I took time out, as did a lot of Americans, and watched today’s ceremonies swearing in Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. As you might expect, I have some opinions on the ceremony and some of the participants.
I was as upset as anyone who despises hate mongering and bigotry, especially when perpetrated for personal gain, at the selection of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation. Well, karma’s a bitch for the new President. In an otherwise flawless, stately, and eloquent ceremony, Rick Warren was the low point. His speech was halting and confused. He was long-winded, and frankly sounded like some corn-pone hick (and being one myself, I know ’em when I hear ’em). His inflection and style lacked gravitas and humility and at times he seemed false, and was clearly mugging for the camera instead of concentrating on the prayer.
The next lowest point for me, frankly, was the poem. I admit to not being much of a reader of poetry, but that thing had me completely dumbfounded. I guess Mya Angelou’s poem, “On The Pulse of Morning,” at Clinton’s inauguration spoiled me. She had me in tears.
Rev. Lowery’s benediction was better poetry, and his rhetoric certainly more lofty than Warren’s.
And then, since he had to foist one last screw-up on the American people, Bush’s Chief Justice didn’t seem to bother to memorize the Constitutionally mandated oath of office. The only oath proscribed in the Constitution is the one for President, and John Roberts, Chief arbiter of the Constitution, apparently couldn’t be bothered to memorize it or at least write himself a crib note.
Obama’s speech was excellent, and touched on all the right themes. He seemed to offer a very strong repudiation to the fear and hate mongering of the past eight years. I hope his administration goes all out to reverse the scorched earth left by Bush/Cheney, Inc. He’s got a lot of work ahead of him, and he rightly called on Americans to be prepared to help. If we do, there really isn’t anything we can’t accomplish. It was a speech that called us to task for taking our eyes off the prize, and giving in to the Republican dogma of “us vs. them,” free-market greed above all else, and the fallacy of trickle down economics.
“We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. 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.”
And despite all that, I think the part I enjoyed most was watching Yo Yo Ma playing the John Williams piece with the quartet. It wasn’t so much the music, as the expression on Ma’s face. While the other performers had the usual and expected expression of concentration, Ma just had a smile of pure joy and excitement at what he was doing.
I’m a sucker for the ceremonies of state, and today’s was “high church.” Barack and Michele Obama, and his children, were just the height of grace and beauty, and it does give me some hope that maybe a new day has begun.