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Obama First Presidential Inauguration Speech - Essay Example

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Carnegie Mellon University
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Public speaking is about talking to a multitude regarding given concerns and seeking to convince the audience to borrow ones point of view. For that reason, a speech is only as good as the effect it has on the people; the only scale for measuring its efficiency is the relevance of the address to the situation at hand. An example of a significant address in the US history is the Barrack Obama Inauguration Speech of 20th January 2009, when the speaker was assuming office for his first term as the 44th President of the United States. The newly elected president passed a message of hope, unity, equality, and loyalty to the country through his address. A summary of the speech and an evaluation of the historical occurrences in the USA at the time of the talk would show that Barracks speech was an appropriate response to the prevailing situation in America at that time.

One of the key issues in Obamas lecture was equality and unity. Obama said, We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers (Phillips). In that statement, the term nation is thought-provoking. Scholars have attributed the term to strong bonds; for instance, the Oxford Living Dictionary refers to it as a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory. In other words, Obamas inauguration speech acknowledged that America was a union of different cultures, be it Christians, Jews, Muslims, or Hindus. Elsewhere, Obama said, know that America is a friend of each nation, and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity (Phillips). Dignity in that statement implies equality that he was bringing to America. According to Obama, all people, regardless of their ethnicity or social class are worth being dignified. Therefore, one can claim that equality and unity formed part of Obamas message.

Elsewhere, Obamas address preached loyalty to the nation and hope for a better America through his regime. The president-elect said, For us, they fought and died in places like Concord and Gettysburg, Normandy and Khe Sahn (Phillips). By they, Barrack referred to the people who fought for a better America; for instance, Gettysburg is remembered for the fight against slavery in America. Therefore, the president reminded the people of the fact that the journey to a free America had never been smooth; people fought to have a country where all citizens would be treated equally regardless of their color, religion, or any other factor if discrimination. Further, he said, On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics (Phillips). That was a promise of a better America after his assumption of office. So, Obamas speech was a message of hope that encouraged people to stay loyal to the national course.

Putting the speech into context, one notices that it came following a contentious campaign period, characterized by sharp divisions in the country. A part of the US population did not trust Obama to the extent that they would show their hatred by associating him with the Muslim religion (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica). At that time also, the US considered Muslims as terrorists; the country had launched a war against some Muslim states such as Iraq (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica). Therefore, associating Hussein Obama to the Muslim religion was a show of the sharp division that existed in the country; apart from their hate for Obama, those people also showed that they did not trust Muslims. They practiced ethnic-based politics instead of one that relies on agenda. Besides, Obama only garnered 53 percent of the votes cast, while his close opponent McCain had 46% of the votes; therefore, the former did not have the support of close to half the US population.

Further, it would not go without mentioning the drastic change in politics that America had just undergone in the 2008 elections. With the white privilege in America, it was least expected that the white population, which is the majority, would trust an African American with the task of managing the country. Tim Wise explains the entire concept of white privilege, and he associates it to political problems as at 2008. According to Tim, America had focussed on skin color so much that it would not look at democracy in terms of the development it ought to bring to the country (Wise). According to Tim, many of the white presidents had failed, evidenced by inflation and high rate of unemployment in the nation (Wise). Nonetheless, the white race would not trust the black population as a possible driver of change (Wise). Therefore, Obamas presidency must have been accompanied by so many doubts from the people.

Arguably, the speech was very relevant as per the situation at hand. With such a divided nation, the speaker needed to suggest cohesion and equality. The president needed to remind the people that America would never be America without the Muslims, the Hindus, and the Jews, among other cultures. What is more, he needed to set the countrys goals right so that the people would not let their ethnic-based reasoning to overcome their desire for a better country. Finally, he needed to remind the Americans that all citizens make efforts towards nation building; thus, all citizens are equal. Obamas speech achieved all those objectives because it reminded the people of what it meant to be an American; as in, one needed to be part of a nation of many cultures. Besides, the speech showed the citizens that color did not necessarily mean effectiveness; Obama acknowledged that the past regimes had failed. Therefore, Obama used his speech to achieve what America needed at that historic moment.

Conclusively, Obamas speech was relevant to the situation that America found itself in following the 2008 election. During the electioneering period, America was highly divided with almost half the population supporting McCain and the other half behind Obama. At that time, the best message that one could ever deliver was a speech requesting the people to reunite and move towards a given goal. Obamas address achieved that by reminding the people of the history of America by mentioning the fact that the country was once divided against itself, but it still overcame the bad times. Further, the speech reminded the people of the fact that many men and women had fought for a better America, and their efforts ought not to go to waste. Therefore, the speech suggested that the people ought to exercise their loyalty by treating each other with utmost care so that the country could move forward to achieve its dream.


Works Cited

Phillips, Macon. President Barack Obama's Inaugural Address The White House, 21 January 2009,

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. United States Presidential Election of 2008. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 19 July 2017,

Wise, Tim. White Privilege. Blogger, 17 September 2008, HYPERLINK ""


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