What will he say? Will it inspire us or fall short? We can't predict everything that will be in Barack Obama's inauguration address, but we can make some pretty good guesses. So to test our prescience, we proudly introduce the 2009 edition of Inaugural Speech Bingo.
To play, simply pick one of these carefully constructed bingo cards and listen along as the 44th president's speech unfolds. Each time a key word or phrase is said, mark it on your card. When you have completed any row, column or diagonal of five terms, you win!
While each president's speech strives to be unique, some time-honoured patterns define just about all inaugural addresses. The oratory usually includes a tribute to the nation's greatness, as presidential scholars Robert Remini and Terry Golway observed in their book Fellow Citizens. The speeches also redefine the nation's mission. And they try to be eloquent.
If this game existed 220 years ago, key terms might have included "fervent supplications," "vicissitudes" and "pecuniary compensation." Such flowery language was the way that George Washington spoke in delivering the United States' first inaugural address.
By contrast, Richard Nixon in 1969 talked about an America that was "ragged in spirit" and "caught in war" but seeking "the chalice of opportunity." And George W. Bush in 2004 portrayed an epic struggle involving "outlaw regimes" and "a day of fire" pitted against an "ideal of freedom" and an "edifice of character."
For this year's bingo cards, we have painstakingly analysed Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the Denver Democratic convention in August, his victory speech in Chicago in November, and a wide range of his writings, speeches and media interviews. We could have made the game easy -- perhaps too easy -- by loading it up with stock phrases like "our brave soldiers." We could have made it hard -- perhaps too hard -- by invoking distinctive but unlikely-to-appear Obama favourites such as "bone-headed."
In fact, we have carefully steered a middle course--with a twist. Each of this year's four bingo cards includes a handful of standard Obama terms. Each one also includes a unique cluster of terms related to a key theme: economic challenges on one card, world affairs and geography on another, famous figures on a third and so on.
Share these with your friends, and see who has the lucky winning card that's fastest to produce an entire row, column or diagonal. And just to keep it challenging, be forewarned that each card includes one or two terms that only a half-mad speechwriter would dare use. For example, easy terms like "clean energy," "Franklin D. Roosevelt" or "these challenging times" might make you think that a quick 1-2-3-4-5 linkage is in store. But your hopes will be dashed if that line is interrupted by our ultimate stinker term: "Warren G. Harding."
One more caution: Despite all the anticipation, inaugural speeches rarely provide a reliable glimpse into the future. As Remini and Golway observed, Thomas Jefferson didn't hint of the Louisiana Purchase; Herbert Hoover didn't see the Depression coming; and Richard Nixon kept mum about Watergate. The scholars' wry conclusion: "These speeches usually offer no clue to future events that ultimately wind up defining the administration."
Enjoy the game.