All Rights Reserved
by Laurence Washington
Premieres Feb.27, 2017 on the Smithsonian Channel
Narrator, actor and producer Jesse Williams reminds us that Barack Obama is as good of a writer, as he was our 44th Commander in Chief in the Smithsonian Channel documentary “The Obama Years: The Power of Words.”
The hour-long presentation punctuates the fact that as president, Barack Obama delivered more than 3,500 speeches that stirred and inspired a nation for eight years.
Williams defines Obama as our “writer-in-chief,” and highlights many of the former president’s speeches including the stirring speech Obama delivered after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, to his inspiring speech at the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge, to his farewell address in his hometown of Chicago.
The program offers insight and behind-the-scenes look at Obama’s thought process when crafting a speech in longhand (Obama writes everything in longhand), to editing drafts written by his speechwriters Jon Favreau and Cody Keenan.
There are also interviews and commentary by historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Douglas Brinkley, and Obama’s key advisers Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod.
Several highlights include a young state senator Obama’s keynote address during the 2004 Democratic Convention that upstaged presidential candidate hopeful John Kerry, to writing speeches during turbulent times and chaotic incidents. Some of Obama’s speeches were carefully planned, while others were written under pressure in the back of the presidential limousine. Through it all, Obama the wordsmith, wrote or approved every paragraph, sentence and word in his speeches.
“Someday there will be the collected speeches of Barack Obama,” says historian Douglas Brinkley, “and I think they’ll tell us more about our hopes, dreams, aspirations and dark realities than any other document to represent that era.”
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