Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Inaugural Address

Don't count me among those who say it wasn't FDR, or JFK, or Lincoln.

It was a great speech - for the moment - and for a long time to come.

It declared itself - announced aims, a willingness to change where plans don't work, a commitment to recognizable goals: to mobilize our intelligence, and our people to meet the challenges of the day.

Stanley Fish points out in a careful analysis that "the inaugural address is proving to be more powerful in the reading than it was in the hearing".  Here is his commentary on Barack's Prose Style.

It is in his spare phrasing that Obma achieves the greatest power.  Some of my favorites:

"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real.  They are serious and they are many.  They will not be met easily or in a short span of time.  But know this America:  They will be met."

"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. "

Obama's masterstroke is the catalog, the litany that sums up the welcoming spirit that we heard sung at the Lincoln  Memorial where Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen led the crowd in singing Robert Kennedy's theme song -Woody Guthrie's This Land Is Your Land:

"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."

Here are the video and the text from the source -