Obama At Work: Glimpse Of President Editing Speech

White House photographer Pete Souza's took a revealing photo over President Barack Obama's shoulder

White House photographer Pete Souza's took a revealing photo over President Barack Obama's shoulder as he edited the health care speech he gave to a joint session of Congress last September. Pete Souza/White House hide caption

itoggle caption Pete Souza/White House

Pete Souza, the official White House photographer who I worked alongside when we were both journalists in the now defunct Chicago Tribune Washington bureau, made an unusual photograph which he recently shared on the White House's Flickr stream.

It was taken over President Barack Obama's shoulder as the president went over a draft of a health care speech with speechwriter Jon Favreau he later gave to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 29, 2009.

What's really cool about the photo is it shows the president to be a pretty heavy editor, at least of this speech and this particular section of it. And when you look at the greatly enlarged version of the photo, you can easily read the edits.

The president's edits show his ear for cadence and meter in his speeches, among other things. For instance, he takes the line "That large-heartedness — that compassion — is not a partisan feeling" and changes it to "That large-heartedness — that concern and regard for the plight of others — is not a partisan feeling." It's a much more rhythmic line that's more pleasing to the ear. And it gives more space to the idea, which helps it to sink in with the listener.

Again, it's a photo that tells us more than we knew about how the president works through his important speeches. It gives us more to consider the next time we watch an Obama speech. Thanks, Pete, for letting us read over the president's shoulder with you.

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