From Mr. Cool, a Brisk Shower
President Barack Obama, who made his political reputation as an elegant orator, couldn’t possibly have lived up to the rhetorical expectation millions of Americans had for his historic inaugural address. So he didn’t try. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t deliver.
From the first minute of his speech, Obama seemed braced to get to work and not bask too much in the joy and the glory that has been bursting out all around the capital city. Inaugural addresses, Obama said, are sometimes delivered amid prosperity and peace. And sometimes, the oath is taken “amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.” He left no doubt that this is a moment of such turbulence.
At times, Obama even slipped out of inaugural lyricism and into state-of-the-union prose: He promised such prosaic goods as roads and bridges, electric grids and alternative fuels. Of course, he met the moment in other ways, invoking perilous days when the Revolution seemed it might be lost, and summoning the civil rights legacy to which he owes so much by noting that his own father might not have been seated at a segregated local restaurant.
Still, the speech had the feel of a Carl Sandburg poem, fitting for a president who hails from Chicago. Could it be that Obama sees the task before him as one fit for hog butchers, tool makers, stackers of wheat, freight handlers, and those who are stormy, husky and brawling?
The big shoulders of America, he said, need to get back to work. Without a doubt, they want to.
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