The website wordle.net lets you use a page of text to make a "word cloud," in which words appear larger or smaller depending on how often they appear in the text. I decided to make word clouds out of Barack Obama's State of the Union Address last night, and of Ronald Reagan's Address from 1982. Both of these addresses occurred after the first year of each presidency, and both addresses took place during a recession.Obama's word cloud:
Reagan's word cloud:
The differences between the two addresses are immediately obvious when seen in this format. The top three words in Reagan's address were "federal," "government," and "programs." It turns out that Reagan was talking about the need to reduce the size of government programs, and to distribute some of the federal responsibilities to the states in order to let them fine-tune various programs to their particular local needs.
By contrast, the largest words in Obama's word cloud are "people," "Americans," and "year" - rather generic words which don't illuminate any particular theme in the speech. The irony of course is that Obama has been trying to increase the size and number of government programs, as well as the power of the federal government, and he intends to continue doing so. Apparently he's decided that, in order to advance his agenda, it's best not to refer to federal government programs as "federal government programs."