Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack to the Future

Today's inauguration speech will probably be considered one of the greats. I'll leave it to history to see if it's as great as Kennedy's, Lincoln's, and FDR's inaugural addresses. Personally, I thought there were some great moments and phrases and hope that he can come through on his promises. As with any great speech, there usually exists a few phrases that one can point to as the keys to what the speaker wants us to come away with. As much as I try to keep my blog apolitical, I few compelled to discuss some of what I got out his speech today.

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.
The first part of Obama's speech was actually rather dour. He went on with a laundry list of problems and ails of the country's current state of war, the looming depression and poor health care and educational systems. He then brought hope back in and told us that with hard work and dedication we would eventually make our country great again. What was most interesting about this part of the speech was that he promised that his administration would be different. We could count on them to do the right thing and not what is best for their political lobbies and parties. This above anything else, I think, may be the most significant promise of the speech.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our 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.

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. 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.
The libertarian in me is screaming at these two parts. But the pragmatic reality is that government is big and has been big since before World War II and it's probably impossible to put the genie back in the bottle now. If it is true that he is willing to end wasteful programs and foster the programs that work then I can live better knowing that. I am not for the big brother type of politics where we ask our government to help us in every facet of our society but if he can trim the fat and bolster that programs that work and are less intrusive to our business and capitalism then I will support his view. I also applaud his little dig at Cheney and Haliburton at the end of this segment. However, I will say that Cheney did do his business in the light of day and still got away with it.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations.

Finally after seven years of the Patriot act, illegal wire tapping, water-boarding and torture, and Guantanamo Bay and the lack of due process, someone finally is stepping up and saying no more, If we are to espouse certain ideals and freedoms, we need to live by and execute them- even in the direst of situations and fear of our safety. Not only can we live with ourselves after the threat has passed but we can hold our heads high in front of the world and be joined by allies who are inspired by these actions.

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. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

Obama walks the line of being able to flaunt his bi-racial heritage and not alienate the dominant culture very well. He did it throughout the campaign and I believe that his diverse background will be a great asset to his presidency. The ceiling is now broken and I think he will bring everyone he can with him.

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.
There is some Kennedy thrown in here for sure. It's also probably the last time a president had the guts to ask his constituency for hard work since Carter failed at asking Americans to wear sweaters. I hope we haven't become too fat, lazy and entitled to fail to meet his challenge.

Mr. President, your clock has just started now. Let's get to work and see what you can do. I hope I am not let down by your words and I hope your promises and promise are what you say they are.

1 comment:

Jay Ballz said...

Today is the day....new Prez! Yeeaahh!