of the year is always an exciting one for her. “The inaugural address and the State of the Union are really two of the only occasions for pure oratory left today.”

Presidential speeches like the State of the Union are also the only real opportunity most Americans get to see an unfiltered view of their president before he’s been chopped up by the media’s need for the “ten second sound bite. That means the stakes are high.

Especially this year. The slide in the President’s approval numbers may have slowed in the past few weeks but he’s still in worse shape than he ever was before any of his previous State of the Union addresses.

With all that weight on his shoulders, what’s a “rhetorically-challenged” president like Bush to do with his upcoming second inaugural?

Temescu has been watching Bush closely for four years now and has some very simple advice:

Keep it simple – “Bush is at his best when he’s using plain, folksy language. Sometimes his speeches, though beautifully written or perhaps because they are so beautifully written, aren’t right for him. He needs to forgo the lofty, exalted passages that his speechwriters love and talk to us in simple words.” Does that mean sacrifice eloquence? “Absolutely not” asserts Temescu. “Reagan showed us you could be simple and eloquent at the same time. He had speechwriters who understood his natural style and wrote to it. Bush and his writers need to follow that example.”

Give us a vision – “Traditionally, the State of the Union is a laundry list of policy initiatives. But the best presidential addresses always contain an uplifting vision that binds us all together” says Temescu. While Bush’s father famously sniffed at the “vision thing”, Temescu insists that is it vital this President Bush recognize the need for a compelling narrative that flies far above partisan bickering. This year, that’s even more important. Temescu continues, “In the past decade or so, Presidents have used this speech to throw “red meat” to the core. “This year, we need a ‘grown-up’ speech.”

Keep it hopeful – Americans are by nature an optimistic people. President Carter learned the hard way with his infamous “general malaise” speech that you can’t give a downer address. “While you must not ignore reality, you’ve got to give people a reason to hope for a better future. That was FDR’s gift. Even in the grimmest days of the Great Depression and World War II, he conveyed a sense of promise, of what America has been and can be. This is what Bush must do.”

Temescu also has some tips for a more presidential delivery style: He has to enunciate more clearly. “His diction is really atrocious sometimes. When he says ‘fer’ instead of ‘for’ it’s very un-presidential.” He could also benefit from speaking in a lower register. Bush inherited his father’s thin reedy voice and “unfortunately”, says Temescu “we associate that with weakness”.

The Contrary Public Speaker is an executive communications coaching firm based in Los Angeles. Founded by national award winning public speaker, author and commentator, LeeAundra Temescu, it provides high-level presentation skills, in-the-moment training and executive presence for senior level managers and professionals.

Contact information:

LeeAundra Temescu

The Contrary Public Speaker

(310) 578-9212



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