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Speech! Invite produces a few too many

Speech! Invite produces a few too many

Apparently, it's a lot harder to write an inaugural address than a lot of people think _ even with a little help from the Founding Fathers.
Slate magazine invited people to go online and take a crack at writing an inaugural speech for Barack Obama, offering them the crutch of MixedInk technology that seeks out similar words and turns of phrase from all previous 55 inaugural speeches. Participants could lift language from past presidents _ and from one another _ in the hopes of producing collective wisdom surpassing that of any one aspiring speechwriter.
But after "My Fellow Americans," things tended to go downhill pretty fast.
There were deviations into dense economic jargon, attempts at soaring rhetoric that never quite achieved liftoff, and speeches so crammed with the words of multiple presidents that they suffered from extreme personality disorder.
"America, America, America. What's it all about," asked one scribe. His rambling answer started with Jesus and ended with the confession, "Alright. I'm bored. Enough banter. Can I get an apple juice?"
Another got carried away with the arcane verbiage of presidents past, writing of the necessity "to resort to a modification of the tariff, and this has, I trust, been accomplished in such a manner as to do as little injury as may have been practicable to our domestic manufactures, especially those necessary for the defense of the country."
Perhaps James Buchanan's words weren't the best choice in that case.
The experiment in speechmaking-by-committee won't end until Saturday, with the top-rated speech to be published on Inauguration Day at Slate.com. But by Wednesday afternoon, 237 contributors had collaborated on 217 proposed speeches.
In a few cases, the results were surprisingly good.
The opening lines of the top-rated speech as of Wednesday afternoon sound perfectly serviceable for a presidential inaugural.
"My fellow Americans," someone with the screen name Honu wrote, "over two centuries ago, a general from Virginia was the first to take the oath I have been fortunate to repeat here today, swearing allegiance to this newborn Union. Nearly a century later, a lawyer from Illinois swore this same oath, and then, he, too, had to fight."
Not bad. Placing Obama in the company of Washington and Lincoln in an economical 51 words.
The speech had rhythm, repeatedly rolling out the refrain of "In our time." As in: "In our time, we can rebuild and restore the promise America holds to the world."
It also acknowledged that polished words alone are not enough.
"For language has the power to move us to action, but it is never a substitute for it," Honu cautioned. "Our children's children will ask only this: What did they DO, back then?"
Honu's answer echoed the watchwords of Obama's campaign, promising, "They will say, 'Yes, they did.'"
All without recycling verbiage from prior inaugurals.
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On the Net:
http://www.mixedink.com/Slate/InauguralAddress


Updated : 2021-08-01 10:20 GMT+08:00