You may have happened to notice that on 20 January in Washington DC Donald J Trump was inaugurated President of the United States of America. As is customary he delivered an inaugural address.
One of the central pillars of my public speaking training is, if you want a speech to be remembered, include something that people will remember. I call it the Face of the speech, a purple passage that will be quotable. The word is even in the title of my book.
Past POTUS inaugural speeches have included many quotable Faces. I bet you know who said the following –
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
Ask not what your country can do for you: ask what you can do for your country.
You ain’t seen nothing yet!
Reagan, of course, openly plagiarised the third for his second inaugural; but then Kennedy pinched the second from Epictetus. Who cares?
Let’s see what Trump offered in this respect…
The answer is almost everything. After preliminary niceties, from 1:38 through to 4:00 there are six declarations, any of which could be condensed to a golden quote for posterity and all saying essentially that government is being returned to the people.
Thereafter the theme adjusts slightly but the speech is still wall-to-wall purple. Trying to find a Face amongst this lot is like trying to find an individual peak in the Himalayas. Imagining my advising him, I find myself pursuing that very simile – “For heaven’s sake lower the surrounding landscape so that we may identify the mountains!”
Suddenly he hits us with two words, both emphasised with heavy deliberation. He pauses, and then gives them again –
Is this the Face? It is certainly the opening of a new chapter in the speech. It introduces a section on the subject of Protectionism. At 10:20 he tells us to follow two simple rules –
Buy American: hire American
I am disappointed: three is always many times stronger than two. He knows that: he uses triads often. If he added –
– he would have his triad, an epistrophe at that . Also, buying and hiring may move money around but it doesn’t create wealth. Selling does.
A hugely telling moment comes shortly afterwards when he undertakes to eradicate “Radical Islamic Terrorism”. That is the first time anyone has heard those words spoken by an American President, certainly for eight years. They never passed Obama’s lips. Maajid Nawaz calls it the “Voldemort Effect” – the name that shall not be spoken.
For his peroration Trump returns to his original theme, with the words –
You will never be ignored again
– and culminates in a five-element symploce. “Together we will –
Make America Strong Again
Make America Wealthy Again
Make America Proud Again
Make America Safe Again
Make America Great Again!”
– and there it is, literally at last. The Face.
Interestingly, when I have challenged seminar audiences to quote me anything from either of Obama’s inaugural speeches, I have been greeted mainly by blank faces. Occasionally an optimist has suggested, “Yes We Can”? I have been forced to discard that, because although it was his campaign slogan Obama for some reason did not use it in his inaugural address. Trump on the other hand was not going to squander the words emblazoned on all those baseball caps worn by his supporters. MAGA has been his talisman acronym.
Now he has to deliver…