As David Eisenhower taught me in his class on presidential communication at the University of Pennsylvania, strong speeches often have "echoes" of other speeches within them. Last night's victory speech is a perfect example of a speech containing "echoes."
Below I have included the last few paragraphs (in order) of President Obama's victory speech. Each successive time, the first paragraph you will read comes from President Obama's victory speech. Each paragraph below President Obama's comes from an earlier president's speech. See these potential "echoes" for yourself.
1. PRESIDENT OBAMA, VICTORY 2012: "This country has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military in history, but that's not what makes us strong. Our university, our culture are all the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores. What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth, the belief that our destiny is shared...that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations, so that the freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for come with responsibilities as well as rights, and among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism. That's what makes America great."
PRESIDENT KENNEDY, INAUGURAL ADDRESS 1961: "In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility -- I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it -- and the glow from that fire can truly light the world."
2. PRESIDENT OBAMA, VICTORY 2012: "I'm not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the road blocks that stand in our path. I'm not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight. I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting."
PRESIDENT T. ROOSEVELT, "CITIZENSHIP IN A REPUBLIC ("The Man In The Arena") 1910: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
3. PRESIDENT OBAMA, VICTORY 2012: "America, I believe we can build on the progress we've made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunities and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founding, the idea that if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn't matter whether you're black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. You can make it here in America if you're willing to try."
PRESIDENT CLINTON, SECOND INAUGURAL 1997: "Each and every one of us, in our own way, must assume personal responsibility -- not only for ourselves and our families, but for our neighbors and our nation. Our greatest responsibility is to embrace a new spirit of community for a new century. For any one of us to succeed, we must succeed as one America."
4. PRESIDENT OBAMA, VICTORY 2012: "I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We're not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America."
PRESIDENT LINCOLN, "A HOUSE DIVIDED" 1858:
"A house divided against itself cannot stand.
I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.
I do not expect the Union to be dissolved -- I do not expect the house to fall -- but I do expect it will cease to be divided.
It will become all one thing or all the other."
5. PRESIDENT OBAMA, VICTORY 2012: "And together, with your help and God's grace, we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on earth. Thank you, America. God bless you. God bless these United States."
PRESIDENT CLINTON, SECOND INAUGURAL 1997: "This is the heart of our task. With a new vision of government, a new sense of responsibility, a new spirit of community, we will sustain America's journey. The promise we sought in a new land we will find again in a land of new promise."