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Paul R. Portney
Dean/Scholar

Paul R. Portney

Paul R. Portney is Dean of the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona, where he also holds the Halle Chair in Leadership.

B+

Question: From a leadership perspective--moving the country and the political process away from division and gridlock and toward consensus, confidence and action--how would you grade President Obama's State of the Union speech?

I give President Obama a very solid B+ for his speech, in terms of attempting to move the country away from division and gridlock and toward consensus, confidence and action (and I am a tough grader). He repeatedly emphasized things that both Republicans and Democrats agreed upon (or at least might agree upon) and highlighted compromises that have been reached since the Republicans regained control of the House. The President's rhetoric was measured, and I believe that will be seen as reassuring to a public that had come to see him as a bit "arch," shall we say. He sounded very much like someone who was willing to talk about possible compromises where both sides might give and get.

There were, of course, the occasional bones tossed to the left wing of the Democratic party (e.g., the rich will have to give up their tax "loophole," we must never reduce benefits for Social Security recipients, and so on). But Republicans truly interested in finding common ground in the weeks and months ahead will do the same to appease the far right wing of their party.

But speeches are bountiful and talk is cheap. Let's see some real leadership now from both sides--which will require the courage to face down the extremists in both parties and play toward the center. That's where the vast majority of Americans have always been and still are.

Return to all panelist responses or vote on the grade you'd give the president's speech.

By Paul R. Portney

 |  January 26, 2011; 10:47 AM ET
Category:  Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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It is manifestly unfair of you to conclude a grading of the SOTU speech by saying that "speeches are bountiful and talk is cheap." If I submitted a paper in one of your classes, would you base my grade on the paper I submitted, or include an evaluation of my activities external to the classroom?

Posted by: Lamentations | January 27, 2011 12:16 PM
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