News Release: Arts and Humanities, Faculty Experts, Politics

Jan. 20,  2009

Inaugural Address Hit All the Right Notes, Says Rhetoric Expert

President Barack Obama's inaugural address hit all the right notes for an excellent speech, says Emory debate and rhetoric expert Melissa Maxcy Wade.

"President Obama was able to set the tone and expectations for the next four years, and capture where America is now, where we are in this moment in time," Wade says. "The speech flowed and the structure was excellent."

The opening immediately addressed the problems and challenges the nation faces, Wade says. The second element of the speech outlined "how we will meet those challenges: with big, bold plans to remake America."  Third element and closing was a charge for a new era of service and responsibility with action to deliver on those plans. "Overall, it was surprisingly brief for an inaugural address with little repetition."

It remains to be seen, however, whether or not Obama's address will go down in the annals as one of the best on par with Presidents Roosevelt, Kennedy and Reagan.

"As far as laying out a vision and plan of action, I would give him a solid 'A.' However, it will be judged by what happens next and if it delivered on its promise," Wade says.

Wade is executive director of forensics at Emory and a watcher of numerous presidential speeches. She is one of only three university debate coaches in the United States who has served on the National Associated Press Presidential Debate Evaluation Panel for every U.S. presidential election since 1976.

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