Pundits will be parsing U.S. President Barack Obama's Tuesday night state of the union address every which way as soon as he is done delivering it, but sometimes, it helps to just visualize it. We've done just that by creating a so-called word cloud, or wordle, of the 150 most frequently used words in the speech — not including common ones like "the" — and compared it with wordles of Obama's 2010 state of the union message and his first address to a joint session of Congress in 2009.
The bigger the word looks in the word cloud, the more times it appeared in the address. A quick survey of the 2011 wordle above shows that, like in last year's address, jobs and all things economy dominated. Obama mentioned the word "jobs" 25 times Tuesday night; that's two more mentions than in last year's address and 11 more than in his speech before Congress in 2009.
Related words like "work" (21), "business" and "businesses" (20 in total), "companies" and "company" (15 in total) and "deficit" (nine) also featured prominently and were mentioned about as frequently as last year — although recession was mentioned only four times (versus six times in both 2010 and 2009). "Work" had only been mentioned nine times in Obama's 2009 speech while the "economy" got 22 mentions. As the word clouds show, two years later, jobs and work were at the forefront while the somewhat vaguer "economy" faded into the background, with only seven mentions in Tuesday night's speech.
Wordles don't always necessarily reflect the main thrust of a speech. "Innovation," which many took to be one of the major issues highlighted in Tuesday's address, appeared only nine times in the wordle while "people" appeared an impressive 30 times.
"Government" seems to have grown in importance over the years — getting only seven mentions in Obama's 2009 Congress speech, 14 in last year's state of the union and 18 this year. "Families," meanwhile, were only mentioned twice in this year's address, versus 17 times last year.
"Education" was mentioned slightly less often this year than last year (10 versus 14) as was "energy" (nine versus 13).
Both have dropped in importance somewhat since Obama's first major speech, which mentioned "energy" and "education" 14 times each, although the relative prominence of "education" increased significantly over last year, when it got only five mentions.
"Health," however, has pretty much dropped from Obama's speech lexicon, perhaps understandably since his health care legislation passed last year. It was mentioned 20 times in Obama's Feb. 24, 2009, address to Congress, which although not a state of the union address was the new president's first progress report since being sworn in a month earlier. A year later, it showed up only 11 times in Obama's 2010 state of the union message and this year was mentioned only seven times.
Words that some might expect to have featured prominently in Tuesday's speech were hardly mentioned. "Afghanistan" was somewhat more on Obama's radar than in past speeches, getting a total of seven mentions — if derivatives like "Afghan" and Afghani" are included — but far from at the forefront. In the 2009 word cloud, it shows up just twice and in 2010 three times. "Terrorism" showed up only once in some variation in each of the three wordles.