Obama’s Inaugural Restructured For Greater Memorability

Note : Paragraphs have been repositioned and transitional phrases and metaphors inserted to enhance memorability. The integrity of Mr. Obama’s speech content has been preserved.  Submitted by Peter Jeff, The Leadership Mints Guy based on a 5-part series to restructure President Obama’s Second Inaugural for greater memorability.

Boldface indicates
a departure from the original script.

     Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

    A decade of war is now ending.  An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment. We are poised for this moment. We are primed for this moment. We will seize it so long as we seize it—together.

Then task the audience to engage with you. Too many speakers wait until the end of he speech to ask the audience to climb on board.Mr. Obama would have sparked more memorability for his message if he brought these next paragraphs up from the end (paragraph 25 in his original) and inserted them here in paragraph 2 to reinforce the memorability of the opening like this: 

           In seizing this moment together, you and I as citizens have the power to set the country’s course. In seizing this moment together, you and I as citizens have the obligation to shape the debates of our time– not only with the votes we cast but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient and enduring ideals.

Then introduce the concept of Collective Action to reinforce the theme of seizing together. Begin with paragraph 11 in the original like this:

         After all, you and I have always understood that when times change so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.  For 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.

Then reinforce the seizing together theme with a series of repetitive sentence constructions saluting Collective Action like this:


     Collectively, we the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and growing many barely make it.

     Collectively, we the people, believe that America’s  prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class.

     Collectively, we the people, know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work;  when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship.

     Collectively, we the people, are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else because she is an American, she is free and she is equal not just in the eyes of God but in our own.

     Collectively we the people, recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us , at any time may face a job loss, or a sudden illness or a home swept away in a terrible storm.

          Then establish the critical need for social programs that are vital to the seizing-opportunity-together theme Notice how the tug-of-war metaphor more visually reinforces the memorability of the message.

       That’s why we the people still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity; that no citizen should ever be caught in a tug-of-war between the generation that’s investing in this country and the generation that will build its future. We are all on the same side tugging at the ropes of freedom to climb higher and higher together.

                 Then use a rhyming technique to reinforce the significance in reaching out to all.

       For  freedom is NOT RESERVED for the lucky few. Freedom is NOT PRESERVED for the happiness of some. Freedom is DESERVED  as the right of all.     We the people still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.

     Use a “That’s Why” construction to more directly link the social safety net to our collective prosperity.

       That’s why we must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. That’s why the commitments we the people make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security– these COMMITMENTS  (not things as in original script)—do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they make us a nation of builders, doers, and investors in the American Dream.

Builders like those who  guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma and Stonewall like; Doers like all those men and women, sung and unsung who left footprints on their journey to this great Mall and left an imprint on this nation in tribute to a preacher who told us all that we cannot walk alone. And Investors in the American experience and experiment like all those who heard a KING proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on earth.

     The President’s original text said “They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that made this country great.” But how? Be more specific. Be more real, more memorable. Risk is subjective and open to argument. The audience can more fully grasp the potency of “builders, doers and investors.” There is less room for debate in the efficacy of builders, doers and investors seizing the opportunity together.

 Journey  Together on the Road to Freedom 

Together let’s continue that march for freedom–Beyond the Milestone of Equality in Pay,
Together let’s continue that march for freedom –Beyond the Milestone of Equality in Love
Together let’s continue that march for freedom –Beyond the Milestone of Equality in the Right to Vote

           Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.
Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,
                       for if we are truly created equal,    then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
           Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to make his or her voice heard on election night.

Seizing Opportunity Together

Together we must journey on the road to growth and prosperity, beyond the Milestone of  Comprehensive Immigration.

          Indeed , our  journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity and until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country .
And together we seize that Milestone in Comprehensive Immigration.

           Together, we must journey on the road to growth and prosperity, beyond the Milestone of Safety and Security. 

           Indeed, our journey is not complete until all our children– from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown– know they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm and together we seize that Milestone of Safety and Security.

 Notice how the following paragraphs link back to the milestone to further the key message

         With those Milestones fully in our collective minds and dedication in our collective hearts, America will continue to be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice not out of mere charity but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice. At home and around the world.

Use key transitions like “at home and around the world” to link key concepts globally. Then use  repetitive sentence structure to link  to global aspirations.

             In seizing opportunity together, America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. 

            We will endeavor to resolve our differences with other nations peacefully  –not because we are naive about the dangers we face but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.

            We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law, knowing very well that an enduring security and lasting peace do not require a perpetual war.

Responding to Climate Change

            In seizing opportunity together, we support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East because or interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.

Tie a thematic thread more firmly around
the commitment to climate change like this.


         We will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. Or in a Greener World.  

       After all, we the people still believe that we are all created equal. We still believe that sense of equality is the star that guides us in  lighting our way to meet our obligations not just to ourselves but to all posterity.

           That’s why America will continue to respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that this failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.

         Some may still deny the overwhelming judgement of science but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.

        The path toward sustainable energy source will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries; we must claim its promise.

          That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks.  That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.  That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

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

           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.

                    For 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 .

        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 accelerates the pacing 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.

Your Comments Invited

Memorable or Miserable?  E-mail to  peterjeff@charter.net

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