Simple words and structures – Trump’s inauguration speech

You don’t have to approve of Donald Trump or believe in the practicality of his policies, to appreciate his inauguration speech (video and full transcript on the BBC News site, here).

It was short, direct and aspirational. It was even statesmanlike in parts, while avoiding overblown flourishes. The speech uses simple words and simple techniques. There is very little imagery (“rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation” is maybe the single example) and not even much alliteration (“the factories shuttered and left our shores” stands out). Its power comes from its use of repeated structures:

  • “We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done.”
  • “Washington flourished – but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered – but the jobs left, and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.”
  • “We are one nation – and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.”
  • “We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.”
  • “Together, we will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And, yes, together, we will make America great again.”

Funnily enough, the delivery wasn’t great, but the structure and use of repeating patterns gives the speech strength and rhythm.

 

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