Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack Obama's Inauguration Speech

It has been quite a day today, Obama is now the President and he gave one hell of an acceptance speech. I won’t post the entire thing here because it’s too long, but I will comment on some key parts.
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.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn. Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
He paints a vivid image of the sacrifices made by our parents and grandparents in order to show that we can’t betray their work nor whine that we can’t do as well. We must keep going and do the same for our children and grandchildren.
Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.
And here is his call for action but said in a way that stirs the blood to take on the challenge. No president has made such a call for a very long time, since JFK in fact. And I really want to restore science to it’s rightful place, along with reason and fact-based actions.
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. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works -
This is excellent and the heart of the speech, I think. He tosses out the mistakes of the past, he tosses out limitations and people with low expectations. He tosses out the Republicans and their stifling ideology. He has changed the rules as well as shining the light on the right, which looks thin and cruel when it’s seen clearly. He tosses out narrow minded ideology in favor of pragmatism.
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. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.
This is something I’ve been waiting for someone to say for a very long time. When you help others it isn’t charity, it’s something that improves the world for all of us. America was at it’s best after WWII when we suddenly had a strong middle class and didn’t have a huge gap between the richest and the poorest. Before then was only rich and poor with hardly any middle class and we are almost there again, and America is not better because the multi-millionaires have become multi-billionaires.
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers.
Ah, he throws a crumb to us non-believers, we don’t see that too often.
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
Here he shows why he wanted to be president even though he is inheriting more problems than any other president has when coming into office. It is when the challenge is the greatest that success is the greatest. The presidents that we remember are the ones who led us when times were bleak and brought us out to the other side. Men like Washington, Lincoln and FDR. All progressives, too. For conservatives we have Hoover and Dubya - yuch.
This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

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.
The idea that we sit in an emotional and economic winter, filled with ice and storms, is a powerful image. But he has not appealed to our fears the way Bush did. He did not tell us to go shopping. This was Bush’s biggest failure, that when he had the nation with him, Democrats and Republicans alike, he asked nothing of us, no sacrifice or challenge, just to go shopping. People want to be doing something to help overcome our problems, we would have all responded to calls for action, but none ever came.

Obama is made of better stuff. He understands hard work and overcoming challenges and calls out to what is better within each of us. Bush couldn’t do that because there isn’t anything better within him. There is no nobility, no desire for sacrifice. In his circles all anybody wants is power and money and they aren’t too concerned about how they achieve it. I can’t even describe how much of a relief it is that Bush is no longer in the Oval Office, it’s relief so strong it borders on joy.

I’m very optimistic about Obama, mainly because he’s really smart. He might be the only person alive today who is both smart enough and charismatic enough to pull us out of the headlong dive that the neocons have put us in.

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2 comments:

mberenis said...

I'm glad he gave America a great speech, but we need more than just talk. Actions speak louder than words no matter how good the speaker.

KevinBBG said...

Jut how much did you expect him to do on his first day?