Being Presidential in 140 Characters or Less

January 18th, 2017

Much is made of President-elect Donald Trump’s propensity for tweeting to get his message out to the American people. No doubt the President-elect is notably prolific in his use of Twitter. While some argue that his employment of this medium is overdone, there is no doubt that Twitter will remain an important messaging tool for the 45th and future presidents.

When it comes to communication, we’ve come a long way since the founding of our nation.  Back in George Washington’s day, news travelled slowly even within individual states.  For decades, newspapers and old-fashioned pen and quill letter writing was the only way to get your message out.

With the advent of radio, presidents found new and better ways to communicate with the people.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fireside chats illustrate the perfect marriage between the means of communication and the messenger.  Later, the emerging popularity of television coincided with the 1960 presidential debates and illustrated the importance of being telegenic for future White House hopefuls.  It also raised an interesting question.  Could tall gangly Abraham Lincoln have fared well in the TV era?  Likewise, would the somewhat high-pitched cadence of Theodore Roosevelt’s voice mesmerized America in the same way his fifth cousin, Franklin’s voice, did?

Clearly, President-elect Trump intends to make tweeting a feature of his presidency.  So this begs the question.  Can tweeting be an effective tool in a president’s communication arsenal?

It appears it can be if handled correctly.

I’ve come to this conclusion after analyzing some of the most famous statements in presidential history and applying them to Twitter’s 140 characters or less restriction.

For instance, “Speak softly and carry a big stick” is not only pithy and memorable but it’s short enough to even add a hashtag.  So in the age of Twitter, @TR26 could have tweeted “Speak softly and carry a big stick #Big Stick.” (Although perhaps he might want to consider a different hashtag so as not to possibly offend anyone).

Likewise, @HonestAbe could have easily tweeted “With malice towards none with charity for all.”  Obviously, it wouldn’t have had the same overall affect as the entire Gettysburg Address, but perhaps he could do #GettysburgAddress or provide a link to the entire speech.

This also works on a few occasions for @FDR with “We have nothing to fear but fear itself #New Deal” and “December 7, 1941—a day which will live in infamy #RememberPearlHarbor.” Finally, @RealJFK could tweet “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country #InauguralAddress.”

See how this works?  As it turns out, some of the most famous and oft-quoted presidential statements in our history would work on Twitter.

So note to President-elect Trump—it’s actually possible to tweet in a manner befitting a President.

It’s all in how it’s done.

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