Bob Massie

A New Birth of Freedom – An Advance Text of Obama’s First Inaugural (sort of)

In Politics on January 19, 2009 at 10:17 pm

 I know this is pretentious, but after writing my previous piece on presidential speaking, I thought I would try my hand at drafting my own guess of what Obama’s First Inaugural Address might include. I wrote this over the last 48 hours and I am posting it fourteen hours before we know what Obama’s speech actually contains. (Keep in mind that Obama has been on his speech with Jon Favreau for two months). I kept in mind that Barack Obama has been extremely disciplined about framing and retaining certain key themes, and these appear below. For the record: I have not read any of the articles that are predicting his themes. This is simply my own personal guess – one of many that one could – about the kinds of language we might hear. I look forward to hearing from you – and to seeing myself – how close I make it to the real mark.

My fellow Americans, I stand before you with both pride and humility as we prepare to take another step together on our great national journey.

When we began this improbable trip more than two years ago, I said that this was not about me. It was about you.

Two years I thought I knew this nation.  But, now, after traveling so many ribbons of highway and endless skyways, from some of our smallest towns to our greatest cities, from the majestic purple mountains and from sea to shining sea, I learned to love this country even more deeply than I knew was possible.

And I saw your faces. I heard your voices. I understand in new ways what we can do together.

We said that we would bring change to America. And we did.

We did so not by tearing down what was wrong, but by building up what is right. We have done so not but pulling us apart, but by bringing us together. We should pause for a moment to acknowledge the many who came before us who gave everything they had so that we could be here today, the heirs to their timeless commitment to freedom and to equality.

We remember those who conceived this nation in liberty and dedicated it to the proposition that we all are created equal. We remember those who devoted every waking hour and when necessary laid down their lives as a measure of their full devotion to this .

We remember those who walked the stony road, who carried the heavy burden, who spoke the truthful word, and who paid the fearful price. We honor them not through our power but through our promise to rededicate ourselves to the hope and the dream. They trusted in things they could not see, yet they kept on going. They faced terrible odds, but they kept on going. They held to the faith that this nation could, no matter what the obstacles, find the unity and the strength and the courage to pre We honor them all.

And now we must demonstrate that we are their rightful heirs to our ancestors by showing that now, in our time, in this place, in this nation, and at this time we too came together as one people and to take the next step down the road of liberty.

Now again, we face a time of great challenge and great change. The dark clouds of discontent and disruption have rolled across our skies.

We are a nation at war. We must find a path to peace. 

We are nation confounded by loss. We must return to the path of prosperity. We are a nation with a proud heritage, to whom others have looked for moral leadership, and we must strengthen that tradition.

In every thing we do we must carry before us the knowledge that despite our difficulties, we are not alone. We are not alone in this world in our struggles, nor are we alone in our commitment to resolve them. We know that despite the differences within this country and across this planet, every human being deserves and desires to be free from hunger, injustice, and oppression.

This is a long task that will not be completed by one person or within any one presidency. It is the never-ending task of the entire American people. We are standing at a crossroads, with many choices before us. We still have much to do and far to go. We are not afraid because we are full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
we are filled with the hope that the present has brought us.

We may grow weary, but we will not stop.

We may need to hold each other up, but we will never hold each other back.

We may falter, but we will never fail.

We can only make this improbable and demanding voyage if we do so as one people, bound by our common purpose, guided by our beloved constitution, proud of our shared identity as a united people in these United States.

We cannot do this alone. We must come together, dream together, strive  together again.

Our unity must flow not from our constant agreement, but from our mutual respect. It comes not from any one party or person, but from the process of democracy itself. It bubbles up from the ground and flows down from the mountaintop, rolling down like waters, bringing forth justice like an ever-flowing stream.

I commit myself in our urgent here and now to do all in my power, imperfect though I am, to lead us toward new birth of freedom. And today I call on you as well: will you join me in the next steps on our endless road to renewal?

Will you play the part that is uniquely yours in the unfolding story of America?

Will you accept the responsibility and the privilege and the courage and the joy that come from knowing that our beloved country is poised and ready to do what has never been done?

If you do, then I know that no matter what stands in our way, we will persist and we will prevail. The clouds will roll back, the dawn will shine forth, and we will stride together towards the light of our brighter future.

Thank you and God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

  1. Okay, I’ll read this and then have it nearby tomorrow… (Those inclined to print it, it’s pages 1 through 3)

    Lots of mystic chords of memory…

    I expect, though, that he’ll make a strong pitch for responsibility (that’s what they’re saying, whoeve the proverbial “they” are), even corporate responsibilty–who woulda thunk??

    Is there a betting pool here??? How do we measure??? Phrases??? Rhythm?? Tone??? Keywords???

    Love it!

  2. This is harder than it looks, so I would plead for leniency. Topics and themes (unity, improbabilty, homage to past sacrifice (including subtle reference to African American struggle and phrasing by MLK), hard road ahead, we can do it together, allusions to other well known patriot phrases, alliteration, metaphor (water, road, journey) – if I had time I would set up my own categories for you to check. Exact phrasing is almost impossible – if I hit any of them (other than God bless America), you know Jon Favreau should give me a call for future tasks.

  3. You underestimate your absorption of the Zeitgeist…

    Cadence, phraseology, keywords: they’re there…

    Tearing down what was wrong, building up what is right…

    …ribbons of highway (Pete!)

    It was not about me, it was about you…

    We may falter, never fail…

    Rolling waters…

    Rolling clouds…

    (No ‘threads of tapestry’, though; I used to tease Bob Glassman about over-using that…)

    Your default mode is a preacher poet. I look forward more of your OWN rhetoric, Brother Bob!

  4. My favourite line: “We may need to hold each other up, but we will never hold each other back.”

    The only thing I hope might appear more is to call out the relationship with countries overseas.

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