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Contentions

Sometimes You Can Say Too Much

The high rhetoric of the last few paragraphs was what you expected to hear:

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world … that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive … that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back, nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

But along the way there was too much grit, a little too much campaign speak, and not enough of what he actually called for: an embrace of his opponents, or their views, or concerns. It is never a good idea to use “electric grid” in an Inaugural speech. Why? Because he brings you down to a pedestrian level, mixing the mood, and leaves you wondering just where we are going.

In the end, however, the moment was larger than the speech. It is good to have it behind us and let it serve as a reminder that words get you so far. The rest is in doing.



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