Unforgettable. Historic. A massive outpouring of feeling, emotion, joy. High hopes. The throng of crowds and watchers world-wide.
That’s the lasting memory of Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009.
Much was tied to race in America, the shadow of slavery somehow mythically lifted, renewed hope and promise.
How could words meet the expectation? The moment?
Political speech writers and the politicians themselves cannot lip synch like rock stars what worked before. Most Americans know the words to Barack’s Greatest Hits; so how can that be surpassed?
It has to be surpassed by history not yet written, not yet made.
The inauguration speech was a little like a Bono concert in an acoustically flawed arena; or with a bad back up group. It lacked greatness.
Gerard Baker of The Times in London was looking for some “Kennedy-esque, or Rooseveltian quotations for the ages.”
Bill Schneider of CNN wrote it was “the right speech for the times.”
Peggy Noonan said, “the Inaugural Address itself was somewhat subdued.”
I, too, longed to find the words that would one day be etched into granite, like “Ask not what your country can do for you….”
So maybe this was not the time nor the place for such a speech that would always be overshadowed by the moment, the feeling, the history anyway….
On days like this, speeches can become covenants. So maybe Barack Obama was smart enough to know, the words future generations remember, the words that record his greatness contributed to America, the words someday etched into stone, are yet to come.
John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapel, Virginia
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) gets a thumbs up from his daughter Sasha after taking the Oath of Office as the 44th President of the United States, during the inauguration ceremony in Washington January 20, 2009.REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES)
The expectations were high:
Obama: Nation’s Hopes Never Higher, Times Seldom Tougher, Give Us Your Highest Vision
CNN (Bill Schneider):
Obama’s first words — “I stand here today humbled by the task before us” — echoed the first paragraph of the first inaugural address.
“He is as much symbol as substance, an icon for the youth and a sign of deliverance for an older generation that never believed a man with his skin color would ascend those steps,” said the International Herald Tribune.
What a great moment!