Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Speech

Barack Obama gave his (hopefully first) Inaugural address today. I'm writing that as a very basic declarative sentence because I'm having fun today just writing down simple facts about the fact that Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States of America. Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic broke it down line by line.

The NY Times invited five speechwriters, Democrats and Republicans, to give their reactions. They were mostly positive, although Gordon Stewart, speechwriter for Carter, wanted more specifics. Still, he liked the core principle:

Never have I known of one to so aggressively seize the center and attempt to enlarge it to the very boundaries of the nation.
Mary Kate Cary, who wrote for George H. W. Bush (and seems to be admitting that was a challenge), says that

Overall, it was a good speech that got better as it went.
Jeff Shesol, a Clintonite, nails my feelings:

It was not the most inspirational speech that Barack Obama has ever given, but it’s surely the most purposeful. He long ago proved that he could make people weep. Today he seemed determined to make them think and, more important, to act.
William Gavin, who wrote for Nixon (Safire wasn't available?) makes a nice point about form and context:

In any major speech there is an eloquence of words and an eloquence of setting (for example, Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg). . . But the setting — the first African-American standing there in the bright winter sunshine as our new president — had an eloquence all its own.
He then adds a nice grace note:

Anyhow, God bless him and his family, and I hope he is a great president.
Clark S. Judge (great name), a Reagan speechwriter, was also highly complimentary:

President Barack Obama delivered a deeply American inaugural address . . . It was a marvelous address.
I'm going to take some time to digest it, and write about it in detail later. But my first reaction was that it was very good.

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