Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
September 2, 2009

Your Turn: In the Blue Room

Obama stephen hawking.jpg

(click for full size)

I’m interested in your take on this photo posted this week on the White House Flickr Stream. (Caption below and additional WHFS Presidential Medal of Freedom images here.)

(image: Pete Souza/White House. caption: President Barack Obama talks with Stephen Hawking in the Blue Room of the White House before a ceremony presenting him and 15 others the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Aug. 12, 2009. The Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor.)

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p010537194843970b Hippocrates

    It’s like a xenophobe’s wet dream.

  • mike

    The village people have gotten really old.

  • http://justbetweenstrangers.blogspot.com/ acm

    oh no, the Village People crack has totally ruined it for me! %^)
    happy to see Yunus there, and I imagine Obama sharing a joke with Hawking about the recent GOP gaffe (how Hawking wouldn’t stand a chance under a system like that in the U.K., where he in fact has lived his whole life). the whole list of new Medal of Freedom folks was really heartening — real international heros, not insider pals and screw-ups…
    who’s the guy in the background taking a picture? somebody with one of the recipients? it’s sort of cute and human…

  • http://profile.typepad.com/msobel marc sobel

    It’s a good thing he is a British subject because under PalinCare he would have been refused care by a death panel.

  • bystander

    Lovely imagery. Lovely symbolism.
    Is it okay if I acknowledge how bone tired I am of Obama’s empty imagery and symbolism?

  • DanM

    “Heck of a job, Hawkie.”

  • quincyscott

    Hawking very likely just told a joke.
    A lot of people have a difficult time knowing how to act around a person with a physical disability. I like President Obama’s warmth here, and the way he is right up in Hawking’s personal space, sharing a laugh. It reads normalcy.
    I also think I detect something of a boyish glee from the president. There is no doubt a lot about his job that weighs heavy on him, and a lot of ridiculous and shameful flak he has to deal with. But I’m sure it doesn’t get much better for him than meeting Stephen Hawking.

  • quincyscott

    Obama is a great crafter of words and images. He has a sense of the big moment. But this is not a vice. We need our leaders to give us some symbolism once in a while, to stir us, to inspire us. If President Obama were just giving us pretty images without corresponding actions, I agree that this would be harmful. But I don’t think this is the case.
    Empty imagery is wearing a flight suit and landing on an aircraft carrier beneath a Mission Accomplished banner. Or giving a speech on Bourbon Street after watching New Orleans drown.
    I don’t think Obama has been anything but busy trying to put out the many fires left by the last administration. One can be impatient, and one can disagree with his approach. But I think it’s hyperbolic to describe the man as all show, no action. He’s trying to move a mountain here. If it moves at all, it’s going to take more than seven months.

  • charlie

    Genuine smiles and good people? Not in our White House.

  • bystander

    Empty imagery? Like that flag pin on his lapel and our troops in Afghanistan without a well defined mission?
    In four to five months will we be hearing, But he’s only been in office for a year…?
    Whatever.

  • http://www.amy-baskin.blogspot.com Amy Baskin

    First thought: please let me have health care as good as Steven Hawking’s. Second: imagine a similar scene with 43 instead of 44. Imagine the contrast in body language.

  • ABM

    I had a different reaction – my first thought was it had a sort of surreal costume party feeling, the Indian Chief, the soldier, the gentleman in the Eastern garb (Dr Yunus?). Secondly, I noticed the veins in O’s temple and wondered if he had a screaming headache. That said, I watched the ceremony and was proud of the diversity, intelligence, and excellence which was recognized.

  • http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/lgidattend/ yg

    there are a bunch of healthcare rallies scheduled for tonight. see if this one near you:
    Congressional Send Off Rally
    Thursday, September 3 5:00 PM

    http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/lgidattend/

  • http://mennonnosapiens.com mmennonno

    One of the ready-made myths of Obama is that he’s “a great crafter of words and images”, but I have not found this to be true. His voice is pipy, his cadence staccato. In speeches he looks left – beat-right-beat-left-beat. It’s like watching a metronome. His campaign slogans and significant catchphrases were lifted from Governor Deval Patrick. The inordinate praise for his oratory skills is more a tribute to our desperation to believe in our leaders than in his talents. Having said this, I think he’s a fine man, and head and shoulders above his immediate predecessor.
    I think photo-ops like this come off a little cartoonish, but that’s politics. Our emphasis on the authentic political gesture has to take into consideration that politics is theater, and as in theater, there are costumes and stage-sets and backstage hijinks — the language, visual and otherwise, is that of the theater. Sometimes it comes off as comedy, sometimes farce. But we should resist mistaking it for real life.

  • DanM

    If this event comes across as cartoonish, I’d guess it’s possible that the photographer caught a photo-op and not a moment with the camera, rather than a foregone fact that anything involving an elected official is necessarily devoid of spontaneous reality or sincerity.

  • desertwind

    My take?
    If we needed further proof that Obama is a big old nerd at heaart (and, we love that in him) look at how THRILLED he is to meet Stephen Hawking.

  • tinwoman

    I’m pretty sure it’s not an accident that Hawking is up there getting the Medal of Freedom so soon after the ‘pubs stuck their feet in their mouths about how he wouldn’t get health care in Britain (He’s a prof at Oxford, ya goofballs). If it’s stagecraft, then good for Obama. The more people are reminded about how stupid the ‘pub position on health care is, the better.
    I like that Mohammad Yunus is there also. A genuinely good man whose idea has changed the world. Not enough, but some. Sadly, it reminds us also that some of his third world economic tactics have been put to use right here in the U.S. as many of our people have become desperately poor.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0120a5b804b8970c Diane Stevens

    Agree – 100%; plus I like Obama’s smile and genuine warmness – he exudes a kindness that the camera captures. I’d like to meet him in person………

Refresh Archives

Random Notes