January 20, 2009

Beauty In Speech

Obama's Inaugural Address is just plain beautiful. I just read it and I find it remarkable. It's no secret that the man is a gifted rhetorician, supported by able and talented writers. But when you approach what he says, the power of his words quite simply amaze:
Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

* * *

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers ... [applause] ... 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.

* * *

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you. For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
You may not be a supporter of Obama's political agenda. But even if so, you've gotta concede that this is a really good speech. "The bitter swill of civil war and segregation..." That's a very nice turn of phrase, don't you think?

It doesn't hurt my favorable impression that 1) he managed to give a favorable nod to non-believers, and 2) he seems to agree with something I've been saying for more than four years on these pages -- there is no conflict between national security and civil liberties; we can and must have both. But that he invokes George Washington at his finest hour is also a very good nod to history which I much appreciate.

Yes, these are only words, not actions; there is hard, unglamorous work ahead and I'm not falling in love here. Nevertheless, the whole speech is worthy of review, both as a reminder of our ideals and as a signal of the kind of government he wants to lead. Read the whole thing here. It's as good as any speech given by any President, including really good speech-givers like Clinton, Reagan, and Kennedy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Agreed that the speech was a good one. On the other hand, Lowery's "white will do what's right" benediction was unnecessarily divisive. Obama really should bring it up and repudiate that line.