The pressure is on Barack Obama to deliver a speech worthy of being "carved into monuments," said Heather Michon in The Washington Post. "If anyone can do it, he can. But the odds are long." Out of the 55 inaugural addresses since George Washington, Americans "remember snippets from, maybe, six" of them.
Let's hope Obama has studied "the great words of Ronald Reagan's inaugural address in 1981,"said Larry Kudlow in National Review. "Reagan faced a terrible economy, too." And in the most memorable line of his speech he clearly spelled out the tax-cutting philosophy behind his cure: "Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem."
It might be best for Obama to take a page from John F. Kennedy, said Richard Reeves in The New York Times. Kennedy, too, faced tremendous challenges when he took office, and his words—"Ask not what your country can do for you ..."—still inspire today. Obama might be on the right track; he has "read and re-read" the inaugural address of the president whose themes Kennedy borrowed—Abraham Lincoln.
Like Lincoln, said Walter Shapiro in The New Republic, Obama "owes his power to the power of his words." But Obama will be speaking not just to Americans but to a vast global audience looking for signs that the "long national nightmare" of the Bush years is over. So to be successful, Obama will have to "loosen the strangler's grip of past presidential oratory" and deliver "a speech that sounds like Barack Obama, not Lincoln, Roosevelt, or Kennedy."
The "multiple challenges and diminished resources" of these uncertain times might force Obama to improvise, said Allen Weinstein in USA Today. But inaugural speeches always serve as "the conceptual bridge between campaign poetry and governance prose." So, Obama's words will "surely reflect the historic tradition of such inaugural speeches, which seek to cauterize residual electoral wounds while evoking the 'better angels' of America's wary but ever-hopeful citizenry."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How I lost all my money
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- How to make the ultimate grilled cheese
- George W. Bush 'ran the country like a cable network,' and other political insights from Chris Rock
- Sorry, GOP, tax cuts don't pay for themselves
- How Wall Street is chipping away at reform
Subscribe to the Week