A speech for us, not the ages

January 25, 2009

As I watched Obama’s inauguration speech from my couch, in my pajamas, I had the same feeling I would hear reflected over and over in pundits’ comments: “… missed opportunity”, “a ‘good’ speech”, “not one of his best”.

However as they kept replaying lines throughout the day I started realizing just how much weight there was to each of them, and also just what he might have been trying to accomplish.

I’ve been meaning to write about this, and yesterday Frank Rich said so eloquently what I struggled to put into words.  I urge you to read the piece to better understand how Obama sees himself in history, how he is approaching the next four years, and why this speech will be so important in the future.

In my own words:

  • His austere but hopeful and reassuring tone was intended not for a quick jolt (which would be useless), but to give us strength and solace the next four years as we get through the worse.
  • He reminded us that we are all guilty, not just the ‘greedy bankers’, and therefore each of us has a duty to toil in the rebuilding effort.
  • He described sacrifice in terms of each one of us giving up a little compensation rather than seeing our neighbors lose their job altogether.

His subtle but clear indictment of Reagan and clean break with the small-government conservative philosophy was also starling.

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