Communicationfrom American presidentsand to the public is very importantespecially between times of crisis such as wars. The methods used bydifferent presidents differ as each of them selects the options thatthey feel are the most effective. In the recent past, prevailingtechnology has been employed in the communication methods used byvarious presidents at different times (Weiss 2013). Presidents W.Wilson, F. D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Barrack Obama have madenotable use of technology to enhance their communication with theAmerican public. This essay discusses how these presidents haveimpacted on presidential communication and how communication with thepublic has ben transformed by presidents addressing the nation moreoften.
Beforethe advent of technology, American presidents addressed the public onvery rare occasions. There were not many issues on which the publicneeded to get guidance and reassurance from the president. However,the tide of things changed during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson.As World War I raged, there was need to centralize the source ofpublic information. President Wilson gave an executive order to formthe Committee on Public Information (CPI). The CPI would be thesource of all information regarding United States’ involvement inWWI (Gates et al, 2013). The first head of CPI was a former reporternamed George Creel. CPI employed new advertising and public relationmethods that portrayed the war as a battle between decent and wicked.It further marketed the plans America had for a global democraticorder.
Therehad never an agency like the CPI before. CPI used ideology andpropaganda to push its agenda. This was not received well in theCongress that was skeptical of the federal government’s role in thepropaganda churning unit that had the nod of the president (Pennisi,1990). Despite the opposition and skepticism, CPI made successes inmaking American public offer their moral support for the war.However, the hopes of a better world that CPI raised among the peoplewere not realistic.
FranklinD. Roosevelt was an assistant Navy secretary in the Wilsonadministration. FDR was opposed to CPI and what it was doing. DuringWorld War II, Roosevelt was the president of America. His advisorsasked him to create a body to play the role of CPI. He was opposed tothe idea and demonstrated little enthusiasm to the idea (Gates et al2013). Even though he was opposed to the idea, CPI remained the onlyknown vehicle through which the government would disseminateinformation to the public. Later, a White House media operation setup by the Stephen Early, who was FDR’s press secretary. This wasmore expansive than what other presidencies before had used. To manypeople thiswas as a refined and expanded version of George Creel’sCPI.
FDR’stook his move with regard to reporting to the nation in the firstyear as president. The report was about increasing the mandate of theNational Emergency Council (NEC). During the Great Depression, FDRformed a number of agencies to help deal with the situation. Some ofthe agencies formed had power and authority to provide coordinationof activities over the others (Shaw, Graham, Lee 2013). The presidentfurther widened the mandate of NEC. He directed that board ofdirectors be created in order to keep the activities of localoperations of the various agencies well coordinated. Additionally, hegave orders for a bureau to be set up in Washington that wouldprovide factual information to the public with regard to thevariousgovernment agencies already in operation. This formed the basis ofthe initial presidential communications organization. The agency grewand evolved showing how the president desired to inform the publicabout the activities of various government agencies.
WhenJohn F. Kennedy became the president of America, he made use of thetelevision to communicate with the public. During his time in theCongress and Senate, JFK made use of the television to reach to thepublic. The importance of video in popularizing himself to the publicwas clear to him (Shaw et al 2013). He used every opportunity thatwould take him closer to the American people. Keened was not thefirst t use television to take advantage of television as a means ofcommunication. Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee had establishedhimself as a television figure several years before Kennedy.
Duringthe Democratic nomination in 1960, Kennedy used television tocampaign. With help of his staff and a San Francisco advertisingagency, he crafted an image that swept away all the liabilities thathe had. He used the power of video so effectively that he was able totrounce Richard Nixon (Shaw et al 2013). Nixon was very well known ashe was the vice president to the popular President Eisenhower who wasretiring. Nixon had everything he needed to beat Kennedy. Nixonalsoknew the power of television as he had used it in the1952campaign. However, it was Kennedy who emerged to be more popularamong TV viewers in America.
WhenPresident Obama took office in 2009, a lot of media attention wasgenerated round the issue of his BlackBerry. He was asked to give itup because it would compromise his security. A lot of stories aboutthe matter were made but they were untrue. Eventually, the Presidentwas allowed to keep the gadget after its security features wereenhanced. George W. Bush also used a BlackBerry during the 2000presidential election (Gates et al 2013). He gave it up upon electionand avoided electronic communication. Obama was also required to giveup his BlackBerry for the sakeof his own safety and also as per theregulations ofPresidential Records Act of 1978. Under this Act, allwritten White House communication is public property and can beexamined as per the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Even in thecircumstances, Obama was determined to keep communication with otherpeople outside White House and solution had to be sought. Among theconditions issued by the security agents was that all the people hewanted to be talking to had to use the same phone or a compatibleone.
Modernpresidents in America find it necessary to address the public. Thishas made it necessary to make use of available technology. Manypeople now depend on other types of media to pass or get information(Pennisi, 1990). In order to reach the public more effectively, newmodes of communication have t be used. Social media platforms arebeing used by many people across the world to communicate. This canalso be used by presidents to reach their messages to the public.Even with security concerns, the internet can still be used tocommunicate to the masses effectively. Security agencies can findways to use the web without compromising the safety of the country ofthe president.
Inconclusion, the use of the internet will help presidents reachspecific audiences with messages designed for them. When addressingthe general public, it is hard to focus on a particular group.Through the social media and internet, it is easy to focus on aparticular group and tailor a message just for them (Weiss 2013).Presidents take advantage of the technology prevalent during theirtime. As the web becomes more enhanced, it will be inevitable thatpresidents will have to use it more in their communication to thepublic.
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Pennisi,E. "Low-KeyStart for Bush`s Science Panel",TheScientist,March 5, 1990
Shaw,D Graham, S Lee P.WhiteHouse Blog "PCAST Updates Assessment of Networking and InfoTechR&D".2013.
Weiss,R. "PCASTReleases New Climate Report".TheWhite House Blog.2013.