Leaving aside passages in which he quoted a Chicago pub owner and a letter from a citizen from Georgia, President Barack Obama used the first person singular—including the pronouns “I” and “me” and the adjective “my”—91 times in a speech he delivered in Chicago Tuesday to explain his unilateral action on immigration.
But as often as Obama used “I,” “me” and “my” in Chicago this week, it was no match for the speech he delivered in Austin, Texas, on July 10, when he used the first person singular 199 times.
In that Texas speech, however, Obama had not focused specifically on immigration policy. In that speech, Obama had explained his intention to act unilaterally wherever he could.
“It is lonely, me just doing stuff,” Obama said then.
“I don’t have to run for office again, so I can just let her rip,” he said.
On Tuesday, in Chicago, Obama said: “This isn’t amnesty, or legalization, or even a pathway to citizenship--because that's not something I can do.”
The number of times he resorted to the first person singular was significantly expanded by his decision to engage a group of hecklers in the crowd, who apparently did not believe he had gone far enough in his unilateral actions on immigration.
“I understand,” Obama told the hecklers, according to the White House transcript and video posted by C-SPAN.
“Here, can I just say this?” Obama said. “All right, I've listened to you. I heard you. I heard you. I heard you. All right? Now, I've been respectful. I let you holler. So let me--all right? Nobody is removing you. I've heard you. But you’ve got to listen to me, too.”
“But what you're not paying attention to is the fact that I just took action to change the law,” Obama boasted to the hecklers.
“Some have said it was a mistake for me to act. But then others remind me why I had to,” Obama said later.
“The day I sign a comprehensive immigration bill into law, then the actions I take will no longer be necessary,” he said. “But in the meantime, I'm going to do what I can to make this system work better.”
Obama’s speech, according to the White House transcript, was approximately 4,200 words and lasted 33 minutes. That means that on average Obama used the first person singular every 46 words—or every 22 seconds.
President Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, in which he presented his understanding of the moral significance of the Civil War, was only 696 words long. In that speech, Lincoln used the first person singular once.