Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama's Inaugural Address

With the economy sliding deeper into recession and U.S. troops in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan, two million citizens waited in the cold to hear encouraging from their new president.
When you're rightly known as the best orator of your generation, expectations run high. Obama wasn't afraid to evoke memories of the greatest inaugural addresses, though he was smart enough to not try to compete.
In his address, Obama recalled Franklin Roosevelt's first inaugural when he spoke of our economic distress:
Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished.
FDR made the same point in 1933:
Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it.
Obama further evoked FDR's pragmatic approach to governing:
The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.
Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.
Conservatives revile Roosevelt as the father of big government, though he usually placed results above ideology. Obama, impatient with the big government/small government argument of the last seventy years, is thinking in terms of what will get the economy back in gear, mindful that the enormous stimulus, and the resulting trillion dollar deficit, will necessitate budget tightening down the road.
He also wasn't afraid to invoke Abraham Lincoln's "better angels of our nature" (from his second inaugural) when he declared:
The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history…
While Obama used the perseverance of the American people through past crises, he also sought to put past divisions and arguments behind us:
What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.
Even though he called America a young country, Obama was mindful of our history in telling us we are up to the challenges ahead:
Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.
President Obama did add a phrase that sounds like it comes right out of Joe Biden's old neighborhood:
Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
He evoked John Kennedy in a few sentences delivered to banish any thoughts that Democrats are the party of the blame America first crowd:
We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense.
And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
In closing, Obama reminded us of another cold winter in our history, when General George Washington, hunkered down with his troops in Valley Forge, chose to attack rather than wait out the storm:
America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words; with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll mention it here...

Your allusion to picking one up and dusting oneself off, is a direct nod to Joe Biden, who used that image as part of his acceptance speech in Convention Hall..

Obama has surprised many people with his perceptive depth at choosing his team... It is as if he is much wiser than his 46 years would allow...

Since his nomination, and his pull towards the center, one will one day be able to give the credit where it is due... it can't be argued loudly at this time, because the national public is still too naive of Joe's competence to accept Joe's wisdom for what it is.. But we will one day find out, mark my words, that Joe Biden as counsel to the president, has assisted in putting together one of the best teams ever assembled in Washington...

As I keep probing deeper, the wisdom of Obama's choices just keeps on surprising...

4:03 AM, January 23, 2009  
Blogger Tom Noyes said...

The phrase from Biden's speech in Denver was:

"Millions of Americans have been knocked down. And this is the time as Americans, together, we get back up."

I agree re the quality of Obama's team, particularly in foreign policy, economics, energy and the environment.

8:30 AM, January 23, 2009  

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