The first inaugural address of a President is among the most important and well-crafted speeches they deliver. It sets the direction and tone for their entire presidency. It can inspire the nation and indeed the world.
In two weeks, President-elect Barack Obama will deliver his. Given his well-known eloquence and the dire problems the nation faces, you can be certain this will be the speech of a lifetime.
I’m looking for some powerful rhetoric on energy and climate from you. No, I don’t expect those two subjects will be the primary focus of his remarks, and I expect he will talk more about energy than climate.
But both issues are among the greatest of our time, and Obama’s Cabinet selections make clear he is going to take strong action on both fronts. So does his post-election remarks, “The science is beyond dispute… Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response.”
Post your suggestions below. Whoever comes closest to what he actually says, wins the chance to post on Climate Progress [woo-hoo!]. Also, if anyone’s suggestion seems especially eloquent, I will send it to people who know Obama well enough to give you a (tiny) chance of making it into his speech.
Some suggestions to would-be speechwriters follow:
Memorable and persuasive remarks invariably use rhetoric, not logic (see “Why scientists aren’t more persuasive, Part 1“). The essence of the 25-century-old art of rhetoric is the figures of speech — Wikipedia entry here and About.com’s top 20 figures here.
You probably want to focus on just five figures:
Repetition: “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Alliteration: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Antithesis (a favorite of Lincoln’s): “With malice toward none; with charity for all.” “The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”
Metaphor: “The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans” and “the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty.”
Chiasmus (a fav of JFK’s): “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”
[All but one of those are from inaugural addresses.]
Yes, chiasmus (and alliteration) are types of repetition. There are some four dozen figures of repetition, since it is the most effective strategy for persuasion — as anyone who has children (or is subjected to advertising) knows.
Anyway, keep it short and figurative. One liners are welcome!
[For the record, I don't work for PEBO or his transition, and this "contest" is not sanctioned by anyone on his staff. I reserve the right to tweak any suggestions I forward.]