‘I,’ ‘Me,’ ‘My’—Obama Uses First Person Singular 199 Times in Speech Vowing Unilateral Action

July 11, 2014 - 8:56 PM

Not counting instances when he quoted a letter from a citizen or cited dialogue from a movie, President Barack Obama used the first person singular--including the pronouns "I" and "me" and the adjective "my"--199 times in a speech he delivered Thursday vowing to use unilateral executive action to achieve his policy goals that Congress would not enact through the normal, constitutional legislative process.

“It is lonely, me just doing stuff,” Obama said at the speech in Austin, Texas, according to the official transcript and video posted on the White House website.

“I’m just telling the truth now,” Obama told the crowd. “I don't have to run for office again, so I can just let her rip. And I want to assure you, I’m really not that partisan of a guy.”

To prove this, Obama went on to say Abraham Lincoln was his favorite president, and then gave a list of what he called “great Republican presidents”—which included Richard Nixon.

“My favorite president is the first Republican president, a guy named Abraham Lincoln,” Obama said. “You look at our history, and we had great Republican presidents who--like Teddy Roosevelt started the National Park System, and Dwight Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System, and Richard Nixon started the EPA.”

The White House presented Obama’s speech, which the president delivered at Austin’s Paramount Theatre, as “Remarks by the President on the Economy.” The remarks, the White House reports, ran 40 minutes, and the full transcript (including annotations for “laughter” and “applause”) is more than 5,500 words.

By contrast, President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettyburg Address was only 272 words--and did not include any form of the first person singular.

In President Obama’s speech, he used a first person singular, on average, every 12 seconds. At that rate, had Obama spoken for just 15 more minutes, he would have used the first person singular more than 272 times in one speech—exceeding all the words in the Gettysburg Address.

In one 68-word passage--in which he vowed to act unilaterally if Congress did not enact legislation he liked--Obama used the first person singular five more times than the zero times Lincoln used it in his 272 words at Gettysburg.

“I can't stand by with partisan gridlock that's the result of cynical political games that threaten the hard work of millions of Americans,” said Obama. “I’m not just going to stand by and say, okay, that's--I guess that's the way it is. Whenever and wherever I have the power, the legal authority to help families like yours, even if Congress is not doing anything, I will take that opportunity.”