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Write Your Own Inaugural


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write-your-own-inaugural-john-o-sullivanNational Review:

Some years ago a musicologist with a sense of humor patented a piano parlor game called “Write your own Mozart.” It didn’t enable the player to write music as well as Mozart, of course, but by shuffling a series of musical bars in some sort of order, it did allow him to produce an acceptably Mozart-like piano pastiche.

Someone — a member of the Judson Welliver Society of presidential speechwriters perhaps — should produce a parlor game called “Write your own Inaugural Speech.” By shuffling a series of oratorical flourishes, the player would be able to craft a suitable Inaugural for a president of any party or ideological tendency. It would be lofty, vague, uplifting, and falsely bold. It would point to anonymous challenges, promise to climb distant hills, and scorn the foolish temptation to follow an easier path to the same results. It would defend freedom, equality, compassion, love, prudence, risk-taking, faith, hope, and charity against their ruthless and determined detractors.


Some inaugural speeches consist entirely of such muscular trivialities. They are hard to hear because they are so meaningless that the mind drifts off elsewhere. Most turn into a real political assertion at some point, usually suggesting that the banalities of the first half of the speech will be realized in policies proposed in the second half. This is usually the moment when vapidity turns into outright flimflammery. In today’s Inaugural, this moment came quite early, about four minutes into it, with the following sentences:

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. We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few. We 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. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative. They strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers. They free us to take the risks that make this country great.Scissors-32x32.png

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