Part of me still doesn’t believe it, but it’s true. Barack Obama, notwithstanding chief Justice Roberts’ flubbing of his oath, is the 44th President of the United States.
I thought the speech took a bit to get going, but hit it’s stride midway through:
….As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.
Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’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. Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint. 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.
….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. This is the price and the promise of citizenship. This is the source of our confidence – the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny. This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed – why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath. So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled.
Sullivan has the full text here.
Other thoughts? The John Williams piece (above), which seemed a lot like an Aaron Copland piece, was lovely, and it’s hard to go wrong with Yo Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman.
The poem seemed, well, pedestrian. And long.
But the very Reverend Joseph Lowery? Perfect:
Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.
Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around — (laughter) — when yellow will be mellow — (laughter) — when the red man can get ahead, man — (laughter) — and when white will embrace what is right.
Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.
REV. LOWERY: Say amen —
REV. LOWERY: — and amen.
AUDIENCE: Amen! (Cheers, applause.)
Other thoughts: Best wishes to Senators Kennedy and Byrd; hot toddies to all who braved to cold for the Inauguration and /or the parade; and the wonderful thought that today, the White House is, once again, the people’s house.
I spoke to a friend this afternoon, who freely admitted to bawling throughout. I choked up here and there, but was more impressed that when the President-elect, walking onto the Inaugural platform and seeing nearly 2 million people before him, kept it together.
It is a new day and a great day – a day to celebrate.
Tomorrow the work begins.