Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

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Obama's Big Day - aka Everyone's a Critic

The view of all those people was breathtaking. I also enjoyed watching Perlman and Ma playing off each other toward the end of John Williams' composition, and was thrilled with the playing of clarinetist Anthony McGill. He gets an amazingly pure tone out of his instrument. And what I could hear of the US Navy Band playing Sousa marches after the ceremony was so good - I hope someone is making a CD. The 21-gun salute with artillery instead of rifles took me by surprise, and was pretty impressive.

Other than that, it was pretty blah for me.

I'm not a big fan of Aretha Franklin when she goes into screamer mode. I did not enjoy her way too highly stylized arrangement of My Country 'tis of Thee. And I'd have preferred America The Beautiful at that point in the festivities, anyway.

The invocation was lame. After all the hoopla about the allegedly reverend Rick Warren, his Jesus-centric speech, ending in The Lord's Prayer (delivered as if it was about Jesus, and not an Old testament psalm written by a Jew), was uninspiring, uninspired and in a reedy voice not worthy of the huge audience and historic occasion.

Obama blew his oath of office, because he forgot the first rule of acting - listen to the guy feeding you your cues. He delivered his speech with solidity and calm, and covered everything which needed to be covered. But it was a speech without passion, without inspiration, and without any memorable lines which will be remembered 10 years from now. There was no "ask not", no "fear itself", no "new frontier". One line did tweak the poet in me:

"To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist" (the italics are mine - that's the part I'll remember). Perhaps the most important thing he said was "we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals". Not very eloquently put, but to me a huge reason we were not swearing in President McCain today.

In editorial writing class we used to call this "workman-like" writing. He said what he wanted and needed to say, and that's about all. Like his idol Lincoln, I think he will be remembered for other speeches, other lines, not his inaugural speech. His "Yes we can...yes we will" speech is already a classic.

A couple of things bothered me about his speech. First and foremost, he mentioned his father at least twice, but not his mother, or the grandparents who raised him. While I was thrilled to hear him say "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers", I was not thrilled to hear him invoke God three times in his last two sentences.

He started the speech with a mistake. "Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath", he said. Well, no, only 43 men have been President. Grover Cleveland was both the 22nd and 24th President, which makes you the 44th President but only the 43rd person to take the oath of office.

There was no fire, no passion, and he was only interrupted by applause once, and then it was half-hearted, in response to his hypothetical line, "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." And he could have said 40 years ago. Heck, when he was born it was still illegal in half the US for his parents to be married.

I had hoped for more. But to paraphrase MLK, I will judge him not by the color of his speeches, but by their content.

The full text of Obama's speech is here on Yahoo News. Details about the pre- and post-game show participants are on about.com's music section.
Tags: politics

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