Archive for the ‘Kennedy-esque’ Category

Obama Inauguration: Unforgettable Moment, ‘Subdued’ Speech

January 21, 2009

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 ...               
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)

Related:
Obama Delivers A Speech of Realism that Failed To Hit the Heights

Text of President Barack Obama’s inaugural address 

President Obama’s Inaugural Speech: “The time has come to set aside childish things”

The expectations were high:
Obama: Nation’s Hopes Never Higher, Times Seldom Tougher, Give Us Your Highest Vision

CNN (Bill Schneider):
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/
01/20/schneider.obama.speech/index.html

Peggy Noonan:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1232
48758908299555.html

President Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, ... 

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!

CNN:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/01
/21/obama.international.press.reaction
/index.html

Obama Delivers A Speech of Realism that Failed To Hit the Heights

January 21, 2009

In the historic vastness of the moment, the unique and unprecedented nature of the event, there was always a risk that the message itself would be overshadowed. At the swearing-in of America’s first African-American President, amid crowds on a scale never witnessed before in Washington, and in all the usual pomp and pageantry of a presidential inauguration, the great set-piece inaugural speech – even from a highly accomplished orator – was in danger of being eclipsed.

But this was Barack Obama, now President Barack Obama, and if anyone’s oratory can rise to even the highest occasion, it is surely his.

And yet, perhaps because the US is confronting its gravest set of circumstances in at least a generation, and perhaps because of the weight of expectations of all those millions of people waiting for a touch of the magic of his famed rhetoric, this was not an occasion on which his oratory soared.

By Gerard Baker
Times (UK)

There were few truly memorable pieces of phraseology – no Kennedy-esque, or Rooseveltian quotations for the ages.

He laboured hard to echo the tone and cadence of his biggest campaign performances. And there was more than a hint of a self-conscious echo – distractingly – of the speeches of his hero and fellow Illinoisan, Abraham Lincoln.

The language in particular sounded decidedly 19th century in parts – all those commands to “know” some or other intent of US policy, all those glancing biblical references.

But it wasn’t up to Lincoln’s standards – which perhaps is asking too much. In fact, it may not have been really memorable at all. It’s unlikely that most people will remember a phrase from it a few weeks from now, let alone a century. In fairness it was a speech more obviously measured to the practical immensity of the immediate challenges. It was directed at two audiences: a hopeful but anxious one at home, and an uncertain but hopeful one overseas.

To the global audience, Mr Obama signalled, perhaps more sharply than expected, the different path he intends to take from that of his predecessor.

In remarks that presaged important policy announcements in the next few days, President Obama indicated that the way he prosecutes the war on terrorism will change markedly from George W. Bush’s approach.

“As for our common defence, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” In the next few days he is expected to order the eventual closure of the Guantánamo Bay prison camp and to bar harsh interrogation treatment of detainees.

“Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expediency’s sake. And so to all 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.”

And though Mr Obama warned terrorists that the US would pursue and defeat them, and he promised to disengage from Iraq and achieve victory in Afghanistan, perhaps most striking was the distinction between Mr Obama’s inaugural tone and that of Mr Bush’s second inauguration four years ago.

There was no reference yesterday to committing the US to the eradication of tyranny in the world. Instead, Mr Obama contented himself with warning tyrants that they were on “the wrong side of history”.

But the bulk of his speech, and his focus, was on the domestic challenges facing his Administration. All new presidents like to convey the message that the country is in desperate need of a new direction, even when things are going swimmingly. But no one seriously questions the scale of the economic mess that now confronts the US and the loss of national self-confidence is almost palpable.

Mr Obama promised that an activist Government would move quickly on a massive stimulus programme of public spending. But he asked for patience from the American people, warning that it would take time for measures to work. The new President also warned