The Inauguration Speech – Pro and, yes, Con

President Barack Obama gave a great Inaugural speech today. Yet it was not legendary. Here’s why – on both counts:


  • Content. It was well written, struck the right note of hope and opportunity in the midst of very serious and difficult times.
  • Rule of Three. If this was going to be a long post, I could take a page or two listing the oratorical devices he used effectively. Particularly the Rule of Three.
  • His delivery was strong of voice and cadence. He is a master of cadence and oratory.

That said, expectation was his enemy. The great majority loved his speech, yet so many expected so much from the great orator that some were disappointed.


  • There was no memorable phrase that will stick with us. This man, this time and this occasion cried out for an elevated, singular moment like:

“Ask not what your country can do for you…”
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself…”
“I have a dream…”

  • For a master of rhythm and cadence, I felt President Obama did not use his pauses and applause moments with his usual skill. He didn’t “work the crowd” in crass language, although I admit it’s not easy to work a crowd of a couple of million people. And yet, such a crowd and an event as this can be combined to generate an unusually feverish pitch. The crowd was satisfied, but not elevated.
  • Teleprompters. Obama could use the teleprompters more skillfully – and not just look side to side. If he varied his ‘reading’ rhythm he would be able to vary both his eye contact, his facial expression (not one smile) and his voice.

President Obama’s greatest speech has yet to come.

Tonight I’m going to post some additional clips (in a new service and internet capability!) and show :

  • The Most Momentous Moment
  • The Most Singular Moment
  • The Most Memorable Moment

9 comments on “The Inauguration Speech – Pro and, yes, Con

  1. Good comments Ian – I RT’d them.
    And David, Justice Roberts messed up the Oath, not Obama. There is even discussion on him re-doing it for constitutional accuracy – but in private, not in public.

  2. Good review. I agree, not up to some of his other speeches, stiff. I was also particularly annoyed that he messed up the Oath of Office. For how important that is…a little practice.

  3. Thanks Adam and John – good comments. The communications of Obama certainly stimulates discussion – let’s now hope it also stimulates a turnaround…

  4. A view from abroad: I liked Obama speech, he moved the hearts and he touched the proper chords. I appreciated both his rythm and cadence: these features and the rpetitive usage of the rules of three reminded me of John Donne’s Sonnet XIV.
    There were a couple of things that really annoyed me:
    1. he was rotating restlessly from one side to the other to read his speech
    2. his gesture was quite bad: it was not alive, not emphatic enough, often not in line with his words and expressions. The only time he used both hands was to “emphasize” US’s size and even in that case, well, he could have done far better.

  5. This is a good breakdown.
    I agree that Obama wasn’t working the crowd like he usually does. He probably saw that the market was down 4% today :)
    Overall, it was still a very inspiring speech and I don’t think he necessarily needed a memorable phrase. Either case, I’m glad to hear him speak for the next 4 years!