January 18, 2009

Michael Eric Dyson on previewing Obama's inaugural speech

Posted: 11:50 AM ET

Barack Obama's inaugural address could be one of the most eagerly anticipated speeches ever given. As the world awaits his words on Tuesday, the speculation is rife: Will he be as eloquent as Lincoln? Can he match the oratory of JFK? Or even of Ronald Reagan?

But to understand what Obama does with language - how words crackle and sentences simmer, or sing, in his mouth - you can't just turn to theories of rhetoric or listen to other gifted presidential communicators. You have to get a feel for black speech, whose best rhetoricians marry style and substance to spawn a uniquely earthy eloquence.

I expect Obama's inaugural address to reflect this speech in full, the kind of speech he heard for years from black preachers in the church pulpit. Because as much praise as he has justly received for speaking in a way that doesn't assault the white eardrum or worldview, his rhetoric is firmly rooted in black soil.

(Read the rest of Dyson's column HERE)

Michael Eric Dyson is a University Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, and author of 16 books, including the New York Times bestseller, "April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Death and How it Changed America."

Filed under: Inauguration • Michael Eric Dyson • President-Elect Obama

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mike jones   January 18th, 2009 12:47 pm ET

i understand what is happening in a few days, but why are we as a NATION acting like OBARMA is JESUS CHRIST!! He is man, that has bs's his way to the White House does not matter what his race is, we will all pay for this in the long wrong. If this was a white man getting all this it would be a act of racisim so why is it not one now? I have given 20 years to the military GOD help us.

Mona Davies   January 18th, 2009 1:48 pm ET

Hello Larry,
About 12 years ago, I was assigned to be your server at the J.W. Marriot Hotel in Washington D.C., today I own a fair trade gift store in the same city ( A naturalized citizen (born in Sierra Leone,) my story affirms the possibilities this wonderful country offer. On Tuesday Jan 20th, I will be celebrating my 44th birthday as the country simultaneously inaugurates Barack Obama 44th president of the United States of America. What an honor!! I don't believe in leaving things up to chance so I canvassed and voted for Mr. Obama, mere words cannot describe what this victory means to me. My husband and I have two small children so we won't be on the mall, however, we will be glued to CNN getting first hand reports of all the events and activities. Stay blessed!

Julie   January 18th, 2009 8:18 pm ET

I have been waiting for a moment like this for 47 years!! I am to young to remember JFK. The excitment that surrounds this Inaugration is off the charts!!! I believe that Barack Obama will be a President for all of the People not just a few.

Julie   January 18th, 2009 9:22 pm ET

What this country needs is Change and Barack Obama can and will bring it. and I cant wait!!

Barbara Culmer   January 18th, 2009 10:15 pm ET

larry change is hard for some people to accept i notice that some white people will say that Barrack is not black... they find it hard to cross that barrier of only white people are suppose to be presidents. I can't be there in D.C to witness but I took the day of and I will be in front of the TV set all day. And i know Barack will give a beautiful speech

Barbara Culmer   January 18th, 2009 10:20 pm ET

This country was torn apart for 8 years by president Bush so don't expect the incoming president to perform a miracle in 1 year

Barbara Culmer   January 18th, 2009 10:24 pm ET

the comment made by Mike Jones is what we don't need ......he doesn't get it......its time for change Mike.....accept it because it is what it is

Patricia Morris   January 18th, 2009 10:31 pm ET

Thank you Mr. King for sharing in this momentous occasion. A change has come; a dream is fulfilled. Our (Greater Tangipahoa Parish Branch NAACP's) prayer is that this country will continue to rise to its true meaning of "All men are created equal." It is not about color anymore, but it is about who will bring America together as "One Nation Under God" as President Lincoln and Dr. King envisioned many years ago. Ultimately, God intends it to be so.

Adrian Starks   January 19th, 2009 1:12 am ET

I am continually confounded by the discouraged and disheartened disposition that so many non-supporters of President-elect Obama's success demonstrate. They prophesy calamity and all things just shy of the United States becoming wasted to nothing-ness as we witnessed in the movie "The Day After." I believe that this country will prosper under President Obama's administration.

It warms my heart to know that my one year old daughter will know her first president to be an icon of hope and opportunity. I am sober enough in my conversation to understand that an icon is a symbol; it is not a saviour. An icon leads to something greater than itself. There is still work to be done which will require corporate effort, but it certainly makes me proud to see that we can witness an intelligent, qualified, articulate, and collected person of color leading the way.

pamela farquharson from brooklyn   January 19th, 2009 1:17 am ET

i feel that this country needs a change. President-elect Obama is the person that can do this. I only wish my grandparent where here to witness this great day.

Michael C. McHugh   January 19th, 2009 7:06 am ET

Maybe Obama will even give a name for this era of reform, such as Wilson's New Freedom, FDR's New Deal, or JFK's New Frontier, and so on. presidents often do that in their inaugural addresses, and historians pick up on it.

regina emaikwu   January 19th, 2009 8:11 am ET

LARRYY, i think we have reached a point where we leave Obama to make the rest of the journey on his own without speaking for him so we dont get disappointed when we hear him make his speech.

Samantha from Chicago   January 19th, 2009 11:05 pm ET

I'm very proud of my country and all my American people. Barack Obama will bring the CHANGE we need, but it's not going to happen instantly. My people please be aware that President-elect has inherited a colossal MESS. My people we must expect things to get WORSE before it gets any better, Brack Obama & Joe Biden are going to work hard to stablize this country. PLEASE give them a chance, do not turn your backs and criticize them, as this is what the enemy wants US to do. People of all religions, we need to pray for our new President and Vice President as they step up and try to right all the wrong that has been done to OUR country.

It's going to take a lot of time, remember it isn't going to be a rapid change. This will take much time, we cannot turn the past 8 years around in just one year. Please be patient.

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