President Barack Obama is expected to make his second inaugural address at noon Monday, after a ceremonial swearing-in by Chief Justice John Roberts. The Washington Post will have live streaming video of the event on The Grid, along with reactions and analysis from our team afterwards. Click on the image above to watch.
“President Obama, joined on Sunday by a dozen family members, recited the 35-word oath of office administered by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in the Blue Room of the White House. It was an intimate and businesslike 30 seconds of history. Obama’s hand rested on a Bible that the first lady’s father, Fraser Robinson III, had given to his mother, LaVaughn Delores Robinson, on Mother’s Day 1958.
Obama, who has confessed to feeling bruised by the partisanship in Washington, aims to use his remarks to underscore the importance of seeking common ground in Washington and encourage Americans to engage in the political process, White House senior adviser David Plouffe said.
These are themes that echo the grass-roots activism that [Martin Luther King, Jr.], born 84 years ago, put to use so effectively during the civil rights movement.
What’s at stake for Obama’s in this big address? Joel Achenbach wrote about Obama’s oratorical performance over the past four years, what he still has left to do and how this moment fits into his legacy:
“The academics who study political communication say Obama has unfinished business. They point out that, although Obama has some signature speeches — including the healing speeches after the mass shootings in Tucson and Newtown, Conn. — he still has no signature line as president, no trademark statement.
There’s no Obama utterance that’s the equivalent of, for example, Reagan’s “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” or JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you . . .” He’s never produced a phrase as president that’s as memorable as what Franklin Roosevelt uttered in March 1933 in his first inaugural address: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
It’s possible that Obama, freed of the need to run for re-election ever again, will be looser in extemporaneous settings. He can take more chances, not just politically but rhetorically.
Maybe we’ll hear the signature Obama line, the one he’ll be remembered for, in the second inaugural address. That was, historians tell us, the occasion of Lincoln’s greatest speech, one chiseled on the wall of his memorial (“With malice toward none, with charity for all . . .”). Obama knows that even though this won’t be his last defining moment, even if he has countless speeches still ahead of him, this one is for the permanent record, a chance to speak words that will remain carved into the nation’s memory long after he is no longer among us.
If you think you have what it takes to craft a memorable, poignant address in front of hundreds of thousands in person and millions more on the screen, try it out here, where you can combine snippets from past speeches into your own super-inaugural.
And be sure to check back with Washington Post politics after Obama’s address for more news and analysis.