January 21, 2009
''We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things''
With his long awaited and eagerly anticipated Inaugural address, Barack Obama, our nation''s 44th president, offered hope to Americans desperate for change and new vision.
In a somber speech, President Obama invoked the King James Version of the Bible and George Washington as he defined his approach for leading our beleaguered country to higher ground.
"The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works ..."
Few would argue that our government has worked as it should.
Contrasting his approach with the outgoing administration, the new president said, "On this day we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
"What the cynics fail to understand," Mr. Obama said in his 20-minute address from the Capitol steps, "is that the ground has shifted beneath them -- that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply."
We welcome the new president''s helping-hand foreign policy approach: "... we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."
And to leaders "around the globe who seek to sow conflict or ... blame the West," he admonished, "Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy."
"We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals," he said, rejecting the xenophobia of his predecessor.
America''s first African American president acknowledged our "patchwork heritage" as a strength. "We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that old hatreds shall someday pass ..."
The new president acknowledged that change will not come soon or easily: "Our journey has never been ... for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. ... Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America.
"This is the source of our confidence -- the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny."
In closing, the president relied on the poetry of the English language and the example of George Washington.
"In the year of America''s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people.
"''Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive ... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it).''"
We, like those noble patriots at Valley Forge, are faced with a long, cold winter, a common danger. Again, we have done so many times in our history, Americans must muster the resolve, strength and sense of purpose to subdue our imminent danger.
In our favor, we have a new leader who brings hope, inspiration and optimism.
Yes, America, we can.
1. Voice of the people: Mayor Robert E. Smith Sr. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)
3. Ray Mosby: Why community newspapers matter LOCAL COLUMNS