Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama's Inaugural Speech

All I've heard today on the radio and read on the Internet is how "disappointing" the inaugural address was. It was, depending on who you listened to or read: it wasn't special enough; it was "just a speech"; it wasn't as "soaring" enough; it was too jumbled; it was too much like a State of the Union; it was too cliched; and, in my opinion the most fucked-up criteria, it lacked in soundbites. The expectations were incredibly high, and it is to be expected that the reality fell short for many. Personally, I think it was a damn good speech. The "These things are old. These things are true." line gives me goosebumps.

But, the truth is, I don't think we here in the moment are qualified to assess whether or not it's historical and on-par with Lincoln's Second, FDR's "Fear Itself", and JFK's "Ask Not..." speeches. Things need time to sink in, time for reflection, time for history to unfold, time for the words to be looked at and appreciated in a new, more detached light. The Gettysburg Address, for instance, was not considered the height of oratory it is today when it was performed. People of that era had totally different tastes and expectations for oratory; it was only later it was really recognized for its genius.

So Obama's speech today may someday join the pantheon of great inaugural addresses (and, you know, there really are only the three, and two of them are known almost entirely for one line in each). Or not. Who knows? But even if it doesn't go down in history as anything more than a solid, but unexceptional, speech, a footnote like most inaugural speeches, hopefully he'll have a do-over in four years and really knock'em dead.

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