Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Narrative storytelling and Obama's inaugural speech

The narrative embedded in the speech is short, but powerful and on point. Near the end, he noted that 60 years ago, his father might not have been served at a restaurant in America.

Then came a smooth transition: So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. Narrative is a journey; all of this is the country's story, he's saying. Then, storytelling:

In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive ... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

A character: the army. A conflict: Winter, enemy, death, despair. A turning point: Washington's words. A resolution (artfully implied): Victory, and the birth of America.

Well-done, I thought.