“I stand here today humbled by the task before us.” With these words began the historic presidency of Barack Obama.
Obama laid out the challenges facing the nation, “That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.” (Story continues below).
The new president addressed the injured American self confidence, “These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land – a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.”
Obama senses that the nation needs leadership, and showed that he is willing to provide it, “Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America – they will be met.”
Obama signaled a change in philosophy on marketplace regulation, “Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control – and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart – not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.”
Obama mentioned the history being made today, “This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed – why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.”
If anyone needed a 15 minute crash course on Obama, this was it. All the traits that made him president were all here, confidence, leadership, and hope. This day is historic, not just because of the color of the man delivering the address, but also because this is a critical moment in history.
One can’t escape the sense that our nation is at a fork in the road. The American ideal has been damaged and bruised. The capitalistic system went unchecked and ran amok, but more than anything there is a sense that we lost our values. In Obama many people see a chance to redefine America, as a nation guided by hope, not fear.
It is impossible to know how Obama’s inaugural address will be remembered by history, but the moment Barack Obama took the oath of office, the presidency changed forever. The inauguration of Barack Obama will be remembered forever, and his address really was one for the ages.
Photo credit: Mark Halpern’s The Page