Obama Delivers Somber, Yet Uplifting Address

Barack Obama once again used his words and poetic style to inspire, motivate and bring together the nation and world as he gave his inaugural address just minutes ago.  While it lacked repeatable sound-bites, like Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” there was no mistake that it was time all Americans take a role and imitate the dedicated members of the military in a spirit of service.

Positive Things to Glean About Speaking from Obama’s Inaugural Address

1.  It was about the audience.  (My number one rule of writing speeches.)

  • He used the word “I” only 3 times, while using “we” more than 50.
  • He reminded us of our genetic characteristics, by referring to our ancestors.  “For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth. For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.”
  • And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today … know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.”

2.  It had strong visual imagery.

  • “Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life.
  • “Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.”
  • “.. they toiled in sweatshops … endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.”

3.  It didn’t stray from reality.

  • Obama didn’t sugar coat our situation, giving us straight talk instead of pandering, “That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood.”
  • “The challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time.”

4.  It gave us marching orders.

  • He chastised us by telling us that “We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. ”  In other words, quit being so selfish.
  • “Greatness is never a given. It must be earned.”
  • “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”

5.  He handled the skeptics.

  • “What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.” In other words, it can no longer be “business as usual.”

6.  He addressed the even bigger picture–the world.

  • “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. “
  • “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.”
  • “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.”

7.  His delivery style exhibited a variety of pacing, pitch and projection.  That makes him very easy to listen to for long periods of time.

Finally, on a personal note, my favorite paragraph was where he invoked these heroes:

“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.”

Another great inspirational message, somber in tone, but long on “uplifting.”

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2 Responses to Obama Delivers Somber, Yet Uplifting Address

  1. Your blog offers a thorough and insightful analysis of today’s presidential address from a speaker’s point of view. To me, your most important points have to do with a) Obama’s speech being about the audience, rather than about him, b) his use of imagery, and c) his including a “call to action”. One challenge for any speaker is addressing various (and sometimes oppositional) contituencies within the audience, and you pointed out that Obama addressed the skeptics. Lots of food for thought here!

  2. Pam Gilley says:

    Thank you for taking this historic event and giving us all lessons from it in improving our effectivenss as speakers. Not many would be able to do this without positioning themselves for or against the remarks. Your insights only prove that we can learn something from everyone if we come to it with an open spirit. Thank you for the insights and lessons!

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