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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/23/09

Obama's Inaugural Address: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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Considering the fact that Obama’s Inaugural Address functions as a “call to serve” and an assessment of the fierce urgency of now, all should read and re-read the words in Obama’s address. The inaugural address is the lens with which Obama will view the first year or two of his presidency and provides indication of what kind of president he will be.

Before picking apart phrases and paragraphs within the address, criteria for assessment must be established. Comments offered will stem from thinking which is rooted in many ideas presented by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his “Beyond Vietnam” speech because a majority of Obama’s Inaugural Events focused on the legacy of Dr. King.

America must reject violence and militarism, its citizens must raise their voices against America’s perverse ways, and society must shift from a “thing-oriented society” to a “person-oriented society.”

The past eight years featured Wall Street bailouts, raging militarism and violence in the Middle East, warrantless wiretapping, torture, arbitrary detention of human beings, moves toward theocracy, a suppression of science, and a rise in the culture of greed, intolerance, and bigotry in America. All of this was a result of U.S. government.

The hope for change must be a hope that love has the last word.

The Good

“On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.”

Obama’s suggestion that he might rule with optimism rather than with fear is a welcome one. One of the hallmarks of the Bush Administration will always be the fear used to rally Americans to respond to 9/11 and then the fear used to convince Americans to support a war in Iraq that we know all know to be based on lies.

“…Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.”

The notion that “risk-takers” may provide a better future for America than those seeking leisure and pleasures of riches and fame is a worthy point to be made. The success of Obama’s presidency does not rest on what Obama does but rather what the people do in response to the actions Obama takes.

The people will have a choice for at least four years (if not more) to let Obama set the terms for change or to keep their voices raised high. Being vociferous in demands can only strengthen this country and its future; it can only help heal the world, which has suffered so much over the past eight years because widespread complicity among the American people.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.”

That Obama did not simply speak about hope or change but acknowledged that it will take rigorous effort to achieve our wildest dreams is a fine point. The “we” may be a device used in his speech and he may not really mean it. He may want us all to feel like we are part of the team.

Regardless, cognitive dissonance can do a lot to bring about change. When the people think something the politician didn’t mean, that’s not necessarily a bad thing so long as they never admit they knew he didn’t really mean he would, for example, end war or feed the hungry, etc. The mere suggestion is enough to strengthen any movement for real change.

“As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”

This point in Obama’s address should remind one of the Benjamin Franklin quote, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

It seems to mean that Americans should not have to fight the “war on terror” by giving up civil liberties or any of its freedoms.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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