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Obama Edited the Hell Out Of His 2013 Inauguration Speech

Author Stephen King has said about editing, “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

Editing turns a rough rock into a diamond. But it also, of course, can look like a bloody horror story, with ink spilled about in chaos.

And it's not just novelists who go through this process. The White House has released this photo of President Barack Obama reworking his 2013 inaugural address, going to town on the thing like a 3rd grade teacher during an editing test. 

And it looks like he really killed his darling (Click for a zoomable detailed view)

The photo shows only a portion of the first page of what was a rather lengthy speech that covered a range of policy topics. But what we can see nonetheless confirms previous anecdotes that Obama prefers to take an active role in shaping, honing, molding ... editing the hell out of ... his remarks, particularly speeches for major events like an inauguration or State of the Union address.

As the Atlantic outlines, there are some interesting details from the edits Obama has made here, especially in comparison with the final version he delivered six days after this draft.

Early in the final version of the speech Obama made a very powerful allusion to Lincoln's second inaugural address:

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free.

That line isn't in this draft shown in the picture, at least not the part we can see. But Obama is working toward it with this handwritten insert at the top of the page:

Through blood and toil ____ we learned that no nation founded on these principles could survive half-slave and half-free.

At some point between this draft and delivery time, either Obama or his assistants figured out that the most elegant thing to do would be to just use Lincoln's own phrase, plain and simple.

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