Tue, 20 Jan 2009 17:36:45 +0000 – Peter Roff, Conservative Commentator/Former Senior Political Writer, United Press International
The new president delivered an inaugural address that, despite it stirring defense of America and its traditions, was neither particularly memorable nor especially forgettable. It spoke to the nation's previous glories and past failures but, in terms of the future, was plumb center -- couching liberal initiatives in conservative terms and cloaking conservative concepts in the language of the liberal, with "responsibility" replacing "rights" as the new buzz word.
Joel Mowbray, Syndicated Columnist
Re-affirming America's Greatness: While we're judging President Barack Obama now on the spectacle of today and the promise of tomorrow, the greatness of America is what has been most re-affirmed. It was lost on no one the significance of Obama ascending to the White House, but there was an undeniable wallop when he reminded us that America's liberty is "why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath."
Lanny J. Davis, Attorney/Former White House Special Counsel
This was a very serious speech by a serious man at a serious time. What it was not was a soaring uplifting rhetorical speech, filled with memorable soundbites. What it was supposed to be, as far as I could tell, was a reminder to the American people that we have very difficult problems facing us -- at home and abroad. And the "era of responsibility" has arrived as the only means of solving then.
Dana R. Fisher, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Columbia University
Maybe He Can?This speech was a great reminder of how Barack Obama mobilized a movement to change America. The speech set a tone for his administration, which went beyond "hope" to discuss how he aims to remake America. Given the challenges facing our country, investing in the people and resources right here at home makes very good sense.
S.E. Cupp, Conservative Commentator/Author, "Why You're Wrong About the Right"
This was a great speech. President Barack Obama hit every centrist note -- strength in our defense, but with restraint. Pride in country, but with humility. Help for the poor, but not for the lazy. Great challenges, but tremendous optimism for the future. Peace for the willing, opposition against the unwilling. He spoke respectfully and sincerely to both sides of the aisle. There is no doubt in my mind (nor was there ever) that Barack Obama will govern from the center. And this is very good news.
Henry Graff, Presidential Historian/Professor Emeritus of History, Columbia University
President Barack Obama's address was eloquent and learned, and many historians will judge it unmatchable in the long story of our inaugurations. Only a few times did he use the word "I", And I cannot doubt that he was orating not only to his audience and to Americans everywhere, but to the world at large. His words drew on American history and ideals in a sensitive tone and manner revealing how deeply he has been moved by his knowledge of the past. I have to conclude that his insistence on public participation in the remaking of this country will have large and valuable results. All who heard him must be sure that his sterling statement of what has happened to the nation will reverberate in the national mind long after people forget the beautiful setting in which he was speaking.
Betsy Newmark, Government and History Teacher/Blogger
The entire theme of the speech is building on American strengths and virtues and keeping faith with those who built this great country. No matter your political leanings, that is a message that we can all embrace.
President Barack Obama has connected our nation's past with the tasks we must take up today and our hope for the future.
As a history teacher, I appreciate this line about how to look at our nation's history.
The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
We could focus on all the scars and tears of our nation's history, but I like having leaders who choose "our better history." It's an echo of Lincoln's call to listen to the "better angels of our nature" and a message that will forever call to us.
Richard Miller, Author, "In Words and Deeds: Battle Speeches in History"
"Humble...grateful...mindful." With these three words dominating his first sentence, President Barack Obama set the tone; he then proceeded to connect past with present, mentioning great American battlefields much as Abraham Lincoln did in his First Inaugural. He spoke to American fears--decline, lack of confidence, and of more fears--global warming, economic decline; but at the same time he offered solutions. They were rhetorical, inarguable, non-specific remedies, yes, but appropriate to an inaugural address. Such addresses are not messages accompanying a budget. Historically, they are are meant to set an incoming administration's tone but must affirm national unity; when they are delivered, in Obama's words, "when clouds gather" they are also meant to improve national morale. Obama was appropriately poetic (John F. Kennedy's address); appropriately unifying (Thomas Jefferson's address); and appropriately reassuring (FDR's address.) There will be at least four years to parse the specific political/ ideological changes--or lack of change--that lurked between Obama's lines; thus, I will not do so now.
Based on historical continuity, rhetorical poetics, morale building and unifying, I give the speech an A+.