The Historic ‘Firstness’ of the President’s Second Inaugural Address

The first few paragraphs of my Tuesday column about the president’s address yesterday:

Naturally, any president who delivers an inaugural address seems to take their own stab at one-upping the great lines of marble-men like John F. Kennedy or Abraham Lincoln. Every president who’s sworn the oath wants to deliver that one line that will be remembered in the same breath as “ask not what your country can do for you” or “with malice toward none, with charity for all.”

Consequently, inaugural addresses tend to be more poetry than prose — broad, rhetorical ideals, which are subsequently subdivided into policy specifics in State of the Union addresses and other speeches. What ends up being delivered on Janurary 20 every four years are lines that sound great when delivered by statesmen to large crowds but which are rarely memorable. It’s difficult to recall any outstanding lines from recent addresses of the top of my head. Certainly they’ve all been well-crafted speeches, but they haven’t really been great speeches. Now, it’s never easy to compete with the words of beloved leaders who were martyred in their prime because every word they’ve uttered has tended to become emblazoned everywhere, from Facebook memes to bronze plaques at the bases of memorial statues.

But I think President Obama came damn close to delivering what can easily be considered an historic speech and even a truly great speech.

Historians will regard today’s inauguration with high praise for several reasons. [continue reading]

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  • Nefercat

    “…Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall…”

    I think this phrase has staying power. Women, minorities, gay people, we are *all* Americans. No more rill ‘Murkins deciding how much Americanness they will allow the rest of us to have.

  • muselet

    Yesterday, a gaggle of (mostly) professional bloviators discussed Barack Obama’s inaugural address. By and large the panelists were unimpressed—a former George W Bush speechwriter actually complained that the speech lacked soundbites—although I don’t remember hearing anyone moaning about Obama not reaching out to Republicans so I should be grateful.

    Me, I think it was a very good speech, delivered well. It’s churlish to ask for much more.

    –alopecia

  • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

    Ah, vindication…… (and fuck the emoprogs!)…I have always felt and said that Pres. Obama would look a whole lot more liberal in his second term, and it certainly seems that those of us who felt that way were right.