I must say that I am immensely pleased to see that the art of high oratory still lives. Mr. Obama’s words, spoken before millions in his Inaugural Address, were inspiring, thoughtfully conceived, powerfully delivered and altogether stirring to the heart. I felt both uplifted and challenged by his address, grimly clear on the work that lies ahead, yet brave and ready to do my part to take it on. The best thing is that this was not a merely political speech. It rose to the level of civic oratory – words for the people, to the people, to give us heart when our hearts are wavering.
I can imagine that there are cynics who will pooh-pooh the use of high-falutin’ language and fancy buzzwords. They will sit back, with arms crossed and lips curled, and say, “We’ll see. Just watch. He has yet to prove himself.” I would say that the proving has begun. It is by no means complete, but it has begun. So to remain cold and dispassionate, to look down your nose at words like those he spoke today is to remain a cynic to spite your own nose.
One might think that he is using them self-servingly, for that is what politicians do. Yet even if that were true, that does not mean that we need to receive them that way. The ideas upon which Mr. Obama drew for his first speech as President were so grounded in our founding documents, so woven into the thought fabric of the American experience, so fundamental to our unique culture, that if you choose to stand apart from them you risk appearing to turn your back on the best our country stands for. It does not matter to which party you belong. As Americans we share The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the legacies of many great men and women who worked and lived and served and lead us over many many years. This address was in the best traditions of all those. So whatever you think of the man, his words, his call to us, was deeper and broader than himself and calls us to look beyond him to the native and bedrock truth of those words themselves.
Now the real work begins (well, after all the dancing and drinking anyways). I once doubted his capacity to lead. Knowing human nature as I do, I will always reserve a portion of that doubt for no man can live up to even his own highest expectation of himself, never mind an entire nation's hopes. Nevertheless my sincere prayer is that Mr. Obama will continue to prove himself. That he will indeed become the lens through which the American people will focus our energies to light the future, the fulcrum that will help us to raise ourselves out of these dark times together. It is a high calling we have called him to, and he has echoed it back to us. Let us respond with all the strength of heart and hand and brain, together.
God Bless America.
Read the full transcript of Barak Obama's Inaugural Address here.