Writing Prompts Inspired by Obama’s 2013 Inaugural Speech

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writing prompts inspired by obama

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“A breathtaking moment in the history of the country.” – Bob Schieffer

This quote is from one of the correspondents during the 57th presidential inauguration of the United States. My kids and I watched the preparations this morning and the swearing in of our 44th president, Barak Obama. Politics aside, the inauguration is a magnificent, beautiful and memorable ceremony. It was thrilling to see all the people on the mall waving flags and caught up in the moment. It was hard not get caught up in the tradition, the emotion and the pride of being an American citizen.

As I watched and listened to history of the occasion, the location, the buildings and the momentous addition of the new monument to Martin Luther King Jr., I was struck by the weight of tradition which great leaders are often forced to wear while others throw the mantle off to prepare for great change.

obama's inaugural speech inspires writing prompts

At the same time, this inauguration carried very modern elements of theater and entertainment with performances by icons James Taylor, Kelly Clarkson and Beyonce. People were snapping pics with their phones and digital cameras and tweets were flying left and right, both from people at the event or watching from the comfort of their own homes.

I loves this mix of modernity and tradition, ritual and fun, sacred and playful. I think it says something about Obama himself but also about who we are as a nation – we are all of that and more.

For some unusual writing prompts today, I have taken snippets of Obama’s inaugural speech. Read the snippet and respond in writing, it might make for some great blog posts this week. You can be as political or apolitical as you want. It’s not about who you voted for or whether you like our president. This is about what you believe in as a human being and as a citizen of the world. How do you respond to the state of America today?


Writing Prompts based on experts from Obama’s inaugural speech:

  • “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”- excerpt from the Declaration of Independence
  • “But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people. (Applause.”
  • “We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. (Applause.) Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. (Applause.) Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war; who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends — and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.”
  • “We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully —- not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.”
  • “We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. So we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.”

Be honest in your journal writing and blogging this week. Share your opinions. Do these statement make you angry? Do they make you proud? Are you worried about the future of our country?





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  1. Jodi Krizer Graber on January 21, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Wow. You really do inspire some writing with your post. Very powerful words: This is about what you believe in as a human being and as a citizen of the world. Honestly, I’m going to need to come back to your post one or two more times and re-read. I am inspired, but I have a lot of thoughts swirling in my head. For me, today, I was inspired to write about Martin Luther King, Jr. How significant that the 2nd inauguration of President Obama occurred on this day.

    • minette on January 21, 2013 at 4:11 pm

      I agree, what a wonderful way to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and his accomplishments! Thanks for the great feedback!

  2. Maggie LukowskiM on January 21, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Minette, Yes, it was a moving speech as we are on the edge of changes. He was willing to be bold in his speech which is an inspiration. I like Jodi’s phrase “citizen of the world”. We are all connected. Thank you for posting excerpts from his speech!

  3. Nanette Levin on January 21, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    What a great idea for a blog post and writing prompts, Minette. As to your final question, honestly, I do get my hackles up a bit with political rhetoric – from just about anyone. Having spent some time influencing opinion on a state and federal level (as well as serving locally – and yes, one person can make a difference – everyone should strive to understand the issues and educate elected officials), I’ve come to realize our system is very broken. Plus, no one can make promises of change with the current three branch system (a brilliant design by our forefathers) unless this country morphs into a dictatorship regime. So, yes, I’m worried about not only the economy, but also our ability as citizens and a nation to pull out of this spiral. Elected officials at the federal level (and in most cases, state as well) are too far removed from the world the rest of us live in. Plus, they’re operating from different motives. Too much has been delegated to a system designed to ensure decisions are made at a snail’s pace (makes sense on the tasks government was initially designed to perform in the US) by people who get pensions, health care and other legislated gifts well beyond what is available to the average citizen. These positions were initially designed as service roles and have become all about power and prestige – and perks. Inspiring words are great to listen to. Sometimes reality bites. Here’s hoping the future brings a more educated and active populous no longer willing to blindly delegate decisions to elected officials, but instead, become active in ensuring change really does become reality through knowledge and action.

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