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Marketplace

President Obama’s job in 19 words

Kai Ryssdal Jul 3, 2014
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Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal had the opportunity to ask President Barack Obama seven questions on Wednesday.

It took fifteen minutes or thereabouts for the entire interview.

In that same spirit of conciseness, Kai asked the President: “In five words or less, what’s your job?”

President Obama answered: “My job is to keep the American people safe and to create a platform for hardworking people to succeed.”

For those counting, that means the president used 19 words:

Kai has used the “5 words or less” question before. The first time was quite by accident, during an interview with Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman in late 2012. Kai asked Whitman to cut the “marketing gobbledy-gook,” to explain “what, exactly, HP is”:

Whitman’s answer wasn’t particularly clarifying…:

…so a few minutes later, Kai tried again:

Eventually, Kai gave Whitman a word limit. At the very end, he tried asking what HP is “in five words or less”. Whitman used 22 words, with the caveat that “it’s a big, complicated company.”

A month later, Kai interviewed AOL chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong about his business. Armstrong also was unable to keep his company’s mission to five words. He eventually whittled it down to 12:

In an interview with Stephen Friedman, the president of MTV, Kai tried the question again. Friedman got close – just six words:

Only one interviewee so far, Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good, has managed to answer the question as succinctly as requested. Good described Duke Energy as: “Industry leading innovative energy company.” Five words and counting:


Brevity is the soul of Marketplace. (…count ’em)

So, in brief: We want to see how many of our listeners can beat the President’s word count. How would you describe your job in five words or less? Comment below, tweet @Marketplace, or send us an email at marketplaceweb@marketplace.org

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Your donation — as little as $5 — helps us create more content that matters to you and your community, and to reach more people where they are – whether that’s radio, podcasts or online.

When you contribute directly to Marketplace, you become a partner in that mission: someone who understands that when we all get smarter, everybody wins.