'Worse, Somehow, That It's Written Down'

So says an insightful reader, KR, about this speaker's-eye view of the event in Kentucky today:

07obama2_blog_337-blog480.jpg

On the brighter side, a reader from Texas adds this perspective:

>>"May God bless the United States of America" serves a useful purpose: It's a standard signal that the speech is over. It reminds me of the way Episcopalians normally end their prayers, even extemporaneous ones: "In Jesus' name we pray," which is the accepted cue for listeners to respond in unison, "Amen." (Without such a cue, the "Amen"s come straggling in, sounding unpleasantly ragged.)

The closing phrase also has the virtue of familiarity. As members of liturgical churches know, familiar phrasing can be comforting. That's not such a bad thing in a presidential speech.<<

I have myself evolved toward a similar Zen-like view: this is how Obama is always going to end his speeches, and once we accept that fact, we can indeed use it as a reliable liturgical cue. And another reader, from California, actually finds redemptive hope in the presence of these words on the teleprompter:

>>Apparently, it's not yet completely reflexive or Pavlovian. ("Stand in front of crowd. Speak. Wait for applause. Pander to the religious right by blessing the country.") He actually needs to be reminded to say it.

Perhaps there's still hope.<<

God save us all.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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