Second Acts

Rereading Obama's Speech

To those who found President Obama's speech underwhelming, Henry Louis Gates Jr. has some advice in The Root: Read it. "We tend to forget that Lincoln's most famous speeches-Gettysburg and the second inaugural-read much better than they sounded," he writes. He admits, upon hearing Obama's speech, that he found it "less moving as a rhetorical statement than I had expected." Upon reading the speech, Gates Jr. found "plenty of grand significance. And as I reviewed the speech, Obama's rhetorical strategy clearly revealed itself, a strategy brilliantly calibrated between progressive chords and conservative ones, revealing him to be the president of all the people, words designed to show that, as he put it, 'What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them-that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.'"