20 January 2009

thoughts on obama's speech

i started crying, unexpectedly, during rick warren. when he asked god to protect the obamas -- barack, michelle, malia and sasha -- i was choked with emotion. looking at this young beautiful family, i hoped with all my heart that they would be protected, that we would all save each other. the tears continued right through aretha, though now they were mixed with a smile: at her bringing down the mall, at that fierce bow on her hat.

and on to obama's speech. it was honest, inspiring. he at once told it like it is, while managing to create a vision of what is possible, and describing a path of how to get there. i think he is going to have to keep giving speeches like this, keep reminding us.

it's funny to think of americans as somehow lacking in confidence. here is the country that claims to have god on our side at every chance we get, that has changed the world order without allies or a thought to our reputation, that names itself number one without a blush of embarrassment. but according to our new president, this is like the "confidence" of a school bully who picks on others because he has no faith in his own talents. very interesting.

like most sweeping political speeches, this one read out the grand dichotomies of our nation: blacks and whites, muslims and christians, jews, hindus, even nonbelievers. (shout-out!) but somehow he failed to mention that one quite large sector of our society that, here in 2009, must be included. where was the "gays and straights" or even "people of all sexual orientation"? bit of a letdown there.

i love everything he said about the constitution, about the bravery and restraint of that document and the conditions in which it was written, about what it was designed to protect and what protecting it means. i loved the washington quote and the evocation of harder times, of the miraculous sequence of events that led to the founding of our country (ok, i'm a huge david mccullough fan, obviously). yes let's have a president who is rooted in history, and in science. what a refreshing way to look towards the future.

finally, my favorite line of the speech: "the world has changed and we must change with it." obama was criticized a lot during the campaign for the vagueness of his slogan of "change." but here he flips the coin on its head. change is a verb, a command. and he is inclusive; we are together -- the nation and its president -- and we together must change starting now. the change is not over, it has just begun.

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