Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama Tweaks Bush, Calls Out Tyranny; Brings Hope

Today, we live in the age of President Obama. Our 44th President offered some of these lines during his inaugural address. Along with the highlights of the speech are a few reflections on their meaning and insight into the next four years. Read the entire text of the address here:

At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents. So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
These lines sound similar to tenor of Obama's campaign speeches, yet with the Capitol as a backdrop they now seem Presidential--conveying hope in not only ourselves but tapping into the hope and successes of all Americans throughout our history.

Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.
Like it or not, President Obama is giving the nation its nasty dose of reality. Undoubtedly, like the Roaring 20s, where greed and the broadening of rich and poor led to economic calamity, so have the avarice of 21st Century Wall Street. It is also a gesture to all, specifically on those who signed those conspicuous loan documents, that you too are also partly to blame. As a nation, we have rested on our laurels and unrivaled power to sit idle as we doddled with a poor energy policy that allows outside nations to control our wealth by way of the supply and demand of fossil fuels. The future wars of the world will be solely about energy, if they are not already today.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
These lines are a few of the most important in Obama's address. He has within his grasp a power of which few presidents have possessed in the past 40 years--unity within the government and the populace. Who knows how long it last? It has always been my belief the only way Americans would welcome needed change would be through calamity such as these times where the pocketbooks of all are affected. What are the "petty grievances" and "worm out dogmas"? I would like to think a few are the right to bear arms, gay marriage, and the perennial harbinger of gridlock and division rolled out every four years, but not this election--abortion. The point is not to deny those who believe strongly for or against, but these battles have little bearing on how we fix what ails the country.

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
Sounds a bit like the Republican ideology of picking yourself up by the bootstraps. Obama must be commended for taking a swing at the Bush White House here. It is so apparent in the minds of all Americans that the former president did serious damage to the nation. Numerous reports described the massive throng of people at the Capitol booing images of the former prez on the many jumbotrons.

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. All this we will do.

Some talking heads on television noted Obama's address was devoid of details on policy, yet this portion of the speech lays out exactly what he intends to accomplish. Again, he snubs his nose at many of Bush's failed policies.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers ... our found fathers, faced with perils 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 expedience's sake. And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Here lies the reason many like me supported candidates like Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. They all believed in America as a benevolent leader in the world, where inhabitants of foreign countries dreamed about this land. I still believe there are young boys and girls who toil in impoverished lands and dream about coming to this country. People like my father who sent letters to his uncle in California from a tiny house filled with eight brothers and sisters in the Azores Islands. Torture and the brute force of our nation against others is not what those people believe in when they think of our country. My father did not, I do not and hopefully no one will ever think of us in that way again.

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.

Obama used this tough language during his election night victory speech in Grant Park. It sounded un-Obama-like then as it did today. It would be naive to believe our nation is no longer in danger from extremist elements because of Obama's election. He delivered these lines with such quiet intensity that it reminds us that campaign rhetoric sometimes becomes just that when a man is elevated to the presidency. These words are not the change we have been waiting for, but again, the next four years will force Obama to make decisions he thought he would never have to make. Bush never thought he would be nation-building in 2000. It turned out that is all his presidency dealt with.

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers.
The inclusion of "non-believers" is something most religious righties cringed when hearing.

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.
Did you hear that, Iran, North Korea and Cuba? Obama will talk to you. The notion Obama would talk to our enemies was controversial during the campaign. Apparently, this is one promise he is sticking with. Will anything get done? Probably not.

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.
Much like his campaign for the office where Obama rarely made light of race. This address utilizes the same tone. The momentousness of this day in American history hangs over every word but until this paragraph is it mentioned. Framed in this way, it is truly remarkable, not that our culture has come far in race relations--we really have not--but in such a short period of decades this man ascended to the presidency. It is more a testament solely to Obama rather than our nation's attitudes.

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.

Remember, Obama is a writer. This final paragraph is lovingly conceived with rich imagery and hope for the future. If our ship of state does reach calm waters under Obama's watch this paragraph is destined to be etched on the walls of the future Obama Presidential library.

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