“The act of the last session of Congress concerning the commercial intercourse between the United States and Great Britain and France and their dependencies having invited in a new form a termination of their edicts against our neutral commerce, copies of the act were immediately forwarded to our ministers at London and Paris, with a view that its object might be within the early attention of the French and British Governments.”
This whopper of a sentence — 71 words, 9 of which are 10 characters or longer — is indicative of Madison’s speeches in general: complex, wordy, and Thesaurus-worthy.
By all historic accounts, Madison was lauded both for his writing skills, and eloquence. Despite being “painfully shy [and] physically frail,” his words commanded the attention of Congress and major political influencers. “If the art of persuasion includes persuasion by convincing,” once wrote Chief Justice John Marshall, “Mr. Madison was the most eloquent man I ever heard.” Before crafting his own speeches, Madison advised and heavily edited the speeches of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams — all three of whom are ranked in the top 10 here.
President Obama’s speeches, which rank lowest on the list at a grade level of 9.8, are of an entirely different nature. Take, for example, this excerpt from his recent 2015 Address:
“But tonight, we turn the page. Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before. More of our people are insured than ever before. And we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost thirty years.”