Thursday, January 28, 2010

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

That's hardly a new phrase.

I'm not sure where it originated. I remember reading in school that Renaissance writer Michel de Montaigne wrote, "Saying is one thing and doing is another." That isn't exactly the same thing, although it's kinda sorta in the same ballpark.

But I do know that "actions speak louder than words" is something my mother frequently told my brother and me when, as children, we promised her that we would do something we hadn't been doing.

Perhaps it is the lingering presence of that memory that made that phrase reverberate through my brain during last night's State of the Union speech.

I don't know anyone — either supporter or opponent — who will say that Barack Obama is not a gifted speaker. Clearly, he is.

Maybe that is because people compare him, in their minds, to his predecessors — and, when compared to the linguistically challenged George W. Bush, just about anyone who can express a single, grammatically correct sentence is bound to come out ahead.

But, in an effort to get some confirmation of my feelings, I turned, as I often do, to Facebook, where I reviewed the comments of others.

"Nice enough speech," an old friend of mine wrote. "Hard to get too excited, but after the previous eight years, that's a pretty big improvement right there."

Well, that's a semantic improvement. Substance is another matter altogether.

It's easy for an orator to talk about things. It's quite another to make the tough choices.

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad he finally spoke about joblessness. But I can't help wondering why he didn't even mention it on the day when it would have been most appropriate — Labor Day. That day, though, he was busy campaigning for health care reform and preparing to make his speech to the schoolchildren of America.

Obama has been talking the talk. Now let's see if this year he can walk the walk.

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