Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Digital tools to analyze the President’s speech on Afghanistan

President Obama shared an important speech Tuesday night at WestPoint calling for changes in US policy and troop strength levels in Afghanistan. Use the following Wordle “word cloud” with your students and ask them what they can “see” were major themes in the President’s address. Larger versions are available from and Flickr.

Wordle of President Obama's Speech on Afghanistan

Next, follow up by having students find excerpts in the full text of the speech which either support or contradict their visual hypotheses.

To get a better perspective on how headlines about these issues have evolved over time, enter a search for “afghanistan obama” into the Google Labs’ “Google News Timeline” tool and analyze how headlines have been changing. Here’s a link to a saved query I created. Try changing the view from day to month.

Google News Timeline - "obama afghanistan"

What words are NOT in this word cloud which should be in predicting the next 12 – 24 months of news for US forces in Afghanistan?

Share the Global Voices Online website with your students and explore posts from bloggers in Afghanistan, and use those perspectives to deepen your conversations about these issues.

Use the World News website to search for “obama afghanistan” and compare the perspectives of different news agencies around the world about the speech. How is the focus of Al Jazeera’s coverage (via YouTube) different from that of The New York Times?

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5 responses to “Digital tools to analyze the President’s speech on Afghanistan”

  1. Lee Kolbert Avatar

    This is terrific, Wes!
    Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Gardner Campbell Avatar

    Excellent stuff–at the speed of creativity indeed. Thanks very much!

  3. Susie Highley Avatar
    Susie Highley

    When you are having students make predictions involving any politicians or the government, you should also have them consider that there are differences between what they say and what actually eventually happens– and why is that? Some great ideas here, though.