Speech coach gives Obama high marks

Newly sworn-in President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech earned him high marks from one local speech coach for its balance and effectiveness in conveying a theme of responsibility.

Obama stumbled slightly when he took the oath of office, but Central High School speech coach Anthony Bichler said Obama recovered well and used the same grass-roots tactics that won him the election to communicate a shared responsibility for the country’s future.

Bichler said Obama’s ability to “speak to the people” during the inauguration was impressive, considering the “lofty language” that made up much of the speech.

“He was looking to the people,” Bichler said. “He used the Washington quote at the end to point to times past and show that struggle is not a new American experience. It’s not just the government’s job to fix that. It’s up to the people themselves.”

Bridging the past with the future was a theme Obama communicated well, Bichler said, without letting the speech get bogged down in contrasts.

Instead, Bichler said, Obama used effective contrasting examples such as the strength of the United States juxtaposed with its diplomacy to create balance throughout the speech.

“He refused to let the country fold into a dichotomy,” Bichler said. “The message was not, ‘us versus them,’ like what may have been present in past administrations.” 

Jon Bilbo, principal at Grand Junction High School, said the school marked the inauguration by allowing teachers the option of showing it in their morning classes instead of holding regular classes.

The school Web site said the inauguration was a “historic event,” but parents who did not want their children to watch the event could excuse them from the speech.

“We basically left it up to each individual teacher to view the inauguration or not,” said Bilbo, adding that no school-wide nor required-attendance events involving the inauguration were planned.

Bichler said he would use Obama’s speech for analysis with Central’s speech and debate team.

The team also will follow Obama’s policy, particularly on alternative energy, for integration as speech topics for competitions, he said.

“I think with the new administration there’s going to be a real change in how we tackle our speeches,” Bichler said.


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