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On this Second Inauguration: Our Chance to Hope Again

 

Monday, January 21, 2013 - 7 AM:
As I'm about to begin the fifth year of my blog on this morning of Barack Obama's second Inauguration (held on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's birth, a most appropriate and fitting confluence), I feel I should write something so powerful, so moving, so wise, nothing anyone ever writes about this day will even come close.

But anyone who regularly reads my blog knows that's probably not going to happen.  What I plan to do on this most auspicious day is to record the small stuff and leave the big stuff to the writerly biggies.  This will be a happy post, since this is a happy day for me.  (If even reading those few words sends the heat rising to the top of your head and you're threatening to blow, well, buh bye.  We'll talk again some time.)

(7:10 AM:  Joe Scarborough just said, "I don't want to be known as the conservative party or the moderate party, I just don't want to be known as the stupid party".  A delicious example of Joe's inability to speak in sentences that don't include the word "I", making the whole sentence double-funny. Nothing to do with today's festivities, just an aside.  We'll move on.)

I can barely conjure up how I felt on the day of Obama's first Inauguration, but I can go back and read that first blog post and there it is.  I can go back to the second and the third and the fourth anniversaries of that big day as well to see how I felt each time it rolled around.

And today, after more than a year of much wringing of hands, going between high hilarity (the Republican presidential candidates, one and all) to My God, Romney/Ryan could win and ruin everything, my president, Barack Obama, is about to re-enact the official swearing-in as the next and current president of the United States. (Re-enacted because January 20 fell on a Sunday this year and apparently we're not allowed to inaugurate on the Sabbath. But the president has to be sworn in on January 20, no matter what, so Chief Justice Roberts did the honors yesterday in a private ceremony (except for the cameras) and today it's being repeated at the Big HooHaw, anti-climactic as it might seem to the purists--who probably aren't going to be pleased about anything today, anyway.)

And, of course, there's Joe Biden--the icing on the cake.  Four more years of Joe--could I get more giddy?

11:50 AM.  Barack Obama has just taken the oath of office again and now he is giving his inaugural address.
 


12:12 PM.  I am moved to tears.   It was a speech to remember.

And now I'm weeping again, as Kelly Clarkson sings "My Country Tis of Thee."

And again, as Richard Blanco reads his splendid poem, "One Today".

And Beyonce sings the National Anthem. . .

And now the benediction by Pastor Luis Leon.  A perfect bookend to Medgar Evers' widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams' Invocation.

(Okay, before you ask. . .I, the professed heathen, have no real problem with invocations and benedictions at government functions.  I may not understand the necessity, but I'm pretty sure a couple of simple prayers is not going to be enough to turn the government theocratic. )

And after an hour or so, it's done.  We have a president (and a vice president) for four more years.  In my case, I have the president (and the vice president) I wanted to have, but because we have elections that aren't completely off the wall there are some people who can't say that.  I've been there before and now I'm not. That means I'm happier than they are today, but never fear--if I live long enough, they will have their turn.  (Not that they'll deserve it, damn them.  Smiley face)
 


3:55 PM.  The president and the First Lady have made their stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue and are now back in their limousine, and I have to admit, I'm relieved.  I've never seen so many Secret Service agents in one place.  I'm sure there were sharpshooters stationed up on the roofs.  (I wish it weren't so, but in these times, with this president, we have reason to worry.)

We'll have four more years to debate the good and the bad of this presidency.  Time enough to start it up in the days to come.  I reserve today for celebration.  And tomorrow and tomorrow. 

I'm that happy. 

 It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm. 

President Barack Obama, Inaugural speech, January 21, 2013.

   My vote for Obama was a lesser evil vote, but he's better than I thought he was. In 2011 he was talking about cuts in aid to the poor and the sick, but now he says he will protect those programs. In domestic matters he has a properly bleeding heart; in foreign affairs he isn't dovish, but still more dovish than the Republicans. We could do worse.

Thanks for sharing your reflections, Ramona. 

One of the characteristics of this president's time in office so far--the opacity of his "true" intentions, values and programmatic goals--has the benefit of giving him more flexibility to shift his rhetorical and programmatic emphasis.  Recalling the comments of some who referred to him as a "Republican" not so long ago, I wonder if hearing or reading his speech on Monday prompts them to the same thought?  Can anyone imagine a President Romney giving this speech? 

I am among those who have been holding out hope that, like so many of his predecessors have, this president will not only more consistently and assertively pursue the kind of agenda suggested in his speech, but also learn the technique of this impossible job better as he goes along.  I like what I've been seeing over the past couple of months.  I like the way he is handling the gun issue--we'll see what comes of it in Congress.  But he has made clear that he is going to act regardless of whether Congress does or not.  I like the firmer stance he is taking on the debt ceiling and budget issues generally.  I like what appears to be more confident, sure-footed and assertive public outreach in recent months. 

His handling of the issue of gay marriage and civil unions seems under-commented upon.  His timing strikes me as impeccable.  He has wisely opted not to get out in front of this issue too fast but is letting the highly visible evolution in our society in favor of greater overall liberality on these matters take its course without getting in the way of this cultural locomotive which he has helped nudge along.  When George Will writes a column saying the opposition to gay marriage is literally dying off, that is a sign that the GOP at the national level is likely to be disinclined to go on the attack at all frontally on this issue.  More culturally conservative states will continue to maintain restrictions.  But that, too, will change in many places over the next 2 or 3 decades.  The gay marriage issue is a huge story in part because it is a dog that, at the level of influencing national political outcomes in major ways, simply is not barking.  It seems to have been no handicap at all to the president's re-election, almost surely favoring him on balance in relatively low visibility ways.  It's an increasingly beleaguered and shrinking, though still volatile and vocal, minority which is struggling to come to terms with these seismic changes.  The GOP seems to have taken a long, hard look at whether to try to use this as a cultural wedge issue in a national political campaign and said no, we'll pass on this one.   

Like AD, I've come to appreciate our nudger-in chief.

I often wish he'd use his skills to do more, and I could argue that his responses to the big money interests and certain FP challenges have been weak, but I must admit that once he does take some ground, he doesn't give it back. Which is good.

I think if progressives had understood this better, earlier, we might have been more willing to get out ahead of the President instead of waiting for him to take charge. It's a lesson that I've learned now, and I'm only sorry that I didn't quite figure it out earlier in life. (Like sometime during a much earlier Presidential administration.)

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