Monday, December 14, 2009

Politicians are poor role models for writers (1) - Barack Obama in Oslo

If you want to write clearly, accurately and honestly, don’t imitate politicians. With few exceptions, they are the worst possible role models for writers.

For example, Barack Obama (right) said this* as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize last Thursday:

“As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. [Martin Luther] King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak – nothing passive – nothing naïve – in the creed and lives of [Mohandas] Gandhi and King.

“But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people.” (Boldface added.)

In fact, Mr. Obama is not sworn to “protect and defend [his] nation.” The oath of office, as prescribed by Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States, reads as follows:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” (Boldface added.)

The Takeaway: Don’t imitate politicians. They are the worst possible role models for writers. With few exceptions, politicians are incapable of using words clearly, accurately and honestly.

*I selected this sample for the diction it contains, not the ideas it contains. On this blog, I am promoting no political position – unless you consider clarity a political position.

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