[Viewpoint]Presidential anachronism

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[Viewpoint]Presidential anachronism

Leo Tolstoy once said that we should divide our day into three parts. Eight hours a day should be spent sleeping and resting, eight hours working, and eight hours studying.

Of course, this is easier said than done. However, it is possible for people who spend a lot of time alone - people like me. I have four different spaces I use for my research and volunteer work. Recently, I looked to see if there was a radio in any of these spaces. I found one in one of the four rooms, but I was no good at setting the frequency because I haven’t listened to the radio since I graduated from college.

I was looking for a radio because President Lee Myung-bak said he would be broadcasting an address. In the end, I didn’t get the radio set up in time to catch Lee’s talk, but I checked out the contents later on the Internet.

The question I have is whether the president’s medium of choice was appropriate. We understand his motive - he was modeling the address after the fireside chats of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression.

But the medium Roosevelt chose was not the most important thing to take away from his talks, it was his frame of mind. The radio was picked simply because it was the best medium to communicate with the people at that time. Roosevelt used the radio as a means of getting closer to the people in order to convey his policies and his ideas about freedom and love of country.

Korea in the 21st century, however, is at the cutting edge of modern communications. In this age, we need to be able to keep up with the new ways people have come up with to keep in touch with one another.

The spirit of the times is participation, sharing and openness. When we follow these maxims more faithfully, the analog and the digital will converge, just as the government seems to want.

When I went to the Web site of the Blue House, I only found some 90 comments posted after the transcript of the president’s radio address. There were 629 comments after a news article describing what happened after the president’s radio speech. It said the Kospi index, which had looked like it was calming down, fell the daily limit while the exchange rate skyrocketed [the won plunged]. The article said we were headed for a depression.

When we were informed of the medium Lee chose for his talk, I was reminded of the importance of presidential advisers. I wonder how much thought was given to how the choice of communication medium could show how much he is able to do in line with the times he lives in. The more “analog” the president is, the more digital his advisers should be.

The debate that began over the president’s choice of radio then expanded to the actual content of his talk. The radio is a traditional medium that only addresses people through their sense of hearing.

Therefore, you have to catch people’s ears in order to succeed in that form of broadcasting. This is why not only the voice, but also the speaking style of a radio performer are largely different from those of normal people.

If the voice of a loved one is aired on the radio, people will always listen. The same goes for the relationship between the people and the president. Unfortunately, the reality is that people are not in the mood to listen to the president. If Lee wants to touch the hearts of the people and become a radio star, the content of his speeches should be good enough to make people want to tune in.

The Blue House says it will continue the radio talks. In that case, a real effort should be made to grab the attention of the people with its content. New issues must be raised and agendas must be set. Eight and a half minutes is more than enough time in which to do this, as long as the speeches are not a repetition of facts the people already know.

The presidential messages about trust, consideration and hope are a good start, but they are repetitive. Lee should set his agenda first and the government should present the details of the plan.

We also need to be able to feel the president’s intentions through the tone of his voice and the sound of his breath. Then, the people will listen.

I am reminded of Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon professor who struck a chord with many people before he passed away. He prepared for lectures with the goal of becoming unique in the world, and left more than 61 aphorisms for the ages before he passed away.

What will President Lee Myung-bak leave in the hearts of the people? One thing is certain: He will be evaluated based more on his policies than on his words.

*The writer is a professor of political science at Chungju National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Lim Dong-wook
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