Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The inauguration speech, translated

From the London Times inauguration coverage: President Obama's inauguration speech is translated into what it really means by Bronwen Maddox, chief foreign commentator, and assessed for technique and craft by Phillip Collins, former speechwriter to Tony Blair. See the analysis here . You've got to love British newspapers.


ogre said...

"Translated" is an odd term. It's analysis--or interpretation.

Bronwen's work didn't strike me as that insightful; the qualitative test is the end, when he can only obsess on Obama's use of Washington and Valley Forge as essentially anti-British rhetoric. Tin-eared navel-gazing, indeed. The British weren't identified (and Americans are notoriously historically amnesiac; enemy who?). Collins was a bit better, but only that. His theme was "a speech can hold only one idea, and that should be something one can sum up in a title." Yawn.

This speech had to serve multiple purposes--and it did. It addressed the mood of the people, the state of the economy, the morass of war we're in, the struggle with terrorism, the sense abroad (in many places) that America's been engaged in a crusade against Islam, and more.

"Too many notes," is what Collins echoes. No. Those were the notes that needed to be played, for a variety of reasons. Sad commentary that he can't see down to the deeper theme that Obama wove. But I've never heard from any of my British friends that Blair was particularly noted for his speeches; perhaps this helps understand why.

(Ironic; the word verification is "imerse")

Joel Monka said...

It struck me that their slightly different political system may color their analysis. Their head of state is not directly elected; his speeches must be aimed at a different audience.

As to the anti-British concern, there have been stories in their papers saying they have indications from the Obama camp that our "special relationship" may end, and that they will be treated the same as any other friendly nation in future; this may have sensitized them to the Valley Forge referrences.

Anonymous said...

I'm just glad I found your blog this post, and the post about working class vs privilege as it pertains to Unitarianism. I belong to no church.

I have been feeling quite alone in my response to the Obama speech, and to Obama himself, as my views have nothing to do with party affiliation, nor race, but rather, class, and perceived class -- or "beauty" if you will. Okay. And the patriarchy of organized religion and government. And, regarding the latter, this was the "perfect" speech. Otherwise? Punitive. Thinly-veiled promise of being taken to the woodshed, one way or another.

(I would not be anonymous if blogger would recognize my password -- which was confirmed, even).