He points to FDR's second inaugural during the Great Depression ("I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished") and Woodrow Wilson's address preparing Americans to enter World War I ("There can be no turning back").
Today's worries — anxiety about joblessness, a sense of political disarray, fear that the nation is in chronic decline — are less dire than what Roosevelt and Wilson faced. Yet they could create a backdrop for resolve and yes-we-can inspiration.
"This is a moment in which the country is looking to the president to assure us that we remain a great nation, that our future is going to be better than our past, and here are the principles that will enable us to do this," Jamieson said.
"You have the pieces on the table to deliver a great speech," she said. "The question is will he do it?"
And if Obama does, the next question becomes: Can he live up to it? A great inaugural address is also measured by how well its promise is fulfilled.
No matter how eloquent the wording, there was no chance history would remember Richard Nixon for his second inaugural pledge: "to make these next four years the best four years in America's history."
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