Lecture on language of presidential elections brings insight on campaigns to CSUN

Gabrielle Moreira

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Henry De Sio, Jr., former deputy assistant for President Obama, spoke before 200 people at the USU Grand Salon Thursday night about his experiences as chief operating officer of the Obama for America campaign in 2008.

In his lecture, “How Language Will Shape the 2012 Election,” De Sio shared his experience in the 2008 campaign from its success in Iowa to Obama’s loss to Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire.

“It’s like a leadership reality show,” he said. “Every action your organization makes is available for everyone to see.”

The lecture was funded by the Distinguished Visiting Speakers Program and hosted by the political science and linguistics departments. De Sio was invited by Joseph Galasso, a linguistics professor and De Sio’s second cousin.

Before starting in the Obama campaign, De Sio ran his own consulting firm, Way Forward Strategies. In September 2006, De Sio was contacted to join the Obama campaign, but it was not until February 2007 that campaign officials gave him a job offer.

De Sio started immediately, but said the stresses of his wife’s first pregnancy and relocating to Chicago turned him into a “walking heart attack.” De Sio was also starting on a campaign that had no official headquarters.

It was not until April 2007 when the campaign selected its official headquarters, and before long the campaign began making headway.

“We were building an airplane in mid-flight,” he said of the experience. “And we only had an employee manual with about five pages. It told you about your insurance policy and where the restrooms were.”

The campaign was organized around three core principles that Obama wanted from his team: no drama, respect everyone, and build from the ground up, De Sio said. He said these principles were the qualifications required not just for the campaign, but for any position.

At the end of the lecture De Sio was asked how the Obama and Romney campaigns differ in their ideas and word choices.

“I think Romney’s biggest criticism is that he’s not connecting,” De Sio said. “When you’re the challenger you need to say why you’re different.”

De Sio chose not to be a part of Obama’s reelection campaign so that he could spend more time with his two young sons. He left the White House on good terms.

“I hope there’s something in my story that will inspire entrepreneurial success,” he said.