Visual analysis of Rhetoric

Linguists will make the argument that doing textual analysis of an inaugural speech creates a false positive: The speeches are written by committee, and don’t reflect the thoughts of the president himself.

We think that if you take a step back and use data visualization techniques, you can get a good idea of what an administration’s priorities are within the context of the time period.

President Obama used 578 unique words that weren’t connective (and, an, with, etc.) in his second inaugural speech earlier today.

​Here’s a word cloud of how the top 50 most used unique words appeared. The larger the type, the more often it appeared.


Lots of patriotic themes of togetherness here.

​​It’s America and the things we can do together. Now take a look at Harry Truman’s 1949 inaugural speech.


Truman’s speech, three years into the Cold War, is really America against the world.

​The most prominent word in Truman’s speech is ‘nations,’ and it is used in the context of ‘the nations of the world.’

​The most prominent word in Obama’s speech is a tie between “American” and “people,” mainly because they appear most of the time as a matched pair.