Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Observations on President Barack Obama's Inauguration and Inaugural Address

Some observations on this amazing day of Barack Obama's Inauguration:

Chief Justice John Roberts chose a bad time, in front of millions (billions?) of people watching around the world, to mess up his recitation of the oath of office, saying: "I Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear" [Obama repeats], "that I will execute the office of the President to the United States faithfully," [Obama repeats, "that I will ...", then nods & waits for Roberts to correct himself, which he does, prompting, now accurately, "faithfully execute the office ..."], after which Obama too messes it up by placing "faithfully" at the end of the phrase, saying, "execute the office of the President to the United States faithfully." Oh well....

It was most refreshing to hear President Obama say in his Inaugural Address, "Our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers." How nice to hear acknowledgement of non-believers. For too long they have been outcast in this nation, which officially proclaims "in God We Trust," even though the First Amendment prohibits government establishment of religion.

Other memorable points from the speech:

-recognition of the significance of his election: "[It is remarkable that] a man whose father less than sixty years ago, might not have been served in a local restaurant, can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath. So let us mark this day of remembrance, of who we are, and how far we have traveled."

American character & challenge: "Those values upon which our success depends - honesty and hard work, 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 of us now is a new era of responsibility."

-appeal to reason & progressive government: "We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise healthcare'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."

-Hope: "Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions; who suggest that the system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done. What free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage. 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."

-appeal to the Muslim world: "To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy."

-appeal to despotic leaders: "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit, and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history. But that we will extend a hand, if you are willing to unclench your fist."

-repudiations of the Bush/Cheney approach: "As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man; a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expediency's sake." And: "Those of us who manage the public's dollars will ... do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government"

-appeal to the world of America's leadership: "To all the other peoples and governments that are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is the friend of each nation and of every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity. And we are ready to lead once more."

-American power & humility: "Earlier generations ... understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do what we please. Instead they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering quality of our humility and restraint. We are the keepers of this legacy."

And last, Reverend Joseph Lowry's inspirational words in the benediction summed up the mood of the day perfectly: "Help us to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation; when tanks will be beaten into tractors; ... when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.... In the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day, when black will not be asked to get back; when brown can stick around; when yellow will be mellow; when the red man can get ahead man; and when white would embrace what is right. Let all those who do love justice and mercy, say 'Amen.' Say 'Amen'; and 'Amen.'"