Michelle Obama hits a ‘home run’By Nestor U. Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Politicians who want to learn how to project well on TV can learn a lot of lessons from US First Lady Michelle Obama’s recent keynote speech at the Democratic Party’s convention.
She was tasked to “humanize” the image of her reelectionist husband, President Barack Obama, who is perceived by some to be too cool and distant for voters to relate to. Well, she did that—and more.
Speaking from the heart, she movingly expressed the love they shared, not just for each other, but for the American people, whom it was their great privilege to serve.
Sure, it was a political speech, but it achieved more than just its obvious goal of rallying the party’s troops to Obama’s campaign for a second term—it made the States’ currently stressed and suffering masses feel that the Obamas were suffering along with them.
Mrs. Obama did this by sharing that her own father suffered from illnesses that limited his job prospects—and yet, every morning, he dragged himself out of bed to work to support his family.
To her everlasting credit, she went into her obviously felt narration without breaking down or resorting to facile “melodramatic blackmail,” like others might have been tempted to do.
This is so unlike the practice of many local politicians when they appear on TV to plead for votes— they lay it on too thick, mistakenly thinking that sheer emotional display and volume will do the trick for them!
They fail to realize that many televiewers were born in the Age of Television, so they’re proficient in the new medium’s “language,” unlike old-fogey politicos who still resort to outdated and hyper-histrionics that turn viewer-voters off instead of on.
Mrs. Obama’s winning performance should teach them that, since TV is an intimate, “one-on-one” medium, no shouting and big gestures are needed, and the genuinely felt and personal approach works best.
It was the genuineness of Mrs. Obama’s feelings that made her speech so special, eliciting tears and cheers, and frequently bringing the convention audience to its feet in rapturous approval and empathy.
Even viewers at home were touched, because she made it seem like she was also speaking to them, even if she didn’t see them.
Politicians and their supporters who want to connect with the new TV audience have to realize that lofty promises and “motherhood” statements simply won’t cut it anymore. The TV camera slices through the chatter and the blather, and exposes the speaker for what he is, warts and all.
Most incisively of all, it separates the fake from the genuine, and makes it easy for viewers to see the difference. Yes, it’s still possible to “fool” the viewing populace, but the old tricks of the trade can’t do it anymore.
What’s needed now is a more sophisticatedly psychological approach that enables candidates to connect personally with the viewers they hope to win over to their side.
While some of the new psychological tricks may work, however, nothing beats the genuine feeling, and feeling-for, as Mrs. Obama’s “home run” performance so movingly proved.
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