Obama’s Body Language, Gestures, and Voice Pattern Were So Disconnected During Oil Spill Speech That It Alienated Viewers And Affected Approval Ratings


I am not a political person and I have no agenda other than keeping it real and telling  it like it is. So when I was asked today by Inside Edition to analyze President Obama’s speech which he made from the Oval Office  about the  BP oil spill,  I obliged and did a television interview.

Apparently, many Americans were upset about the speech. In fact, after he gave the speech, the President’s approval ratings plummeted to an all time low. After carefully listening to and looking at  him giving his speech,  I could see why American’s felt as they did.


 First and foremost I believe that whomever wrote the speech for the President needed to be fired. It was basically a campaign commercial for how well he was doing and what he was going to do. People were clearly not interested in hearing about committees and task forces and names of people who were on those task forces  that were being set up.

People were not interested in what Obama was going to do, especially  when they  saw what he didn’t do. They  wanted that issue addressed.

Granted this is an is an overwhelming problem and it is not Obama’s doing. It was BP’s doing. We needed to hear his real take on the situation, not his spin on the situation, which was prevalent throughout the speech.

We did not want to hear about the specific devastated families he met. In doing so he  sounded like a  candidate on the campaign trail . We already know how devastating this is to families and those who make their living from fishing and shrimping and tourism.

 We needed to hear  and feel how devastated the President felt  is about the situation. We needed to hear and see  his anger. We needed to hear why he did not speak to us earlier.

 If he felt helpless which I am sure is the case, we needed to hear that too. We needed to hear about emergency measures that a leader would take, not about committees that were being set up that would take time. Time is of the essence and we needed to know that he was doing everything possible in that race against time where millions of gallons of oil are escaping each day.


 The President  spoke AT us , NOT  TO us and that is what turned people off. What needed to have been said at the beginning  of his speech was lost in the middle and at the end of his speech.

Add to that the President’s monotone and mono expression. He read the speech on the  teleprompter without emotion and without inflection.

 It was as though a fourth grader was reading a book report   in front of a class. While it may have worked for a grade school child, it did NOT work for a President of the United States.   


Body language wise it didn’t start out well either. Obama had his hands folded as though he was holding on to himself and containing himself. It also reflected his discomfort and nervousness.

 This speech needed to be given when  the oil spill first happened, not now. It was too little too late in many people’s minds. There was no doubt that he knew this as well.  No doubt, that added to his discomfort  level which we all observed.


The President used his hands way too much. It appeared to many that he was, in essence,  wringing his hands during the first part of the speech . This further gave the impression of his  nervousness.

 Along with that,  his gestures were completely disconnected as to what he was saying. They were not in synch with what he was talking about.

For instance  when spoke of the oil spill and said  “Becuase there’s never been a leak this size and depth…”  he used a gesture that indicated smallness as he pinched his thumb and pinter finger together. It is NOT a small spill it is a huge one and his gesture needed to indicate that point. His hand needed to be open not closed as it was.


He  then used aggressive gestures  such as the one you see above with his thumb and pointer finger together which is commonly reserved to stress and emphasize key points. Insted, he  used this gesture inappropriately and ineffectively throughout his speech, where he emphasized benign points.


President Obama is NOT an  unemotional person who keeps it all in. He is NOT always cool, calm and collected.  

When one of the oldest civil rights pioneers  died recently  and the President  attended her funeral,  he was very emotional

and wiped away several tears just like he did when Senator Ted  Kennedy died.

He was openly emotional when his beloved grandmother died while he was campaigning and he wasn’t ashamed to show it.

When Reverend Jeremiah  White spoke his trash during the campaign, President Obama got  very angry and let Reverend  White  and everyone else know it . You could see the anger in Obama’s face and hear it in his voice.

Obama showed  upset  in his tone and facial expression  when the Salahi’s crashed into his first state dinner for the Indian leader.

You can always  also see the love in Obama’s face when he looks at his wife Michelle and hear the love in his voice when he  speaks of her and  his daughters.

We have seen Obama get excited and  and enthusiastic . People LOVED Obama and gravitated towards him because  of his warmth and  genuine emotion during the campaign.

He was not monotone or monoface like he was during this most crucial speech about one of the most serious problems which will affect us for years to come.

 There is nothing wrong with being cool calm and collected when you are in a crises  situation and you actually do something to take care of the problem  and handle the crisis.

But if you are cool calm and collected and do nothing and say nothing,or you say it too late,   it often  gives a message to others you don’t care or that you are ignoring the situation.


  Obama’s strongest supporter Spike Lee even encouraged Obama to “go off”. What he was saying is for Obama to show  more emotion- more upset as it relates to this tragic situation. As the leader of a country one must not only  speak  for the people , one must  feel for the people  as well.

Along with firing the speech writer who did not do Obama any favors with this speech, fire the arrogant  person who had the audacity to become defensive and say that if Obama thought that emotion could help the situation he would shout it from highest rooftops. HOW DARE HE!!

Stop being arrogant and think you know it all, those who are the spokespeople for Obama. 

 Listen to the public’s voice. If they tell you they want you to get more emotional and more real- like they saw you during the campaign, then get real and listen. Otherwise, your approval ratings will continue to fall like they did today.   

Obama’s oil spill  speech was upsetting to many because it did not represent how so many  people felt. If the President didn’t know what  to do  in this crisis, he needed to  say it. He needed to show a genuine side of himself . He needed to show that he was a real and human with real human feelings.

 It is not his  fault that this happened  but it is his fault that he waited so long to address it and act on it. Americans needed to know why he  waited so long and what was in his  mind.  He did not need to spin it. Americans would have respected him more for it.  Americans are way too smart to buy spin and it showed in the approval ratings.


When I saw the President walking along the beach  on the gulf coast fiddling with the oil that washed ashore, I couldn’t believe that someone didn’t protect him and stop him  from doing that. That crude oil has chemicals which cause cancer like benzene and methane. What was Obama doing putting his hands in that mess?

Then he gave a message to the public to go to the beach and swim and eat  shrimp and fish . Is he for real? The gasses alone and the polluted air can have detrimental affects on a person’s health. The fish will be full of cancer causing elements. The public is not stupid and that is why they are staying away from the area in droves.

 Obama even ingested some shrimp while he was on the gulf coast to let the public know that he was fine with eating the fish and shrimp and they should be fine with it too.

 Personally, I think that is a  very irresponsible message to give to the public. I would never eat any fish or shrimp from the gulf region and neither would anyone else who was aware of the health hazards.    


In my view, Obama needs to lose the teleprompter. He relies on it way too much  to the point that he sounds like he is reading  from it in a very mechanical way.

If he has to read it, he needs hear and feel his message. If he continues to read his speeches  in his monotone that can never happen.

He also needs to work on his gesturing so it goes along with exactly what he is saying. His inappropriate gesturing is alienating. It gives the impression that he is not sincere in what he says. Gestures need to be used sparingly and for emphasis.

The best advice is  for Obama to speak from his heart and let out ALL of his emotions like he has done in the past. He needs to speak TO us  and not speak AT us.  If he  still needs help, he or his advisors are free to contact me at  www.drlillianglass.com  where I will help him connect with the public in a more real way- speech, voice, and body language wise.


3 thoughts on “Obama’s Body Language, Gestures, and Voice Pattern Were So Disconnected During Oil Spill Speech That It Alienated Viewers And Affected Approval Ratings

  1. Dr. Glass, I looked for you on facebook so I could “Like” you and there is no page! You should totally make one… I always post links to your blogs on my facebook wall so my friends can read them too.


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