Is Obama’s ‘True Dat’ Speech Moment Historic?


Obama’s speech this afternoon was stuffed full of the same old thing he’s promised and threatened before. He promised to focus on the economy (after only 5 years!), and threatened that if Congress didn’t move quickly enough he would use the powers of the executive to advance his agenda (we don’t need no steenking constitution!).

There was one oddly historical moment that some noted on social media. While pontificating on the many new social government social programs he plans, he exclaimed:

I’m gonna challenge CEOs from some of America’s best companies to hire more Americans who have what it takes to fill that job opening but have been laid off for so long that nobody’s giving their resume an honest look.

When someone in the audience yelled something in addition to Obama’s remarks, he remarked, “true dat!” and then, catching himself, said, “that too!” instead.

Is this the first use of ebonics in a major presidential speech? Homespun colloquialisms have always been a hallmark of effective political outreach. George Bush was accused of using slang when greeting dignitaries with the familiar, “Yo Blair!” and Hillary Clinton was mocked by conservatives for her attempt at Southern dialect in front of an African-American audience. Joe Biden takes the award for awkward slang use when he said to a mostly African-American audience, “they’re gonna put y’all back in chains!” Even Marco Rubio has been known to quote his favorite rap lyrics on the Senate floor,  after Ted Cruz quoted the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V during the famed drone filibuster.

It’s worth noting this momentous occasion, when the first half-black president, while spouting off the oldest and disproved economic policies of the last century, interjected the first exclamation in ebonics in a presidential speech.

So that’s something.