Saturday, December 10, 2011

Why "We"?

John Kennedy did not refer to himself as "we". Neither did Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson or any other of the presidents of my childhood.  Today's politician is all about "we" when referring to himself (or, sadly herself as women have adopted the same habit).  Perhaps "we" makes sense when speaking broadly as in "we will address the issue of entitlements this year" or "we have received many letters".  But, "We are the strongest candidate and will make the best President'?  Does the speaker have a frog in his pocket?  When did the aversion arise to speaking in the first person?  It is generally considered that a first person address is will create intimacy between the speaker and audience.  The use of "we" diminishes the personal commitment.  It buffers the speaker from association with his own words.  Winston Churchill did not talk about "we" when making his commitment to defend his country.  Do today's politicians flinch from accountability?   Do they believe that leadership is a collective undertaking?  Do they fear the accusation of conceit?  Listen in this political season for a candidate willing to walk his talk.  Listen for "I". 

1 comment:

  1. First person plural is the voice of the Greek chorus, perhaps most notable in the tragedies of Sophocles. In recent fiction, I've seen first person plural used effectively in two books: "And Then We Came to An End" by Josh Ferris and "The Virgin Suicides" by Jeffrey Eugenides. Both books are about death and dying. They are excellently written--but none of the characters, including the collective narrator--is running for office.