The blog of Burness Institute

Emotions Dominate the State of the Union

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What’s the difference between and good speech and one you’ll never forget?  Emotion.

Chances are if you read or watched the news coverage today about last night’s State of the Union address, you know it’s hard to pin down any one message.  From the economy and Afghanistan to immigration reform and early childhood education, the speech was chock-full of second-term agenda goals.  If there was a common theme, it was to convey the sense of urgency for action—“now is our best chance,” “we need to finish the job,” “let’s get it done.”

But arguably one of the most memorable moments from the night came towards the end, when President Obama, in a refrain that built into a crescendo, listed real victims of gun violence with a call to bring gun control efforts to a vote.

“In the two months since Newtown,” he said, “more than 1,000 birthdays, graduations, anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.”  That statement gives pause.

We’re all too familiar now with their horrifying stories…Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the children of Newtown, Hadiya Pendleton.  So when President Obama called for action with a simple phrase, “they deserve a vote,” it’s hard to argue—regardless of what side the vote comes.

Your stories don’t have to elicit raw, jarring emotions like these.  But when putting a name and face to the human experience draws out some kind of feeling, it’s the most memorable thing you’ve said all day. 

It’s then that you have your best shot to motivate action, and in this case, even change policy. 

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