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Barack Obama's Inaugural Address

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General comprehension

1) Where was the speech delivered?
- New York   
- Washington
- Chicago
- Houston

2) When was the video shot and on what occasion?

3) What title best suits Obama's inaugural address? Justify your answer in a few words.
-Free at last!
-Americans are childish
-Let us pray together
-Together, forever
-Let's not forget our history
-Let's make amends
-The USA are the most powerful country in the world

Detailed comprehension

Part 1

1) Choose the best synonyms for the following words:

  • bestowed:  understood / seen / given / decided
  • still:  always / calm / rough / liquid
  • amidst:  above / before / among / because of
  • carried on:  continued / changed / grown / won
  • forbearers:  workers / ancestors / soldiers / friends

2) RIGHT or WRONG? Justify your answer quoting from the video.
a) Obama reproaches his predecessor with not being very helpful when he left.
b) There were fourty-four American presidents before Obama.

3) According to Obama, who and what has made America as it is today?

Part 2

1) Match the following words together:

Words from the speech    
set aside                      
pass on                   
time and again              

work hard    

2) Using your personal knowledge of American history and the second part of the speech, match the following quotes with historical landmarks:

-They packed up their few worldly possessions and travelled across oceans
-They toiled in sweatshops
-Settled the West
-Endured the lash of the whip
-Khe Sanh

Illegal immigrants
War of Independence
Civil War
Second World War

4) At the end of part 2, what makes America a united country according to Obama?

Part 3

1) Listen to the following extract and fill in the blanks:

For we know _____ our _____ heritage is _____  _____ , not a weakness. We _____ _____  nation of _____ and _____ , _____ and _____ and nonbelievers. We are _____ by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this _____ ; and because we _____  _____ the bitter swill of _____  _____ and _____ , and emerged from that dark _____  _____ and more _____ , we cannot help _____ believe that the old hatreds _____ _____ pass.

2) RIGHT or WRONG? Justify your answer quoting from the video.
a) According to Barack Obama, it's hard to have unity in the USA because of all the different origins
b) Obama points out that racism still exists today
c) Obama's father was actually white
d) US citizens must not look back at history
e) US citizens must be strong

3) Let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. (l.37) Who does the pronoun we refer to? What are the two possibilities, and how does the verb travel changes meaning according to who we refer to?

4) Who is the man Obama mentions at the end of part 3 and why does he mention him?

Going further

1) Find at least two examples of repetition. What effect does it convey?

2) What is the place given to religion in this speech? How can you account for that?

3) In his speech, Obama mentions a multi-ethnic heritage but he seems to forget an essential part of the 'patchwork'. Which one is it and what does it reveal about the place given to that minority?

Phonetics -ED

1) Sort out the following preterites and past-participles in the chart below according to the pronunciation of the suffix -ED : humbled, bestowed, carried, remained, passed, packed, traveled, toiled, settled, endured, plowed, died, struggled, sacrificed, worked, shaped, tasted, emerged, united, served.

   /t/   /d/  /id/


Listen to the corresponding extracts to check your answers.

Columns 1 and 2

2) After making sure you sorted out correctly all the verbal forms, observe the sounds preceding the suffix -ED.

3) What pronunciation rule can you deduce from the observations you made?
- the suffix -ED is pronounced /t/ when ...
- the suffix -ED is pronounced /d/ when ...

Column 3

4) Try to pronounce the verbal forms from column 3 with the pronunciation of columns 1 and 2. What is the result? What rule can you deduce?
- the suffix -ED is pronounced /id/ when ...
Further readings
- Rêve américain, Rêve d'Amérique
Un ensemble d'articles universitaires sur le Rêve Américain et ses différentes manifestations.

- Le couple Obama incarnation de l'American Dream?
Un article de Pierre-Marie Loizeau

- Le rêve américain dans la rhétorique présidentielle américaine moderne (1937-2010)
Un article d'Aurélie Godet

- Race Relations and the Presidency of Barack Obama
Lire et écouter l'intégralité du discours de Randall Kennedy

- Interview de Randall Kennedy
Un entretien sur les conséquences de la victoire d'Obama et sur la notion de discrimination positive.

- Barack Obama's State of the Union Address - 2010

- Barack Obama's State of the Union Address - 2011

- The Second Inauguration of Barack Obama
Mise à jour le 4 décembre 2014
Créé le 31 janvier 2011
ISSN 2107-7029
DGESCO Clé des Langues