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Please, say what you mean

There is a big difference between “I did not vote for the President of the United States” and “I did not vote for Barack Obama.” There is merit in clarity. Whether we are answering a survey or making a statement, we should take to heart the tried and true formula: Say what you mean and mean what you say.

It’s the best way to ensure good communication and probably the worst way to deliver a political message crafted by an artful dodger.

Take the presidency business a step further. We often confuse respect and admiration for “The President” with respect for the office. This is especially evident when we disagree with or are disappointed in the person or personality holding the office. It is probably safe to say that we vote for the person we most respect because we hold the office with highest regard. Our expectations are monumental, and the fulfillment of great promise and leadership must be genuine and dutiful. The office commands respect; the office holder must earn it.

Good communication barters on trust, and a well-informed citizenry is our most precious weapon. Words and meanings should be clearly understood. How can we evaluate performance by an applause meter?

Some years ago, a clergyman stepped from the Sunday pulpit, popped on a straw hat, placed two hands on a cane and sang, “Let me entertain you!” Some folks had asked him to “lighten up” his sermons because they were depressing. He replied, “Truth is meant to enlighten, and I meant every word.”

There’s nothing funny about the Ten Commandments.

Words take on their own meanings particularly when they are designed to be persuasive. “Stimulus,” for example, has become a new economic treatment for an undiagnosed set of monetary problems. Nothing is wrong with the medicine, but where are the recurring dosages? In very few instances will a quick, one-time injection work. I guess we don’t just pray for miracles — we rely on them.

We say “middle class” and “lower income” along with “middle income” and “working class.” We often use “higher income” or the “wealthy” as an elite category.

We dare not use the “underground untouchables” in our quasi-caste system. Whaddya really mean? Suddenly it’s rich, poor or out-of-work.

How in the name of heaven do we interrogate a Supreme Court nominee when we are unable to understand what she means by an invidious comparison between the analytical abilities of a Hispanic female and a white male? Here’s a quiz with all the elements of a great novel: gender, race, ethnicity, religion, class and mystery.

Never has the confusion of words been more evident as we hear constant “talk the talk” while diversity and technology walk the walk. An informed society requires leaders who say what they mean and mean what they tell us. Therein lies the hope and change we so desperately talk about.

Drop the show biz, please. Ignorance is not bliss.