President Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in today as President of the United States for the second time on the West Front of the United States Capitol building. The state of the world is markedly different this time for this inauguration, as so many of the problems then have disappeared and new challenges have now presented themselves.
At the last inauguration in 2009, the mood was both exuberant and depressing. Exuberant because a new captain would be steering the ship of state. Depressing because of the state of the economy and the deep depression of the housing crisis.
The exuberance was justified as President Barack Obama has led the nation out of the struggling economy by creating nearly five million private sector jobs. The housing crisis has also come out of its tailspin and had its best year of growth since 2005.
With this in mind, President Obama delivered what could be judged by history as one of the five or six best inaugural speeches, not just for its content, but the depth of its thought.
From the Thomas Jefferson inauguration speech in which he said, "We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists." The speech was significant in that it was the first passing of the Presidential baton, indeed an accomplishment in itself.
Or the 1865 inauguration speech of President Abraham Lincoln who said as the Civil War was coming to an end, "With malice toward none, with charity for all." It was that tone of unity and forgiveness that is well-remembered. Or Franklin Roosevelt reminding us during the very deepest of economic depressions that there is "nothing to fear but fear itself."
Of course, in recent time, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy set the tone for a generation, in words delivered before Barack Obama was born. He intoned, "Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country." Those words inspired an entire generation.
The differences between the 2009 inauguration speech and the 2013 inauguration speech is stark. In 2009 he whispered in a low voice the sound of America's civil rights progress of what he wished to see.
In the 2013 inaugural speech, President Obama raised his voice, not in the noise of a raised voice of anger, but with the soft music in the background playing and the words singing from his lips. "For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts."
He continued to intone the lyrics to the song of civil rights for all, "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," referring to the long lines from attempts of voter suppression in various states.
"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," a reference to immigration reform.
"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," acknowledging that the journey is not only not complete, but that the journey can be imperfect.
"We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall," President Obama said and implied that the imperfection of the journey does not mean we should not attempt it.
While President Obama acknowledged that "every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity." He also added that "We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future."
He said that we reject the notion that "freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us."
In a tap on the shoulder to Mitt Romney and the past campaign in which he said this was a nation of takers and makers, President Obama said that "They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great."
One of the truly inspiring inauguration speeches, that not only will be remembered for its words, but for the actions to follow.
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John is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African American studies, published by The Elevator Group, Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots. Also available an eBook on Amazon. John is also a member of the Society of Midland Authors and is a book reviewer of political books for the New York Journal of Books . John has volunteered for many political campaigns.