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    We use the single and double quotation marks since, fortunately, Alex Spillius in the Telegraph does not himself in Barack Obama inauguration: his worst speech call the speech "sh-t", though someone he quotes does,

    ...Obama got where he is by speechifying, but this effort would not have won him many votes. It was his worst on a grand stage, though still better than most politicians could muster.
    The delivery, as ever, was first class, but the message was wasn't [sic] clear enough and the language not insufficiently [sic] inspiring.
    As soon as the applause had died down, an African American standing man near me on the Mall said to his friend: "I thought the speech was shit." Another woman said, correctly, that "we had heard it all before at other events". ...
    Jon Favreau, his co-writer, recently admitted that he had been pouring [sic] over previous inaugural speeches. That might have been a bad idea. Obama seemed weighed down by the past, and failed to seize the moment.

    Actually, one may not go as far as "sh-t", but...

    I found the speech likable but not as uplifting as it should have been, maybe. Compare, and try not to gag about comparing, some parts of the Bush 2nd Inaugural speech we quoted previously,

    ...After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical - and then there came a day of fire. ...
    Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world:
    All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you. ...
    ...By our efforts, we have lit a fire as well - a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world. ...

, which was not badly written and had some world-transformative ambitions, not all bad ones either.

    As for the Obama speech, e.g., the ABC capture,


    I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
    Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.

Gracious hat tip to jersey #43. ...Storm theme to be completed by Ob later on. (Cf. Classics IV on Wik, the creators of "Stormy". RIP Dennis Yost 12/7/08)

    We remain a young nation

is, as some other commentator noted, not that true when you think of all the other nations that are mor recent; but Obama is young himself so maybe he gets a pass for trying to evoke youthiness;


the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things

has a nice music to it, even if it almost sounds a little Marlboro Man rather than just homo faber;


we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

Cf. Tikkun olam;


    We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders ... We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

The first sentence sounds very dorky; the second is not as bad (scans well, and is environmentalist); the third says "new age"! Help!
    The fourth and the fifth sentences, those assertions, are a little hubristic and should be followed by "God willing", maybe;


    The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works

Very nicely put. Much better put than Reagan's "Government is the problem", a pronouncement Reagan followed by trying to make it true (out-of-control defense spending and waste, Iran-Contra, Michael "Evil' Deaver", etc.);


    As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man

O.k. chief, but careful with those "rights of man [sic]"! I hear women have rights too...


    ...our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead,...our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

One of the best parts of the speech. "Humility and restraint", after the Bush administration? Who knew??


    We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

Scenery-chewing, and actually much less elegant than some of the Bush speech above. Still, it shows "resolve", so no one can call him "Obambi" after this;


    For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. ...we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; ...

In my ideas for a novel that I'd been planning to write for a long, long time, there is a President (white as toast, rich as Croesus, and evil as h-ll) who says that "diversity is a weakness"!!! So it was nice to see a real-life president refuting that idea;


    To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.
    To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

"hand...fist". Good enough for movie dialogue, almost.
    --Not much said about Gaza here, but a lack of specificity may be forgivable in a time-limited speech;


    To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

Nice idealism, and nice condemnation of lack of idealism. As for "the world has changed", cf., "Dialogs in FotR [Fellowship of the Ring]", first entry;


    As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.
    We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.
    For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. ...

Praiseworthy tip of the hat to our soldiers/servicepeople, and also a reference to JFK's "Ask not what your country..."


    Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. ... What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

"Manful", this sort of thing used to be called, but in light of what's said above about "rights of man [sic]", we'll just call it adult.
    ...Old values, taking up duties. What is this guy, a conservative? (heh);


    a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

A suitable mention of the extraordinary and overdue occurrence of a black man as the American President;


    America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Repeating/completing the "storms" theme from the beginning of the speech. ...The rest is a little greeting-cardy and anti-climactic, but could be worse.

    (Frankly, the ending of Bush's 2nd Inaug was much better:

    We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. ... History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.
    When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, "It rang as if it meant something." In our time it means something still. America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength - tested, but not weary - we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.
    May God bless you, and may He watch over the United States of America.


    --One does not have the link for the Reuters poll a few days where one saw people giving ratings of, roughly, "good" or "average" for the Obama speech about as much as they gave ratings of "spectacular"; but this author is not surprised the poll said that, seeing the criticisms above.

    Actually, though, the speech has gotten a little better the more one has looked at it; not the greatest speech ever, but serviceable, in an age of "service": a "toolbox" of a speech with many valuable things to drag out of the box and repair America with.
    And the speech was certainly not "sh-t", pace Alex Spillius' overheard observation. So even if Obama's second inaugural speech in 2013 doesn't improve on this one, that means it still won't be too bad...

Originally posted to David Boyle on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 11:24 AM PST.


Obama's speech was

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