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Obama's inauguration speech is unlikely to disappoint. His words may be unremarkable; his delivery won't be

By Philip Collins   January 2009

The least understood aspect of great rhetoric is that much more is said than words. Every speaker brings a tone to their material that they could no sooner throw off than defy gravity. Tony Blair found lightness without trying. Gordon Brown cannot fail to convey solemnity, even when smiling. And Barack Obama has, to use one of his own terms, a righteous wind at his back.

It’s banal, because it’s too obvious, to conclude that Obama’s words belong in a tradition of classical rhetoric. So does anyone speaking in complete sentences. Hazel Blears, speaking in September 2008, delivered a well-rendered…

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