Posts Tagged ‘Inaugural Address’

Stanley Fish on the prosaic power of the Inaugural Address

January 24, 2009

Stanely Fish of NYT takes a second look at Obama’s Inaugural Address and makes a case for it being far more powerful when read than when heard.  In a generally positive review, he argues that the speech was packed with contemplative nuggets that beg closer examination:

Of course, as something heard rather than viewed, the speech provides no spaces for contemplation. We have barely taken in a small rhetorical flourish like “All this we can do. All this we will do” before it disappears in the rear-view mirror. But if we regard the text as an object rather than as a performance in time, it becomes possible (and rewarding) to do what the pundits are doing: linger over each alliteration, parse each emphasis, tease out each implication.

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Inaugural Address: transcript and commentary

January 21, 2009

Here is the transcript.

And here is NYT’s analysis of the speech: Speech Spanned History, but Confronted Bush

I, too, found it notable that he painted his presidency as a function of Bush’s—that he defined himself or his upcoming term as an end to the previous leadership.  I really think there would not have been an Obama now were it not for Bush.  I doubt Obama’s higher-minded politics would have taken hold to the extent that they did were it not for the very fertile ground in the minds of voters  for such a politics (Rove used division with such effectiveness and such nastiness, to such national detriment, that running as Obama did was received as far less naive and idealistic than it probably would’ve been otherwise).  Similarly, had it not been for the severity of the damage caused by Bush (and the vulgar demographic homogeneity of the GOP), I doubt the country would have been this willing to support a such newcomer with bold promises of nebulous change (not to mention, the little thing about his race).

Overall, I was quite pleased with it.  He had some wonderful lines, artistically speaking (“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”), and some very important lines, politically speaking (speaking directly to Muslims without bluster, including “nonbelievers” like me in his America).  It also made sure to lock into history that he inherited much of this mess, and to steer his supporters’ enthusiasm into a recognition of the challenges we all  must embrace.

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