2021 in Word Clouds

This is a major moment in our history and we should pause, truly pause, and reflect on what happened. And what better way than through visual word clouds?


First, we started the week with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a moment to remember one man’s powerful dream that altered the course of history and still teaches us so much on progress that’s needed for racial justice. We also saw Joe Biden and Kalama Harris step formally into their new roles as President and Vice-President of the United States of America today.


I was trying to think of a way to articulate how this moment feels. It’s starting to feel different. It’s starting to feel hopeful. It’s starting to feel like an inflection point. Here are some visuals to illustrate all the feels.

I have a dream speech wordcloud

From Martin Luther King Jr’s Speech “I have a dream”
First is Martin Luther King Jr’s famous “I have a dream” speech delivered in 1963 at Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The word cloud is above. I haven’t censored any words out, so I apologize if some of the words here are inappropriate for me to show. Here’s what stands out to me: Freedom, Dream, Together, One, Justice, Liberty, Faith.

Joe Biden inauguration speech word cloud

From President Joe Biden’s Inauguration Speech
Next is Joe Biden’s powerful inauguration speech delivered today. Again, I haven’t censored anything out. Here’s what stands out for me: Unity, Strength, One, Nation, Together, Democracy. “Decency” and “Dignity” also stood out from listening to the speech.
Notice some similar themes?
What I see is a shared deep longing that we have for unity, togetherness, and equality for all. Perhaps a longing that’s always been there in certain communities, but now a longing that we all share collectively and with more intensity than ever before. Did you know that COVID-19 has taken more lives in a year than all of World War II in the U.S.? Did you know that in the UK there were close to 697K deaths in 2020, the highest level of deaths since WWII? It’s safe to say that last year has had the impact of a world war on all of us. It’s okay to say this out loud and acknowledge this.
Last visualization exercise: the American people’s hopes for the next 4 years. I’ve been fixated on this New York Times site where they’re posting reader-submitted hopes for the next 4 years. Let’s look at some of the quotes coming from the people as our last word cloud exercise.

The silver lining is this. Character matters. Black Lives Matter. Dignity matters. Unity matters. Togetherness matters. Stability matters. Facts matter. Relationships matter. Humility matters. Equality matters. Values matter. Being a good person matters. Being a good leader matters. Transformation matters. Healing matters. Love matters. Faith matters.


We are in the process of re-learning what matters. And from that standpoint, 2020 and 2021 matter.


Let’s take a moment and let that soak in.

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