James Forsyth

The Speech

The Speech
Text settings
Comments

More than any other modern politician, Barack Obama’s political career has been made and punctuated by his speeches. He became a figure on the national political stage while still a State Senator in Illinois because of his speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2004. His Jefferson-Jackson speech in Iowa in late 2007 was the moment when it became clear he could take Hillary Clinton on head to head and win. His defiant concession speech after his shock loss in the New Hampshire primary showed that he could take a punch and his speech on race carried him through the Jeremiah Wright scandal. But Obama’s speech in Grant Park after his election as president was surprisingly unmemorable. No words or phrases from it stick in the memory; it was more an exercise in expectations management than anything else.

The inaugural address will be different. Obama will use his first trip to the presidential bully-pulpit to give him even more momentum and the power to push Congress to quickly pass the bills he wants on the books. Obama’s decision to invite parallels to Abraham Lincoln shows that this cautious politician is confident his remarks on Tuesday can stand comparison.

Only three presidents in the twentieth century-- FDR, Kennedy and Reagan—gave truly great inaugural addresses. You can be a good president without giving a good speech as Eisenhower and Truman proved. But it is those who can use the power of words and ideas to move the electorate who tend to reshape how America sees itself as a country. Obama will start on that process on Tuesday.

Please join us for full coverage of Obama's inauguration on Tuesday. We'll have live coverage of the speech and all the festivities.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

Comments
Topics in this articleSociety