Using Tag Clouds to Examine Political Speeches

palin word cloud

Sometimes it helps to visualize speeches, not just listen to them, to see which words a speaker uses over and over. One way to understand the context of a speech is to map the words from the text in a “tag cloud.”  So I created these displays which show the most used words in larger font. We plug in the exact text of the speech so you  can see the number of times each key word is used.

Ryan mentioned his mother eight times, mentioned America(s) 16 times and hit the words “crisis” and “debt” over and over. He pounded away on Medicare and mentioned Obamacare five times. The words work and working came up 12 times and emerged as one of his major themes-getting the country back to work.

Paul Ryan’s Acceptance Speech Tag Cloud

Four years ago, Joe Biden mentioned Afghanistan five times in his Vice Presidential acceptance speech. He also used words like “security,” “troops,” and “trust.”   But Biden’s linchpin word was “change.”  That is common word for challengers to use in political stump speeches when their party is not in office, as was the case for Biden and Obama in 2008.

Joe Biden’s acceptance speech tag cloud

At the time of her nomination, Americans barely knew Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.  The governor stayed away from the war in her speech, but used the word “oil” eight times and “energy” six times.

Sarah Palin’s Acceptance Speech 2008 tag cloud

Looking back at those speeches four years ago, it is most striking that the words “jobs,” “recession,” “bailout,” “Medicare,” and “health care reform” were not mentioned in these keynotes.  It does give one pause to wonder what words will be top-of-mind hot issues in 2016 that we are not thinking about today.

A Sad Note-Pianos Headed for the Dump

Screen shot 2012-07-31 at 12.59.51 PM

I don’t know why this story affects me so much.  Maybe it touches a nerve because my mother so adored playing the piano before losing her sight. But I don’t think I am alone.

People are writing notes online saying thy wince when watching this story about how NYC piano movers are taking a LOT more pianos to the dump these days because people can’t afford to fix the instruments or don’t have room anymore.

I like this video story an awful lot but would have liked to have seen the main character interacting with the pianos more. We do not get action-reaction shots, just wide shots of nameless faceless people dumping pianos. The closing bite about taking things for granted is a little off topic.

I am left wondering why there isn’t some other way of disposing of these things. The story needs to answer that.