Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Obama - borrowing from King, Kennedy... and Bartlet

I watched the Obama Inauguration Speech not expecting too much. Not that I am not a fan. But such a moment needs to send too many messages to too many people to really allow the oratory to soar. Back in the days of JFK, a new President could really let rip. But with today's global media (more than a billion people watched the speech live) there really does need to be a message for every audience and so today couldn't be the time to truly let rip. That moment (hopefully those moments) will come when he is free to concentrate on a single theme rather than having to saying something to everybody.

So what were my impressions of the speech?

Well there was a tad of JFK in there. It is surely expected for every incoming Democrat to borrow from him. Obama remade the 'Ask not...' portion of JFK's inaugural into his own words.

It has to be noted that another aspect also reminded me of Kennedy. There is an audience of the top VIPs seated behind the new president with a stairway directly behind his head. The people in the seats there believe they are so far back as to be out of camera shot. They do not realise that the TV cameras foreshorten things and so every movement they make is picked up and seen around the world. In JFKs case there is a woman (I believe Mrs Johnson) who spends most of the speech burying herself in her muffler. There is also someone who sits on the stairs to hear better - and therefore appears in the entire shot. Today we had someone standing near the back who is recording the speech on a cameraphone (I think) and had to be moved out of the way by someone who realised he was ruining the carefully planned clean shot.

Perhaps the biggest borrow was from Martin Luther King. Not surprising perhaps. But I recognised the form and content of much of the 'I have a dream' speech in Obama's words.

And finally there was Jed Bartlet. As soon a Dianne Feinstein announced that YoYo Ma was to play as part of the musical interlude I was reminded of one of the classic episodes of the West Wing.

It has to be said that if Obama manages to combine JFK, MLK and Bartlet in the future then I will be a happy bunny (although perhaps the likes of Iain Dale won't be)

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