Comparing David Cameron’s EU Speech With Obama’s Inaugural Address



Here’s a word cloud created from David Cameron’s EU referendum speech.

How does a word cloud work? The size of each word within the cloud is based on the instances of that word in the speech text.

I posted a similar graphic on Obama’s 2nd Inauguration Speech yesterday and I thought it might be interesting to compare the two.

Obviously these are speeches with very different purposes; one articulates a President’s intentions for the next four years, the other outlines British policy towards the EU.

However, perhaps there’s more in common than might be supposed:

– Both outline a vision for the future

– Both seek to make a case for new policy directions

– Both will set the tone for their country’s politics for the next few years

Maybe a direct comparison is not unfair and if so, what kind of differences can we spot?

As with others, I’m struck by the frequency of ‘lofty’ terms in Obama’s address; freedom, happiness, journey, liberty, equal, together.

Cameron’s speech includes very few similar ‘visionary’ words. And this was supposed to be a speech outlining views for Britain’s ‘destiny’ in Europe. Keywords that jump out at me; future, choice, rules, settlement, course, challenges.

This seems to be more the pragmatic language of negotiation, which makes sense given that Cameron hopes to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU, as well as convince ordinary Britons of his policy choice.

It could be that these word clouds simply highlight the stylistic differences in speechmaking between two leaders, but I think this kind of analysis does offer a useful basis for comparison of other issues.

For example, do these observations confirm a cultural stereotype? Namely, that American leaders use a visionary style, whereas their British cousins use an argumentative style. One reason being that the President has a higher status of office, while the British Prime Minister, as leader of his party, has to employ a more argumentative tone.

What do you think?

Are word clouds useful for this kind of comparison?

Does anything strike you in contrasting the two speeches?

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