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Part IV – Obama’s Inaugural Spice: CALL TO ACTION

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

This is the 4th  in a series of 5 posts
on Rhetorical Tips and Techniques
that President Obama could have used
to make his Second Inaugural Address
more memorable.
Boldface indicates
a departure from the original script.

          car shifter1car shifterA strong call to action at the conclusion of a speech helps the audience focus in on the key take-a-ways of the speech.

         Here’s how President Obama could have developed his call to action using the metaphor of a car shifting gears and braking to more vividly illustrate his earlier invitation to complete the journey. (The following text picks up where we concluded the third post in this series: )

  Shifting Into Gear

           The time is now for all Americans to shift into a new higher gear on this road to Greater Prosperity. We can no longer afford to tap our individual partisan brakes and slow down the wheels of democracy.

           For now decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay.  We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.  We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect.  We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.

      We must act, knowing that being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness.      Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time.

Moving the Prologue to the Epilog

      Declaration of Independence     The next two paragraphs were the first two paragraphs in Mr. Obama’s original. Cutting this 5 minute segment from the beginning and pasting it in the end  illustrates the  key in influencing others.  Context follows content. Give them a tasty mouthful of food and then tell them why it is good for them, realizing that  the  epilogue more fully informs the prologue; the afterward more fully clarifies the foreword, and the addendum more fully amplifies the preface so the message is more fully heard, understood and acted upon.

           Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution.  We affirm the promise of our democracy.  We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names.

          What makes us exceptional — what makes us American — is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Making It Real For Every American

         That is our generation’s task — to make these words, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.

       For the patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privilege of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding Creed. But while the means will change our purpose endures : a nation  that rewards the efforts and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires; that’s what will give real meaning to our creed.

       Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time.  For history tells that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by his people here on Earth.”

      Forever Vigilant

           Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage.  Our citizens seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty.  The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war; who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends — and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.

       We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher.

      We must pursue life, liberty and happiness. And so today we continue a never-ending journey to weave together a quilt of  those self-evident truths with the tender threads of our times.  We can only do this–TOGETHER.

Note: President Obama delivered following segment
between the 4th and 5th minute in the original text. That’s
way too soon for the audience to put the message in context.
Replanted here in the conclusion,
the key points serve to reinforce –not introduce— the key points
and therefore enhance the memorability of the message.

        teamworkFor the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias.  

       No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores.  Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.   

     Let’s Seize The Day Together

          Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone.  

        Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility and our commitment to pledge ourselves to something greater than ourselves, to take an oath together to God and Country not to party or faction, these are the constants in our character.

                                                           The linkage between the President’s oath
                                                           and the citizen’s pledge is clearer in this
                                                           construction in the above paragraph and
                                                           the similarity is addressed more thoroughly
                                                          in this following paragraph below.

        In  fact  my fellow Americans, the oath I took today–the words I spoke –are NOT SO DIFFERENT  from the pledge we all make to that flag that waves above and fills our hearts with pride, NOT SO DIFFERENT from the oath that an immigrant pledges in becoming a citizen, and NOT SO DIFFERENT  from the oath that a soldier takes to sign up for duty.

      And so today let’s pledge allegiance to God and to Country.

   Let’s Seize the Day–Together knowing that no union, founded on the principles of liberty and equality, could survive half-slave and half free. Carpe Diem!

Notice how the use of the Latin phrase 
Carpe Diem”  — Seize the Day —
 reaffirms a sense of urgency and
heightens the attention and retention
of his key message: Seizing Opportunity Together.
Think of this single repeated phrase as a drum roll
that awakens the audience to the conclusion.

    Let’s Seize the Day–Together with the same collective resolve that we determined that a great nation must care for the vulnerable and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune. Carpe Diem!

     Let’s Seize the Day–Together with the same collective resolve that we determined that a modern economy required railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers. Carpe Diem!

     Let’s Seize the Day–Together with the same collective resolve that we discovered a free market thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play. Carpe Diem!

                        Let’s get on with the business of America. Let’s Seize the  American Dream. Together. Carpe Diem!

                       Thank you. God bless you, and may be forever bless these United States of America.


TOMORROW:  Savor The Final Spiced-UP Script 

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