The Power of Words

I’m sitting in the floor of my living room watching President Obama’s second inauguration.

On Martin Luther King Day.

Watching all the dignitaries file in and take their seats.  Watching the limousine drive the Obamas from the White House to the Capitol.

Hearing news commentators say that Obama will take the oath of office with his hand on two Bibles – one used by President Lincoln and one that belonged to Dr. Martin Luther King.

But what really matters today is the speech Obama will make toward the middle of the ceremony.  His second inaugural address.

Because words are powerful.

Every four years I think of the day I skipped school so that I could stay home and watch Jimmy Carter’s inauguration.  Back in those days there was no DVR – we hadn’t even discovered VCRs yet!  We had no way of recording, preserving what we saw on television.

So at the age of 15, nerd that I was, I sat right up next to our television set holding a tape recorder as close to the speakers as the power cord would allow, to record Carter’s inaugural address.

Even then, I loved to listen to the way words were weaved together.  Like a magic cord that flows straight to your heart. 

Or misses it entirely.

Over the years it’s easy to become jaded, when words aren’t lived out in the ways we had hoped.  It’s easy to become apathetic when people say one thing, and then do the opposite.

It’s easy to believe the saying that talk is cheap. 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., after delivering his most well known address, "I Have A Dream," at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., after delivering his most well known address, “I Have A Dream,” at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

Before we lose hope in the power of words, though, remember the words spoken from the other end of the Washington Mall nearly fifty years ago.

Words inspired with power to change the world.

To change hearts.

Like stories about mustard seeds and fig trees, farmers planting fields, and sons returning home. 

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Kathy says:

    Good for you! I didn’t have to skip because all the students in my tiny school were herded into the auditorium to watch inaugurations on television–after the school got a television, of course. My first was Lyndon Johnson’s. We were excited because the band from his alma mater, not far from where I lived, marched in the parade. And because he was from Texas, and in previous years, Texas had received little mention in the national news. (It felt like no one knew we were down here.) All students should have the opportunity to watch these ceremonies and listen carefully to words that can change history.

    1. sallygary says:

      So true, Kathy. I can remember my elementary teachers bringing their small black and white television sets from home so that we could watch newsworthy events like that in our classroom. Among the first I remember seeing were the moon landing and Nixon’s resignation speech, both moments that changed history. It’s always good to hear from a fellow Texan – thanks for stopping by!

  2. Dad might be a little prejudice but I wholeheartedly agree with him, and I’m not at all. I wish there were one a day from you. Jim agrees!

    1. sallygary says:

      You’re so sweet, Beverly! But I think you & Jim might be a little prejudiced, too…

  3. dan gary says:

    Very True. Good Job as usual!

    1. sallygary says:

      Thanks, Daddy! You’re not prejudiced or anything….

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