Mr. President, Tell Us a Story

Will Obama’s inaugural speech use a tale to inspire a spirit of collective sacrifice?
By Laurel Jorgensen,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2009 5:53 PM CST
This Nov. 4, 2008 file photo shows President-elect Barack Obama smiling during his acceptance speech at Grant Park in Chicago.    (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
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(Newser) – On the campaign trail, Barack Obama often punctuated his speeches with personal stories about a campaign volunteer or a city councilwoman. With the world ready to watch Obama’s inauguration speech Tuesday, John Dickerson wonders in Slate what stories Obama will tell to rekindle a sense of unity. "The idea is that everyone, from politicians to CEOs to those of us trying to get a bank loan, has to take greater responsibility to get us out of the fix we're in," Dickerson writes.

Yet the timing is bad: People are cynical and distrustful of government and Wall Street these days. To inspire collective action, Obama must convince Americans that they face a collective danger, writes Dickerson. His most successful speeches have always ended with a story, and Obama may use this tactic on Tuesday. On the other hand, "maybe he doesn't need a new story because just by standing there, he will be the story."