blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1


Sarah Bednarek  |  Podium Gestures

Our public officials often use gestures when they speak. Some are very natural enhancements or illustrations of what is being said. However, others are extremely self-conscious. For instance, President Kennedy used the gesture where the hand is loosely clenched, thumb on top, slightly up, moving forward. It is like a wimpy “thumbs up” intended to suggest, without being overtly demonstrative, that whatever is being said is a good idea that you should agree with.

Every President or "also-ran" since the first George Bush has used this gesture. Lesser officials use this gesture. It is intended to create consensus. It is meant to align the speaker with the mystique of the fallen President Kennedy.

Gestures belie something about the individual using them. Fidgeting, pointing, pounding on the chest, all of these things connote the deeper characteristics of these officials. Gesture is a non-verbal language. Self-conscious gestures imply insincerity and unself-conscious gestures imply sincerity.

Perhaps this is why things are the way they are.  

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