Wow! What a day! What a memorable, moving day.
The president and his beautiful family; the symbolism of a black president not merely elected, but reelected, by the majority of a nation who believes in him and values his accomplishments; the pomp and the pageantry; the renewal of hope; the inspired words and the ideals they convey — I’m not ashamed to confess that more than once the tears welled up and my voice faltered as my words choked in my tightening throat.
“We, the people,” Obama repeated. “We, the people,” the first words of the Constitution that gives shape and structure to American democracy reverberated with historical significance as they embodied today’s citizens — us. We, the people, have to do more than elect a candidate who promises change, the president said. He exhorted us to make our voices heard and act to bring about change. Obama can’t do it alone, without us, the people.
Obama wove his speech in and out of the Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Obama “bridge[d] the meaning of those words with the realities of our time.” Evoking the ultimately successful upheavals that tore America apart a century after the schism of the Civil War, he named the places of the famous battles— Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall— that fleshed out the equality of the American founding creed. Not just “all [free and white and male] men,” but also slaves, women, gays and immigrant minorities, “are created equal.” Yet, Obama observed, “history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing.” Dreams and wishes and yes, even Obama’s soaring rhetoric, aren’t enough.
Obama’s Second Inaugural Address, like Lincoln’s, aspired to bind up the nation’s wounds — “blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword” — to give a common purpose to a deeply divided America.
The president’s opposition on the right says he laid down the gauntlet with his progressive program. Since when does turning one’s back on the poor, the sick and the elderly or spurning gays and barricading the borders constitute patriotism?
No. Let those who share his vision take hope and inspiration and move forward with him on the journey toward a more perfect union.