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Obama’s inaugural address – 2413 words of poetry 21 January, 2009

Posted by Jay Ball in Uncategorized.

OK, so I’m probably one of the few people in the world not to see the whole shebang live but reading the transcript in the paper today I was awestruck by the writing. It managed to be grand without being too grandiose. It felt fresh but still hit the right tone for a world-stage occasion.

There were some beautiful phrases:

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.


Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions – who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.


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, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.

Lovely stuff.

The speech uses many of the rhetorical rules and yet knows exactly when to break them for effect.

The papers are all counting up the most used words – the word ‘terror’ gets just a single mention for instance. Of course, online there are better ways of doing this using the likes of Wordle which produces this:


You can see the original (and make your own) here.

And for the word geeks out there, I’ve also done a quick mark-up of the speech itself to pull out some of the techniques I find interesting. You can download a PDF here.



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