Inauguration: Just The High Notes

Instead of dissecting the new President’s inauguration speech for undertones of fascism and demagoguery — as some have been wont to do — I will point out a few positives that I took away from the event. First note that I didn’t intend to watch, but changed my mind at the last minute when I realized that the only channel I could watch it on was Univision (a Spanish-language channel) and saw a bit of humor in that situation — given Donald Trump’s anti-Mexican-American campaign rhetoric.

So I watched parts of the inauguration event (I skipped the theocratic prayer showcase), including Trump’s first speech as President. I was able to make out most of the English words underneath the Spanish translator’s voice, and then later read the transcript that Trump posted to Facebook.

Word-count of inaugural addresses

• Short Speech

I was surprised and impressed that Trump’s speech was only 16 minutes long — a mere 1,433 words. While it wasn’t the shortest of my lifetime (Carter’s speech in 1977 was only 1,229 words), it was among the most brief of all time. George Washington’s second inaugural is still the briefest in history, and only a handful have come in at under a thousand words. The average length of the 12 inauguration speeches of my lifetime is 1,973.3, with Reagan’s second one being the longest at over 2,500 words.

Having sat through thousands of orations in my lifetime, I’m of the opinion that shorter is better when it comes to speeches. And my homiletics professor in college agreed — it’s irrelevant that she was later sentenced to prison for the attempted murder of her lesbian lover’s husband.

• The Speech Was Well-Written

I was impressed with the speech-writing. While Trump claimed to have written it himself, it was apparently Stephen Miller who wrote it (even Breitbart says so). Speech-writing isn’t simple or easy for any occasion or crowd, much less for a first-as-president speech in a rigidly divided nation. Miller managed to keep this one completely non-specific, yet it appeared full of promise and triumphant.

Sentence length averages 16.0 words, and Microsoft Word says it was written at a grade level of 8.1 (Writing Tester says grade 7). This is not a put-down, but a compliment. Anyone who has trained to be a news writer, ad writer, fundraising writer, etc., has been taught to write at a basic level. Anything more complicated will send most readers looking for the TV remote. It’s a learned skill to put the ideas you want into easily readable (or in this case speakable) terms.

Not only that, but Miller had to write a speech that both (1) sounded like Donald Trump and (2) would be approved by Donald Trump.

If the video clips of Trump’s speeches for the past year had featured speeches written like this, I think there would have been far fewer criticisms of his intelligence and speaking ability.

• There Were No Confederate Flags

You laugh, but I honestly expected to see a few confederate battle flags in the crowd, either on T-shirts or ball caps. Perhaps as a patch on a jacket. Here in Texas, most of the “Trump-Pence” campaign signs I saw on private property were accompanied by Confederate flags, and my online experience with pro-Trump commenters shows that a very high proportion of them use the same flag as (at least part of) their avatars.

• The Humor Of Watching W

I was struck by former President George W. Bush, and reminded of the harmless fun we engaged in during the first eight years of this century, because he brought laughter — even to his opponents. Yesterday was no exception, as he struggled with a rain poncho (who hasn’t?), prompting tweets and memes saying “he is all of us”. I felt it too, because even during the most controversial parts of his presidency, he always seemed like a normal guy. Someone I know from high school, someone I know from work, or someone I saw in the store last week.

• Absence Of Hollywood Celebrities

I honestly liked the part where Hollywood’s A-listers and the music industry’s top stars stayed away, because I’ve always thought it a bit strange when it turned into a gala for celebrities. This event is (supposed to be) about the peaceful transfer of power from one elected president to the next, something that was controversial the first time it happened.

It includes the last moments of one presidency and the first moments of another presidency; nothing else is required. I think other recent inaugurations have had too much pomp and not enough circumstance. The fewer non-political celebrities on the scene, the better, in my opinion.

• The End And The Beginning

The peaceful transfer of power has been a hallmark of our nation from the beginning, despite occasional resistance. Many wanted George Washington to remain in power after his second term, just as many Obama supporters wished publicly that he could serve a third term (and many conservative crackpots predicted that Obama would seize a third term by force). But it happens every time, and it happened yesterday, despite the emotions of one faction or another.

Obama’s second term ended, accompanied by “liberal tears” and racist jeers (see the comment section at the Daily Caller, for example) — and Trump’s first term began, some feeling triumph and others trepidation.

This is the way it’s supposed to work.


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