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Opinion: The Presidential Look

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      Wayne Dyer, an author and speaker on the topic of self-development, once said, “Judgments prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.” But why is it that people are blind to what “lies beyond appearances?” Dyer is right on the mark. As Americans, we place a specific standard upon those we see, especially the President of the United States. There are several components to what we expect a president to look and act like. If a candidate doesn’t measure up, then that may be the end for said candidate.

     Arguably, the beginning of the idea of the “presidential look” began with the 1960 debate between incumbent Vice President Richard Nixon and Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy. Being the first ever televised presidential debate, the debate sprung democracy onto a new technological stage. Nixon went to the debate looking sickly, pale and weak because of a recent knee surgery. In contrast, the already handsome Kennedy was toned, tan, fit and ready after spending September campaigning in California. Those who listened to the debate on the radio awarded the victory to Nixon. However, those who watched the televised debate gave the victory hands-down to Kennedy. On the debate, Time magazine wrote, “[Nixon] appeared sickly and sweaty, while Kennedy appeared calm and confident… those that watched the debate on TV thought Kennedy was the clear winner. Many say Kennedy won the election that night.” Nixon’s appearance made him seem less like a leader to the viewers, who would later be the voters. When the polls were counted in November, it was Kennedy who won.

      In years since Kennedy’s victory, the presidential look has been discussed in detail, but what exactly does it take to have it? The general consensus seems to come down to three features: the chin, the hair and the smile. A strong, prominent chin and jaw line is said to emphasis strength and power. The hair can be another valuable asset. Look at Romney’s hair: Everything about his slightly graying, combed-back mane screams presidential. The slightly gray roots give an edge of wisdom to his appearance. Lastly, the smile.Nothing says “vote for me” like a warm, trustworthy smile. While both current presidential candidates have this friendly smile, Obama has become a professional at it. His smile—along with his surprisingly hilarious jokes—gives him a very approachable demeanor. In the end, both candidates have the look, but in different forms. Romney has a serious, get-down-to-business look, while Obama has a friendly, man-of-the-people look. As far as looks go, it’s a fair race.

      Many would argue that looks are a shallow concept to be considered when it comes to presidential candidates. One of these critics is Stan L. Hall from the Al Gainey Show, a radio show out of Gainesville, GA. In an article, Hall explains he does not think looking at a candidate as presidential or not is a legitimate concern. However, in his article (which was written before Romney was chosen as the candidate) he says, “If it is based on sheer ‘easy on the eye’ concept, maybe it is Romney or Perry. At least you can look them head on without putting one hand over your eye as a natural filter.”

     It is an unknowing uniform ideal that the leader of the free world is expected to look the part of a great leader. Technology has made the president more accessible on uncountable levels. Not only can he been seen on television, but now voters can watch him anywhere andat any time by simply searching for his name. Images of the president, and the presidential candidates, are everywhere.

     It is because of judgments that people do not see what lies beyond appearances, but it is because of television that these judgments have been reinforced. The appearance of an individual will always play a role into what opportunities that individual has, and, in the case of the president, the stakes are even higher. Citizens want their leader to appear like a leader. Whether it is a prominent chin or slightly graying hair, the look a presidential candidate has can determine whether or not he will be president.

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