Here’s the inaugural speech of President Obama. (Note: the full transcript is available below)
I don’t really want to say too much about it as a lot of people have given their two pence worth already. But I never want it to be said that the Pro Humorist didn’t chip in on this momentous occasion!
Like Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” phrase that repeats throughout that famous speech, Obama also has key phrases that he repeats during most of his speeches.
During the Presidential campaign we had the now famous “yes we can” and in this speech we had “for us”. Whilst only repeated three times it serves to act as a reminder phrase of for all those listening. It reminds them of all those unsung heroes who have worked over the years and fought and died in wars in help progress the American nation and the freedom of the people in the audience.
That said it wasn’t as powerful as his “yes we can”. Perhaps if he’d have repated it for us a few more times it could’ve built to a rousing crescendo?
My Criticism of Obama… and Us
Dare I provide any criticisms for Obama at all? Well, plenty of people in the media already have. Many people hoped for an electrifying speech with grandiose rhetoric scaling the heights of Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you…” acceptance speech.
People have bemoaned the fact that there was now strong key phrase. There was no “Ask not…” “I have a dream…?” and so on. He gave us “yes we can” during his campaign but provided nothing after he was sworn in.
Personally, I think people have placed a lot of expectations on speeches of this nature. When the historical speeches have been made they were just written with passion and purpose. I don’t Martin Luther King ever sat down and thought “right, I have to write my equivalent of Kennedy’s “Ask not speech”. He wrote a speech that has meaning and passion to him. It was only retrospectively that we looked at it and realised how important and monumental it was.
I’m not saying that history will view Obama’s inaugural speech differently to how we’re viewing it now. What I’m saying is that we’re heaping too much pressure him to knock out memorable speeches every time.
Kennedy only had four memorable ones during his thousand days as President, but I’m pretty sure he gave more than four speeches.
We need to remember the fact that this President has already proved that he can clearly and brilliantly articulate himself… better than the last one. I cringed pretty much every time Bush spoke, whereas I always look forward to what Obama has to say. Whether he blows me away or not.
Here’s my main criticism of his speech…
The new President is an orator like Churchill, Kennedy and King before him and that’s great. It’s good to have someone who has intelligence, grace and emotion with the ability to articulate it.
But I do feel that he often only speaks on one note. Personally, I would like a bit more vocal variation with some light and shade in his speeches. It just makes it easier to listen and connect to and makes it feel like he’s one of us.
Obama uses the words “we” and “us” to connect with his audience. He has been using this technique for at least four years. By using these words he is connecting his ideals to everyone listening making them all accountable for the change and progress that he feels America needs. It doesn’t just rest on his shoulders, but on the shoulders of every many, woman and child in the country.
Expanding on his ability to connect with his audience he also refers to countries that America is currently in conflict with using evocative imagery such as “…we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
He also includes countries and people that America is not at conflict with “and to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders”.
That’s what I think is brilliant about the man and his speechwriters – he always aims to talk to as man y people as he can. He addresses both Democrat and Republican, Rich and Poor, Black and White, Believer and non-believer.
There’s plenty of opportunity for giving us another powerful speech and I think it will happen when we least expect it to.
Sticking my humorist’s hat, on during his campaign, the President showed his ability at having a sense of humour and humility. I thought he was very funny on Letterman, Ellen and The Daily Show. I think it might be nice to have a little bit more of his humour I his speeches rather than the weighty somber nature that comes across most of the time.
The transcript is viewable with ipaper. This means you can view it on this blog right now, or download it as a PDF of Word doc to view on your computer later. If you’re having trouble viewing it you may need to down load Adobe’s free flashplayer.