Update: The ceremony was fun to watch, except for when Scout wondered aloud how they could allow anyone as old as James Taylor to sing in public. And the poem reminded me of Ben Stiller saying grace in Meet the Parents.
During the speech, I kept telling Scout to stop squirming and playing with the dog. Because I wanted to be squirming and playing with the dog. See you—with more enthusiasm—at the State of the Union. —DM
You’d think the editor of Vital Speeches of the Day would be more excited on Inauguration Day.
My nine-year-old daughter Scout is home from school for MLK day and I plan to inflict the ceremony on her, so I’m looking forward to that. I also love looking at long CNN shots of the Mall, where I have had many good walks after sunset. And if you don’t think that Obama family is gorgeous to look at, you have bad goggles.
I think I’d like this day more if it didn’t involve a speech. I don’t like ceremonial speeches. I like speeches suited to a more spontaneous situation (for my money, President Obama’s Sandy Hook speech was the best one he gave all four years), or at least to a high-stakes communication attempt, like a convention speech.
But an inaugural speech is so loaded down with traditon.
Listen to former President Reagan speechwriter Clark Judge talk about the Obama speech on the right-wing blog Ricochet. Politics aside, this is how speechwriters and presidents think about these things:
“I would model the speech after the second inaugurals of Clinton and Reagan, with notes of Lincoln. … Instead, I expect something like FDR’s second inaugural address …”
What “notes” did Lincoln borrow for his second innaugural? Upon what did George Washington model his inaugural? It doesn’t matter anymore, because as in an old marriage, there are too many well-honed old lines to pick up for anybody to risk floating a new one.
I love you despite everything. We’re gonna get through this together, just as we’ve gotten through everything else. Let’s make a new start—today. And as my dad used to say every night to a girlfriend with whom he did not get along well, “Betty, let’s try ‘er again tomorrow.”
That’s what Obama’s going to say today. It’s what he has to say. If he says anything fresh—or if, more likely, Scout does—I’ll post it here.
Vincent Rhodes says
I have to say that I was surprised to hear such vocal support of equality for gays… in the address… in the benediction… added to a reading by a gay poet.
Say what you will about ceremonial speeches, they CAN have meaning and impact. It’s been a long time coming. I wasn’t sure I would see this in my lifetime. Equality should be a foregone conclusion, but it isn’t. So, ceremonial pronouncements can also be a shot across the bow… and an acknowledgement of the inevitable. And, we need to hear it.
For me, there was at least one moment of greatness in that speech.
David Murray says
Agreed, Vincent, that was good, though I think his first declaration of support for gay marriage will be longer remembered. I don’t deny that these kinds of speeches are symbolically important or meaningful. I just happen to be much more personally interested in speeches whose words intend to communicate ideas, rather than to send signals.
David Murray says
But inaugurals and many other kinds of ceremonial speeches have their place, of course.