On Tuesday evening, Donald Trump surprised everyone with what was, at least relatively speaking, a very "presidential" address to Congress.

Deviating from his typically blunt, fervid, and often irreverent speaking style, the President harnessed a surprising combination of positivity and metaphor in depicting his vision for our country's future.

Let's take a look at three of the classic public speaking tricks President Trump employed in order to appear more a bit more measured and dignified than usual.


Yep, you read that right. Donald Trump, our Negative Nancy-In-Chief, has seemingly adopted a new lease on life, trading in his usual Twitter tirades for a message of unity and progress.

In closing his 90-minute address, he employed a number of powerful, albeit well-trodden Americanisms--"glorious freedom," "American greatness," "American spirit," "dreaming big and bold and daring things"--directly appealing to his core audience's patriotic expectations.

"The time for small thinking is over," he said. "The time for trivial fights is behind us. We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts." Classic.

In an expert maneuver, he downplayed the heated partisan disagreements sparked by language used throughout his very own presidential campaign, calling them "trivial fights" beyond which we all must move in order to achieve a brighter future.

Symbolism and metaphor

It's safe to say that President Trump isn't known for his subtle linguistic touch. He built his television empire around a particularly cold-hearted catch phrase, and his books boast such nuanced titles as "Trump: How to Get Rich."

But Tuesday night revealed a never-before-seen proclivity for patriotic metaphor and biblical allusion.

"Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty, and justice--in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present," he said. "That torch is now in our hands, and we will use it to light up the world."

At a time when Trump's controversial immigration policies threaten what many view as America's core values, Trump cleverly invoked the image of Lady Liberty--an unmistakably American symbol of hope and opportunity for new arrivals.


When we remember great orators like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., we generally think about their inspirational messages and impeccable delivery--not their behind-the-scenes speech prep.

But the vast majority of history's greatest speakers didn't earn their reputation by hopping on stage and winging it. Rather, they came fully prepared to deliver complex, powerful, and well-rehearsed addresses.

Unsurprisingly, Trump's improvisational inclinations have made it difficult for journalists to measure him against the same rubric typically used for politicians and other public figures.

As a result, most were impressed, or at least surprised by his speech's lack of, er, spontaneity. That is, he left his signature off-the-cuff snipes at home.

And while some might perceive total dependence on a teleprompter as a flaw, Trump's adherence to a prepared script came as a welcome relief to many.

Does Tuesday's address represent the dawning of a new era? Has Trump completely abandoned his reactionary, often fiery approach to public speaking in favor of a more measured tone? Probably not.

But in the aftermath of recent speaking engagements (last month's "unhinged" press conference), I think I speak for everyone when I say that at the very least, this was a welcome breath of fresh air.