Our judges, however, didn’t agree. Many of the hundreds of submissions included quotes widely and wrongly attributed to Obama. The Internet has a way of propagating such myths, for example, attributing to Abraham Lincoln: “The trouble with quotes on the Internet is that it’s difficult to discern whether or not they are genuine.”
And so “leading from behind” cannot — no matter how catchy — be a winning entry, since Obama never used the phrase.
In fact, most of the winning entries were not examples of particularly soaring or clever rhetoric, but rather represented Obama’s blunter, more visceral moments. As a whole, the entries reflected the full range of sentiment toward Obama: from anger to frustration to admiration. They expressed his professorial demeanor, his hesitance and his optimism.
Here are our winners, in no particular order.
What he already said
●“I’d rather be a really good one-term president . . . ” (John Rawot, engineering consultant, Bentleyville, Ohio.)
●“This is not class warfare, it’s math.” (David Addams, executive director of the Olivers Scholar Program, New York.)
●To bank CEOs in 2009: “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” (Jesse Bethea, a student at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio.)
●On the death of Osama bin Laden: “Justice has been done.” (Marilyn Bridgette, retired Army and now with a technology company, Dumfries.)
●“The nation I’m most interested in building is our own.” (Linda Robinson, adjunct senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, Northern Virginia.)
●“They drove the economy into the ditch and now they want the keys back.” (Ed Chan, wine consultant, New York.)
●“Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.” (Don Davidson, retiree, Warwick, R.I.)
●“We did not come here to fear the future. We came here to shape it.” (Jason Everett, Democratic counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, Fairfax.)
●“The question is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works.” (A State Department employee who did not want to be named.)
●“Eat your peas.” (Joan Tindell, retired middle school science teacher, Tucson.)
What he should say
●“Lets take some of the money used to chauffeur fat cats down Wall Street and use it to repave Main Street.” (Jeff Szorik, CEO of Optio Inc., Lake Bluff, Ill.)
●“We are one people, but a lot of congressional Republicans haven’t realized it yet.” (Kirk Augustine, retired government employee, Camano Island, Wash.)
●“We’re not going to wait for Congress.” (Michael Denison, a student at the University of Maryland, College Park.)
●“This is my bottom line, but I’m willing to settle for less.” (Brent Cogswell, Air Force retiree now a part-time airport shuttle driver, Columbia.)