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Revision as of 17:59, 4 March 2014

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 1434 xkcd comics, and only 40 (3%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

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Presidential Alert
When putting his kids to bed, after saying 'Goodnight', Obama has to stop himself from saying 'God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.'
Title text: When putting his kids to bed, after saying 'Goodnight', Obama has to stop himself from saying 'God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.'
Current EAS logo. (from Wikimedia Commons)

Explanation

The Emergency Alert System allows the U.S. President to address the country in the event of a national emergency, by broadcasting a message over all television and radio channels. Despite the system's having existed in various forms for over 60 years, no president has ever used it, even during the September 11 attacks.

In this comic, the US President accidentally activates the system by pressing a button, apparently located on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. Surprised by being on television, he tries to think of something important to say on the spot, but cannot think of anything other than a piece of generic dental-hygiene advice—a rather non-urgent message.

An alternative explanation is that he is actually supposed to tell everyone some really bad news - like a total nuclear attack or an asteroid is about to destroy the US (or that Ebola has become airborne in the US...) And then he chickens out (or decides there is no need to know a few minutes in advance) and try to explain that the alert was a mistake - finishing quite lame on the dental flush advice.

The concept of the President mistakenly hitting an important button has long been a source for jokes, often somewhat morbidly involving the nuclear football.

The title text references the typical conclusion to presidential speeches: "Goodnight, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America," or some variation thereof. As "goodnight" is the typical conclusion to a day, the title text jokes that President Obama has a hard time stopping at goodnight when saying that to his children.

Transcript

[Television beeping.]
Screen reads: "E.A.S Incoming Presidential Alert"
[Person in an office is on the television.]
My fellow Americans. I, uhhh. Wow.
Frankly, I didn't realize what this button did. I was just... I mean... I appear before you tonight to, um.
Look, uhh...
Remember to floss regularly. Oral hygiene is important. Thank you.



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