I’ve been reflecting on Joe Biden’s inaugural speech, and the entire inaugural event really, for the past week or so. And it got me wondering: what would I put in my own inaugural speech or poem for 2021? What would I include in it or exclude from it? If I were offered an opportunity to address the nation at this specific time in history, what would I say?
What about you? If you were afforded the opportunity to address the nation right now, in a widely televised event that a majority of citizens and the rest of the world were watching, what would you say? What would be in the text of your speech or inaugural poem?
Amanda Gorman and her recitation of her own poem “The Hill We Climb” also made headlines on inauguration day, and long after. She was widely praised for her recitation, and now Amanda Gorman’s books of poetry are bestsellers and have reached millions. There is no way to deny that her inaugural poem has had a profound effect on the nation at this time in history. Or that inaugural poetry itself hasn’t repeatedly played a pivotal role in more contemporary U.S. history, as well as inaugural musical performances.
If you’re more likely to write a poem than a speech when addressing the nation at this particular time in history, what would you include in it? What would its rhythm or cadence be?
As we continue to reflect on Biden’s inaugural address (which was mostly a call for unity, but also included a call to end systemic racism), as well as Amanda Gorman’s recitation of “The Hill We Climb,” at the dawn of Black History month in 2021, I wonder: what would you include in your speech or poem when addressing the nation? What would I include in mine?
Before I begin this writing exercise, I take solace in the fact that Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address (the most famous presidential address in history) was only 700 words. That makes this weekly writing task a bit less daunting, yet not any less important. I’ll also refer to this five-part outline to write an inaugural address with examples published by The Washington Post as a guide, to get the writing process started.
I’ll share my completed version of this prompt, or at least a draft of it, in Friday’s post. The posts I share between now and Friday will cover the work I do as I complete this prompt, as well as some reflections I might have as I write.
Be sure to write your own inaugural address or poem and share a link to it in the comments on Friday’s post. And scroll down to subscribe to Daily Drafts & Dialogues posts to get more inspiration as you complete this prompt this week, and or follow along on Facebook or Instagram.
Daily Drafts & Dialogues: Today’s Inaugural Event
Daily Drafts & Dialogues: Musings: President Joe Biden’s Inaugural Address
Daily Drafts & Dialogues: Annotations: President Biden’s Inaugural Address
The Avalon Project: Yale Law School: The Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents
biography.com: Ten Memorable Inauguration Performances
poets.org: Inaugural Poems in History
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