Brevity Works: Learning from Donald Trump

Published on: Author: bette 20 Comments

I don’t Tweet and I will probably never make much use of my Twitter account.

That being said, I keep flashing back to something my good friend Deb Tucker tried to get me to learn when Tweeting first became a fad.  Bette, she told me, it would be very good for you to learn to make a point in 140 characters!

Well, history has proven her right … and we have a new President-elect to show for it:  Brevity works.

That shouldn’t really surprise any of us … but educators, academics, and run-of-the-mill perfectionists like me seem to be very slow learners.


I may be a slow learner … but at some point things finally connect in my brain and I experienced a blinding flash of the obvious.  Even as I’m typing …. (and I know I exceeded my 140 characters about half way through the second sentence) ….. examples are flashing through my brain ….

  • Bumper stickers:  Who first thought of that?  Maybe just someone who wanted everyone to “Have a Nice Day 🙂 !”
  • Elevator speeches: As a school teacher I had to have someone explain that one to me.  Teachers seldom have a chance to attend a professional conference in a large hotel where they may only have a short elevator ride to explain their product or idea to a stranger.
  • Third-grade teachers: Something I have figured out since retiring from teaching is that the litmus test for understanding a complex Idea is whether or not you can explain it to a third grader.  Like Madeline L’Engle does with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in A Wrinkle in Time.


So back to Donald Trump. Regardless of how you feel about the message he wanted to get across, you can’t argue with the fact that he knew how to get folks on board …. 140 characters at a time.


20 Responses to Brevity Works: Learning from Donald Trump Comments (RSS) Comments (RSS)

  1. Coming back to these comments is interesting. Lots has happened since January … and it’s interesting to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I may or may not decide to use my Twitter account to keep up with what’s going on in the world … but I do still like the idea of “brevity.” When we first started talking about “core standards” in the 1990’s the catch phrase was “Less is More.” (Since I know that’s still true – I’ll stop writing and post my next thought on TWITTER 😉 !)

  2. Our opinions on such matters as politics are derived from who we are; i.e., some studies suggest that “who we are” is as much genetic as it is experiential (re: “The Righteous Mind,” by Jonathan Haidt). In the end, we are probably not going to change each other’s minds. But ongoing discourse and exchanges of ideas are always helpful.

    However — unless we’re actually on the scene — mitigating our information gathering is the fact that we are viewing individuals (politicians, etc.) and events through the prism of the media. I’ve tried to watch CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, as well as the major network channels (ABC, CBS, & NBC). But the bias is so palpable I can no longer trust what I see and hear. I’ve now started to do my own homework and get more involved. One tool I’ve found useful is the app, @Countable. This app provides a direct link to your respective representatives and provides updates to legislative issues that you select to follow. Now, this app may turn out to have it’s own demons, but in the meantime, it beats listening to TV’s talking heads!

    • As usual, Clint … there’s so much more to talk about! One quick thought: Do you remember the PBS Social Studies project I worked on with Raleigh Philp the year I left AUSD? It was called “The Presidents: In Their Own Words” and was a fascinating study of the history of the US by comparing similarities and differences among all of the Presidents to date.

    • I read though this article and began to wonder how folks in these various demographics use social media. Not just Twitter … but it seems like every day there’s a new platform of some sort. Paul’s thesis for his Ph.D. was on Social Networking. He was working on it in 2004 – the same year that Mark Z. started Facebook. (Sure wish they were working together … LOL 😉 !) Seems like a cool follow-up study would be to look at how all the groups of voters in this article use the various social networking platforms.

      • I just posted a generic comment here, but I don’t know where it went! 🙁

        My comments are related to the media, primarily TV. But I guess they could be applied to internet (social) media, as well. Scary stuff! TV news coverage gets some scrutiny by editors, etc. But I’m not aware of any such content control of social media … just to be clear, I certainly wouldn’t want the government controlling social media. But having said that, reading ANYTHING on the internet should come with a “caveat emptor-type” warning! I’m constantly surprised at how often folks actually believe what they see/read on the internet. And unfortunately, they sometimes let that shape their decision-making.

        • We’ll talk more about this one … Paul is involved with this sort of thing at Facebook. It was never intended to become “media” but it has become the only source of news for far too many people. Start watching for changes the company is making.

  3. Donald’s new rallying cry is “Repeal and Replace.” Catchy – and only 16 characters. The good news is that he’s promising that will happen “on the same day.” Now the focus needs to be on “Replace First.” 13 characters.

  4. I was unable to see Al Rowe’d tweet because the link required that I have a Facebook account. Maybe someday I will, just so I can access things like this.

    • Ok, Bill …. So how much TRUTH can you get into 140 characters? 🙂 Let’s see: “All children can learn and succeed, just not in the same way or on the same day.” (79 by my count.) Or … “The Why? drives the What? drives the How?” (38?) Those are my two favorites … but I’m sure you can think of more!

      Another one I remember from Heartlight days is “What you resist, persists.” (Only 26!) That’s why I’ve decided that I can’t focus on what he says or does … because that’s just not where I want to focus my energy. I am glad, however, that there are others who are inclined to “hold his feet to the fire” as Shirley mentions …. (below)

      • My favorites are …”It’s already been done for you.” and “The Universe supports me!”. Boy have those made my life less stressful!

  5. Bette, how true! I’m finding it lots of fun to tell my “short” stories in as few pages as possible.
    I’m very sad about Trump. Hope he doesn’t do something stupid. And yes, although he hit the mark for a lot of people, he did so much to harm everyone. It’s too bad people didn’t hold his feet to the fire each time he made some crazy comment.
    Happy New Year

    • What upsets me the most is what his popularity says about who we really are as a country. I think that what happened is that so many simply didn’t take him very seriously. I got really nervous last January when I heard the talk about the “Evangelical Voting Bloc” because I had first-hand experience with that group in 1991-2 when they mobilized to destroy OBE. Luckily they couldn’t destroy the vision that many of us held …. and I’m feeling hopeful about the POSITIVE energy that seems to have been unleashed by this turn of events. (Yes … the media likes to showcase the negative stuff … but that’s just not where I’m going to go …. ;-))

    • Hi Shirley! Hope all’s well in Brookings! I’m revisiting this post because it still makes sense to me … and so do the comments! You are so right about “short” stories. I want to talk to you about the concept of “Story Activism” – Something my friend Geoffrey posted on FB this morning. Have you ever heard of that?

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