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Political Persuasion

A college student's perspective on the two crazy worlds of PR and politics

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Modern President

How Bill Clinton and Vietnam Changed the Web

Ten years ago tomorrow, President Bill Clinton became the first US head of state to visit Vietnam since the war’s end in 1975.  Shortly before his visit, he said, “In our national memory Vietnam was a war, but Vietnam is also a country.”  Despite Clinton’s high approval ratings, public opinion surrounding the visit, both in the US and Vietnam, was mixed.

Clinton, who is known for his pragmatism and diplomatic approach to communication, articulated his intention to further the process of reconciliation between the US and Vietnam.  He honored those American soldiers who fought during the war and raised the issue of human rights.  Pete Peterson, America’s ambassador to Vietnam at the time, described the trip as a “huge success.”  According to an article in BBC News , one eyewitness even described Clinton’s visit as a “festival…everyone was applauding him and trying to get his autograph.”

Media consumption and its impact on public opinion have changed significantly since 2000; however, this year marked a shift toward what we now describe as “social media.” Clinton’s visit to Vietnam created a conversation in emerging new media outlets. According to BBC News, “Internet chat-rooms devoted to Vietnam issues are filled with messages from veterans and others who want to see the message of reconciliation carried by somebody other than a man who went to such great lengths to avoid being drafted to Vietnam.”

Both positive and negative feedback circulated throughout the web—proving that the one-way communication found in traditional media outlets (i.e. television, radio and print publications) were slowly dwindling.  The American public was able to openly debate in interactive forums on the World Wide Web.  This event just ten years ago, created a thirst for conversation.  Although many journalists infused subjective commentary into their newscast, it was the words directly from fellow Americans that helped shape public opinion.

This post is also featured in the National Constitution Center’s blog “Constitution Daily”: http://blog.constitutioncenter.org/ncc/featured/how-bill-clinton-and-vietnam-changed-the-web/

“We stand today on the edge of a new frontier”

Today, I decided to take a look at what inspired me to create this blog–clever campaign advertisements that revolutionized the way we look at PR and politics. There is no denying that JFK completely changed the way Americans view the modern President.  He was an expert at cultivating an image for himself, and gaining the trust of Americans nationwide.

The charismatic Senator from Massachusetts proved to Americans that we were ready for a”new frontier”–one that incorporates intelligence, sophistication and renewed faith in the Presidency.  JFK (with the help of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy) became a fashion icon.  Legend has it that JFK even ended the tradition of men wearing formal hats in the United States.

When you look at the advertisement above, you cannot help but remember the Kennedy name.  As the catchy jingle comes to an end, you are left with an image of JFK and his family.   This image paved the way for future presidential candidates, and showed that Americans DO care about a candidate’s personal life. When President Obama decided to run for office, I remember hearing as much about his family as I did about his public policy agenda.

There are so many factors, especially now with a 24/7 news cycle, that go into creating a successful political campaign.  JFK’s interactions with the media and innovative ad campaign helped us realize the complexity of politics and public opinion.

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