February 4, 2010

Speaking for (and to) the average Joe

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While watching news shows, I often feel my eyes glaze over and my brain go somewhere else while pundits and their guests discuss the finer details of political and financial matters.

So when someone comes along who can put these complex concepts into easy-to-understand language, I practically jump off the couch.

That's how I felt the first time I saw Elizabeth Warren on The Rachel Maddow Show. Warren is a Harvard Law School professor and the chair of the congressional oversight panel on TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program), more commonly referred to as "the bailout." I see your eyes glazing over already, but stay with me.

The first time she was on The Rachel Maddow Show, it had been two weeks since the oversight panel had started its work. And Elizabeth Warren was not taking her time to settle in. She was hitting the media, clarifying what kinds of questions the committee was asking the Treasury Department and why -- in plain English.

She's one Rachel Maddow guest that I will always pay attention to, while others who make me impatient with their gobbledygook get the DVR fast-forward treatment.

Here's why I enjoy watching her:

1. She makes it simple. She asks, "How is giving $700 billion to banks actually helping families?" She then explains why the bailout can't help the economy without provisions to help people who've lost their homes.

2. She makes the abstract concrete. In a conversation on financial regulation, she points out that regulation ensures our cars have airbags, our medicine isn't tainted and a baby's carseat won't collapse in a car accident. Those are all concrete and relatable images that help make her point.

3. She avoids jargon. Period. And for a Harvard law professor, I can only imagine how difficult that must be!

4. She comes across as warm and approachable. She has an almost folksy way about her. She doesn't shy away from the occasional "um" or "uh." She's not scripted, memorized or canned. She expresses her support of the American family passionately and with conviction. She believes in what she's doing and has fire in her eyes when she talks about it. She's making a human connection even through the TV screen.

If only more TV personalities could explain so clearly and succinctly the economy, the history of the current financial crisis (here's one of her articles for some background), and the day-to-day inner workings of the companies responsible and the agencies set with the task of fixing the mess. If only Elizabeth Warren could be cloned...

Below are several Maddow interviews. Take a peek.

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2 comments. Please add yours! :

Unknown said...

This pertains to the adage of it being much easier to present for an hour than for ten minutes. The ability to cut down data or simplify complex information is really important, and this is a great example of that.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Great point, Jessica. The more time you have, the more likely you are to clutter it up with extraneous stuff.

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