About two weeks ago, Slate invited its readers to help write an inaugural address for President-elect Barack Obama using software from MixedInk, which allows authors to collaborate by borrowing lines from one another’s drafts. To get things started, we loaded previous presidential inaugural addresses into the software, allowing would-be speechwriters to borrow words from the ex-presidents at will.
Thus far, there are 329 submissions, 88 of which invoke lines from two or more authors or presidents. The third submission, for example, which came from user ElainNJ, borrowed the last line of the previous submission, from SHorany: “As we face these and many other challenges, remember that we must never succumb to greed and to selfishness. For when we think of none but ourselves, we are truly alone.” (The software can tell which lines were originally written by which users, so this sort of remixing is encouraged.)
That same day, user Torybeth drew on the crack team of Calvin Coolidge and George W. Bush, including a line about spreading freedom from the current president’s second inaugural. While many contributors have drawn on the usual suspects—Lincoln, Kennedy, Jefferson, etc.—we’re seeing a few unusual suspects. James Garfield makes several appearances, such as user Sdc5124’s use of the line: “If this generation comes to its inheritance blinded by ignorance and corrupted by vice, the fall of the Republic will be certain and remediless.”
This feature is open for submissions and remixes through noon ET on Sunday, Jan. 18. After that, readers will still be able to vote on their favorite submissions for another 24 hours, at which point we’ll publish the favorite draft on Slate.
In the truest of American traditions, the current leading contender comes from one individual who chafed at the words of former presidents and fellow contributors alike. User Surferdad begins his inaugural: “On this day, together we embark on a journey whose path has been forged, and availed to us from the earliest days and decades of this countrys existence to this very Moment.” (At least he capitalizes like a Founding Father.) The 1,174-word draft recounts the country’s history of adversity and, in a State of the Union-style nod to current events, gives a shout-out to the US Airways pilot who landed a passenger jet safely on the Hudson River on Thursday.
Think you have something to add? It’s not too late to continue contributing drafts. If you like anything you see from anyone else’s attempt, feel free to steal it, at which point their name will be listed alongside yours as an author. Give it a shot—your lines could end up in the final version.