Here's one rhetorical critic's reaction to Obama's Second Inaugural. In general, I find myself noting his consistent rhetorical habits.
1) President Obama loves to root his political philosophy and policies in history. The speech begins with the Founders, works its way through those moments in our past in which we made our truths self-evident, and concludes with the future. This habit constitutes the president as a conservative; his presidency has evolved out of the past and he seeks incremental, not revolutionary, change.
2) He frames that history as a journey. This matters for two reasons. First, it emphasizes our agency. History can happen to people; we choose to take a journey. Equally important, we make choices along the way to do this and not that; to go here, and not there. Thus, the journey led through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall. Second, it emphasizes the filiopiety so prominent in Obama's discourse. Each generation has a task (aka Moses and Joshua in earlier speeches). We must respect where those before us have gone, take up the journey ourselves, and pass the joys and burdens on to those who follow. The Exodus metaphor underwrites this notion.
3) In turn, the speech is a web of allusions to those who have made these journeys. Obama has a carefully selected repertoire of influential figures and documents: The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr.. In that way, Obama lays claim to a swath of American history and, indeed, to a powerful interpretation of that history--the Whig narrative of progress and inclusion.
4) The language of the speech is generally good with two exceptions. First, there are too many be verbs and dependent clauses. Second, there are two incredibly clunky paragraphs stuffed into the middle. The climate change and enduring security paragraphs are badly written and too detailed. They should have been excised and the ideas distilled into single sentences expanding the "Our journey is not complete..." section. Indeed, that section deserved more emphasis, both because of its centrality to Obama's lexicon and because it could have done what JFK's pledge section did so well--brought the people into governance not only as witnesses (see the first line) but as participants.
5) It reads a bit better than it sounds.
Anyway, some opening thoughts. Love to hear what others think.