Case Study: Former President Bush’s Address at the Dallas Police Memorial

July 12, 2016

By David B. Fogel, Ph.D.

On July 12, 2016, former President George W. Bush addressed the audience and the nation as part of a memorial service for five fallen police officers in Dallas. His address was met with wide praise. An EffectCheck® analysis of Bush’s address shows strong broad parallels emotionally with Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Common Patterns between Bush and Lincoln

Figures 1 and 2 show the evoked lexical emotional levels from Lincoln’s address and Bush’s address, respectively. Each sought to find a path forward after a troubling event, though the events were of different magnitudes1. Each former president was able to acknowledge the depression inherent in their respective events, while infusing both compassion and optimism (happiness) to offer empathy and hope.

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Figure 1. EffectCheck histogram from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

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Figure 2. EffectCheck histogram from Bush’s Dallas Address on July 12, 2016.

Both Lincoln and Bush evoked high levels of depression, compassion, and happiness, while maintaining low levels of anxiety and hostility as compared with typical political speech.

Focusing on the Close

Examining the emotional flow from Bush’s address, EffectCheck shows that Bush kept evoked anxiety low throughout his speech, and brought together depression (sadness), compassion (empathy), and happiness (hope) into the close. Typically, politicians evoke high confidence into the close, but in this case the absence of confidence helps emphasize the emotional combination that acknowledges and empathizes with the public’s pain, while providing a positive outlook.

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Figure 3. EffectCheck 100-word moving window analysis of Bush’s Dallas Address on July 12, 2016.

Summary

President Bush’s remarks were short, covering 644 total words. Yet, like with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Bush delivered an address that was respectful of the audience’s sentiment while helping to move it forward toward hope and optimism. President Obama followed President Bush and offered a much longer set of remarks, which will be analyzed in a separate case study.

1Approximately 50,000 soldiers of the combined Union and Confederate forces perished in the battle of Gettysburg. See http://gettysburg.stonesentinels.com/battle-of-gettysburg-facts/.