Inauguration Day 2009

I didn’t get to watch President Obama’s inaugural address while it was going on, but I got to see Bush leaving in his helicopter while I was eating a sub at Jersey Mike’s. One of the workers waved to the television set and said “bye, bye,” and another remarked, “Good riddance.” But the thought that went through my mind was, “You’ll always be my President.”

I was a little sad to see Bush go. At the same time, I didn’t feel as sad as I did when Reagan left office. I think the reason is that Reagan could make a connection with me, even when I was a child and relatively apolitical. Although I always liked Bush’s humor, charm, humility, and friendliness to all he met, he didn’t really make that deep of a connection with me as a viewer, probably because he didn’t speak to the American people all that often, and, when he did, he came across as rather rehearsed.

I stopped by the library to pick up some books, then I returned home and found that I had a package waiting for me in the rental office. I went there and said “Hi” to the workers. “Obama’s now President,” one of them cheerfully remarked. “Yippee,” I sarcastically retorted. Interestingly, the other worker there, an African-American with dreadlocks, had pretty much the same reaction that I did. That should teach me not to stereotype!

I entered my apartment and turned on the TV to see if the inauguration was replaying on any channel. It was–on C-Span 3, which was showing a Canadian station’s coverage.

I can’t say I was moved that much. Rick Warren’s prayer was all right, though it was a little long-winded. He tried to bring Jesus into it without being offensive. He affirmed that Jesus changed his life, right before he said the name of Jesus in multiple languages.

The swearing in ceremonies were all right. I liked it when Biden said “Thank you, Mr. Justice” after John Paul Stevens had sworn him in, since that was a gesture of friendliness. The highlight, of course, was John Roberts’ swearing in of Barack Obama. It was a little awkward, and I was reminded of that Saturday Night Live skit in which Dan Quayle was portrayed as stumbling through the oath of office. But the news anchor said it was Roberts’ fault, as have numerous news outlets. Naaah, the media’s not in the tank for Obama!

As Obama gave his address, I noticed the reactions of various people in the audience. Hillary was grinning, Bill looked grim, Bush II appeared sad, and Bush I had on a really funny hat–like that Russian one George wore on Seinfeld.

As far as the speech itself went, it was all right. It was somewhat contradictory, though. Obama trashed the American desire for luxury, while saying he wanted more jobs. Um, the first kind of feeds into the second, Mr. Obama, unless you expect all of the jobs to be government-created! If I could sum up his speech, its motto would be, “Ask what your country can do for you, and ask what you can do for your country.” He said that the government should do more to guarantee people a job and a good standard of living, while he also stated that we should serve others and work together to make our country a better place. He called for sacrifice in a way that echoed Jimmy Carter’s “malaise” speech, even as he appealed to America’s hopes and dreams, in John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan mode. And he made a call for national unity, right after he implicitly trashed the preceding Administration.

He vowed to help other countries, neglecting to mention that President Bush was big on foreign aid himself. He said we can fight terrorism while remaining consistent with American ideals, even though I read in Newsweek today that he has yet to explain how he’ll do that. I mean, even liberal Newsweek asked what he’ll do with the bad apples in Guantanamo after he closes the facility, since not everyone there is innocent!

After President Obama’s solemn speech, someone read a poem, which wasn’t quite as memorable as Maya Angelou’s poem about the rock at Bill Clinton’s 1992 inauguration. Then, a pastor gave a long benediction, in which he tried to be witty about the races: “Yellow,” “white,” etc. I wonder if someone would get away with that kind of stereotyping at a Republican inauguration!

There was something special about the convention: I got to see Yo-Yo Ma play the fiddle! I hadn’t seen him since his appearance on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood several years before (which I saw as a rerun).

Plus, I got to see Dick Cheney in a wheelchair. I wondered if he was like FDR–making us think he could walk, when actually he was in a wheelchair the whole time. In actual fact, he hurt his back while packing to leave. I also want to mention: I only thought about Mr. Potter after the inauguration was over.

Did I get anything edifying from the festivities? I suppose I thought about the importance of loving others and working together to make this country a better place. One thing Ronald Reagan always said was that we should rely less on government and more on private initiative. Obama didn’t say we should rely less on government, but he did exhort us to do our part to improve this great country. I like the way that he modelled that yesterday on Martin Luther King Day, when he said we should honor King by doing community service.

I was also reminded of the religious heritage of this country. Obama reverently bowed his head in prayer to God, and the African-Americans in his audience fervently prayed along during the invocation and benediction. I’m ashamed to say this, but I often see conservatism as “God’s side,” and liberalism as “the other side.” And the media feeds this notion when they treat evangelicalism as a movement within the GOP. But there are godly people who are rooting for Barack Obama, and Obama seems to recognize his own reliance on almighty God.

