Word Challenge: Two Words, One Speech – Our President’s!

Many of us got off to a luxuriantly late start on this President’s Day, including RIISE! With a later than usual release of this 6th and last installment of our Word Challenge, graciously and adeptly delivered by wordsmith Akil Bello – Bell Curves, this final installment is delivered with delight!


For the past 5 weeks, Akil has provided us with two-not so every day words that one might encounter on a standardized test like the SAT’s. The word challenges also shared relevant and poignant time lines through masterful orations by gifted orators expressing complex issues of the day in ways that inspired and moved people to action.

In the final installment of our speeches series, I offer to you a man triply fitting for mention on this President’s Day. A man known as one of the greatest orators of our time. A man of historic stature and prodigious ability. This week’s speech comes to us from the first African-American President of the United States of America: Barack Obama.

As I searched his speeches for the one that best exemplified the beauty of the language and the ability to inspire and inform it was almost impossible to choose since so many of them fit the mold. Since I’ve been forced to choose only one, I’ve selected the speech that is most often cited as putting Obama on the national stage as a serious presidential contender, what some might call the speech that started it all, the speech delivered at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (check out the video here and the transcript here).

The vocabulary that most sticks with me when hearing these words are audacity and democratic.

Audacity, which means the willingness to take bold risks or acts of boldness bordering on rudeness, is used gloriously in the sentence: “The audacity of hope!” This sentence eloquently inspires and challenges us. The use of audacity expresses not only his feeling of the desire to hope but the understanding that hope is not easily come by and often criticized as unrealistic; hope is often viewed as somehow presumptuous or out of place. This one sentence seems to account for all of that and challenges us to overlook it and hope anyway.

Democratic, which means characterized by equality, while not explicitly used in the speech is so profoundly a part of the speech that it bears mentioning here. From MLK Day to President’s Day each of the speeches cited challenges associated with, celebrated, or sought out the promise of a democratic nation. Each of the speeches, from the indignant rhetoric of Fredrick Douglas to the cornball patriotism of fake President Whitmore speaks to our hope for a future in which democratic ideals continue to hold sway.

As always we encourage you to listen to, watch, and read the full text of the speech. The appreciation of language and the understanding of the message will extend far beyond any standardized exam, day of celebration, or month-long acknowledgment.

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