President Obama announced late on Friday that he’d be addressing the nation tonight about the situation in Libya. The last time he gave a major speech was the State of the Union address, in which he spoke for over an hour, and before that, at the memorial service in Tucson, for over half an hour—a record as far as eulogies by presidents go. (Bush, Clinton, and Reagan all spoke to our country for an average of six to nine minutes during times of national tragedy, and the gold standard of elegies, the Gettysburg Address, clocked in at only two minutes.) You can see why I think there’s a good chance his speech tonight will go too long. Here are three reasons why he should keep it short:
And if he can keep it to 29 minutes or less, he’ll be able to watch himself on NBC at 8:00 EST, when he leads a great tribute to the Points of Light movement’s 20th anniversary with all the former presidents. In an opening video, President Obama makes a moving statement about the power of voluntary service in an era of limited government—and celebrates the millions of ordinary Americans who are solving our nation’s biggest challenges in their communities. Let’s just hope he keeps his Libya remarks concise enough that we can all watch the tribute with our kids. To me, in the long run, talking with the next generation about giving back to our country is more important than another presidential statement about a frustrating overseas situation that could change by next week. Yet another reason to keep it short.