One of the Obama girls told her father that he made a pretty good speech, and the news anchor said that this is something that will be special about the Obama Administration: it has children, who will add humor and life to a dreary national condition. I once read an interview with a McCain supporter, who remarked that he’s drawn to Obama because he reminds him of John F. Kennedy, who had children in the White House. I remember that many people were similarly enamored with the Bush twins in 2000: one was smart and went to Yale, while the other was a party animal and went to the University of Texas. We like novelty as we delve into public figures’ personal lives. But it’s good to have children in the White House to brighten our drab condition, as long as Obama doesn’t consult his daughters for advice on nuclear weaponry (Carter).

Finally, I liked what the news anchors said about the affection between the Bushes and the Obamas. President Bush has gone out of his way to make a smooth transition to the Obama Presidency, and Laura Bush gave Michelle Obama a lot of helpful advice. On a personal level, the Bushes are a class act, and there’s a part of me that will miss them.

Now, onto a new day!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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6 Responses to Inauguration Day 2009

  1. Anonymous says:

    From the National Law Journal:

    “Here is the text of the oath as it is supposed to read:

    ‘I (name) do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” (The words “so help me God” are added if the president wants them — and Obama did.)

    Here, from MSNBC, is exactly how it went:

    ROBERTS: I, Barack Hussein Obama…
    OBAMA: I, Barack…
    ROBERTS: … do solemnly swear…
    OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear…
    ROBERTS: … that I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully…
    OBAMA: … that I will execute…
    ROBERTS: … faithfully the office of president of the United States…
    OBAMA: … the office of president of the United States faithfully…
    ROBERTS: … and will to the best of my ability…
    OBAMA: … and will to the best of my ability…
    ROBERTS: … preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
    OBAMA: … preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
    ROBERTS: So help you God?
    OBAMA: So help me God.
    ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.’

    They both made mistakes. It has to be spoken and repeated EXACTLY as it is written–that rule is actually written into the Constitution. They may, according to some legal sources, have to do a repeat (in private, of course) because of that rule.

    It is not that big of a deal. Roosevelt dropped the bible, after all. But the media will replay it until everyone but themselves are sick of it. In Obama’s own words, it is time to “put aside childish things”. While realizing he was speaking of larger issues, focus on this slip up is, indeed, a “childish thing”. Janice (aka Mom)


  2. Anonymous says:

    That is something I’m sure some “conspiracy theorists” have thought about, lol.
    But, since he was President several minutes before he took office, and it has undoubtedly been corrected by now, those theorists will have to come up with something equally as funny.
    (-: Janice (aka Mom)


  3. Anonymous says:

    I watched it live, it was an historical moment after all. I do applaud that we have seemingly bridged our horrible past. But, in the real work-a-day world, probably not.
    I thought he seemed very tense prior to the oath. Probably, if he is like any of us, he was thinking “I want to get this exactly right”. You can be sure he had said it a thousand times in his mind. Thus, with the help of Justice R, another moment for the media. Although funny how Michelle just never flinched…..could it have been planned? Oops, that would be the conspiracy theorist part of me coming out. LOL!!! A second oath probably was a good idea, but no bible in that one.
    Anyway, yep, to focus on it would be childish. The focus on a lot of things in this first few months is going to be utterly childish when we should all get serious.
    I had to yawn a little with Rick Warren. He wasn’t supposed to be giving a sermon after all. And the Rev’s goofy ending to the benediction – just comic relief or what? Shook my head on that one. Who can get away with that…or better yet, who couldn’t? (I wonder if Obama was groaning under his breath.)
    Children in the White House? Does that really affect us as Americans or just provide us more with which to report on and be enamoured and sidetracked when necessary.
    Will Obama be able to get by with anything like JFK just cause his voters luv him?

    I am SOOOO tired of the news right now, think I’ll take a break. Oh wait, what would I do without my Fox News in the a.m.?
    And so it goes.
    Enjoyed your blog.
    Aunt C


  4. James Pate says:

    Hi Aunt C. I hope we do bridge our past. It’s good that we have an African-American President, but one who acknowledges that African-Americans too need to assume responsibility for their lives. In other words, he sees beyond victimology, which turns a lot of people off.


  5. James Pate says:

    Ultimately, the success of Obama’s economic plan will have to be measured by how many private sector jobs he creates. It’s best to have more jobs that put money into the tax pool rather than taking it out, and the jobs that do that are ones in which people pay to receive things they want–luxuries.

    I hope this makes sense. I may not be able to discuss it a lot today, since I have papers, but feel free to say whether or not what I just said makes sense to you.


  6. James Pate says:

    Not all jobs can be government financed (e.g., infrastructure, renewable energy, maybe planting trees). We need private sector jobs that can give money to the government. Not all jobs can be on the dole.

    How’s it done in New Zealand?


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