Friday, January 16, 2009

What to say on Tuesday, taking over the big job

Yet there is something about inaugural addresses — perhaps it’s the siren call of immortality — that tempts presidents and their speechwriters into rhetorical ruin (and abominable abuses of alliteration). The anthology of American inaugural addresses is, but for a few bright spots, one long muddle of grandiosity, mundanity — and forgetability.

Who can remember — actually, who can bear to remember — Richard Nixon’s grasping of the “chalice of opportunity,” or Dwight Eisenhower’s nine (yes, nine) “rules of conduct” for the United States, or Jimmy Carter’s homage to “my high school teacher, Miss Julia Coleman,” or William McKinley’s summons, at the start of the 20th century, to ensure the “honest and faithful disbursement” of congressional appropriations?

Lots more thoughts, and William Safire, here.

Or, do it yourself.

No comments: