57th INAUGURATION DAY!
The fact that the 2nd Inauguration of the first African-American President of the US – BARACK OBAMA – comes on MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY is, I believe, very significant. I will be listening to Obama’s 2nd Inaugural Address to hear how he ties the mission and message of MLK, Jr. with the mission and message of his 2nd administration. HOPEFUL!
I hope that President Obama has time as he starts this busy day to read the Washington Post’s editorial, “Martin Luther King Jr. Day.”
After reviewing the realities of the struggles toward equality in our American culture, the editorial summarizes the message of MLK to Obama and to US on the occasion of the 57th Inauguration in US history, “Dr. King’s words ‘Free at last, free at last’ were specifically addressed not just to black Americans but to people of all faiths, colors and persuasions. He knew that they were all in need of liberation from the cruel customs and habits of the nation’s past, which held back every one of us in one way or another. He had a sense of the moment and, perhaps more important, an understanding of that past and of the “national purpose” that shone through its darkest decades and that could, he believed, some day be attained.”
I have the audacity of HOPE that that equality will be attained a few days earlier because of the Presidency of BARACK OBAMA. Do YOU?
Having been critical of President Obama’s leadership during his first term – I have articulated my evaluation that he was TOO WEAK, I found it valuable to read the column by David Maraniss, native of WI who lives part-of-each-year in MADISON, an associate editor of The Post and the author of “Barack Obama: The Story” and “First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton” – which was published by the Washington Post last Friday, Jan. 18, “A new term, a new Obama.”
Having summarized the WORLD-WIDE RENOWN of BARACK OBAMA, Maraniss hit the nail on the head with me when he wrote, “Yet even now, on Day 1,460 of his presidency, the question persists: Who is he, really? There is a common refrain that Obama seems elusive, if not mysterious; less easily categorized and understood than the last Democratic president. Bill Clinton’s traits were so extra-large and variegated, for better and worse that something in him seemed to connect to almost anybody and anything.”
He proceeds to summarize his analysis of Obama, “No doubt Obama is a different breed of cat. Aspects of his political personality are less vivid than Clinton’s. But he is not overly elusive. His mystery is hiding in plain sight. There is a pattern to his behavior, just as there was with Clinton. Where Clinton was protean, Obama is more slowly evolving. People tend to forget, or underestimate, that he had scant executive experience before becoming president. Behind his veneer of ultra-cool control he was struggling to figure things out. Now, after four years, his presidential identity has started to approach its full shape, which will become clearer from now to 2016.”
I learned a new perspective reading Maraniss' evaluation of his assessment of what he considers to be the significance of Nov. 6 – Obama’s re-election and then Dec. 14 – Tragedy in Newtown, CT which Obama himself said was his most difficult day in the White House. Maraniss writes, “It took one of the best days of his political career and the worst day of his presidency, in combination, to push his evolution to another stage. These were his reelection on Nov. 6 and the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., 38 days later. His unlikely rise had been shaped by his study of power, beginning with his days as a community organizer in Chicago, and an uncanny ability to avoid traps that would diminish power. The 2012 election, in essence, was his last trap. But the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School forced him to reconsider the moral balance of what he had done, or failed to do, to reach that point.
“If Dec. 14, 2012, was, as he said, his most difficult day in the White House, one unspoken aspect of his despair was a sense of deep remorse that, in the service of political survival, in the pursuit of power, in the obsession with avoiding traps, he had given little more than perfunctory attention to the issue of gun control. In word and deed since then, he has shown more passion and resolve. Perhaps the conscience of his late mother kicked in, her idealism finally overtaking his concern that people like her were too naive. Certainly the empathy of a father with young daughters had a transformative effect.”
Significant to read Maraniss’ claim about Obama, “In any case, he comes to this term in a new place as a man and as a politician, not only forged by the experience of his mistakes but also more integrated in character. His will to survive is less likely to contradict his will to do good. That’s likely to be evident in how he handles his larger agenda. This doesn’t mean that he will suddenly become the schmoozer, glad-handing or cajoling, that so many pundits urge him to be; or that he will abandon his tendency to compromise with his opponents, especially on budget cuts, even to the point occasionally of exasperating some supporters; or that he will immediately pursue every progressive issue (immigration reform, yes; climate change, probably not yet). It does not mean that those who demonize him as somehow apart and alien will suddenly see that his story, and his instincts, are quintessentially American. It does not ensure success, let alone greatness.” I hope Maraniss has it CORRECT! Do YOU?
I urge you to read the rest of Maraniss’ valuable and poignant article so that you too will be better acquainted with “the new Obama” that he describes. I look forward to experiencing this NEW OBAMA! Do YOU?
Adding to awareness of INAUGURAL ADDRESSES was the Wisconsin State Journal’s Editorial, “Back to the future” which gives an overview. The Inaugural Address today is the 57th.
I think it is a valuable reminder that while Obama stated in the 56th Inaugural Address on January 20, 2009, “Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new.” The editorial notes, “Not every challenge is new, of course.” Then the editorial reviews how challenges of today have been cited in previous Inaugural Addresses.
After citing THOMAS JEFFERSON, the editorial continues citing that Ronald Reagan said in his second inaugural address in 1985: “A dynamic economy, with more citizens working and paying taxes, will be our strongest tool to bring down budget deficits.” And the editorial adds, “Reagan warned that nearly 50 years of deficit spending had brought ‘a time of reckoning.’”
Just think, Regan asked, “If not us, who? And if not now, when?”
Today we need to remember the quote from President Clinton’s first inaugural address in 1993, “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.” I am sure that is true today. Are YOU?
I was HAPPY to see the editorial cite Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address on March 4, 1861, “The mystic chords of memory stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” What about the “better angels of our nature”?
Here we go…
John W. Eyster lives in the Edgerton area. He is an adjunct professor of political science at UW-Whitewater and an advocate for Project Citizen, a model curriculum for democracy/civics education in Wisconsin high schools. John is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management.