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Given his own cool reserve and his first-term penchant for pursuing a tepid, middle-right governing agenda, I didn’t expect to get much warmth from Obama’s inaugural address. I was surprised.
In his speech, the re-elected president actually showed some FDR, jut-jawed, presidential flair. Rooting his address in America’s solid progressive values, he issued a call for the Great Majority of our people – the middle class and the poor – to join him in a nationwide campaign to rebuild our country’s infrastructure, our ladder of upward mobility, and (most importantly) our sense of shared purpose.
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Predictably, right-wing pundits and defenders of the corporate order decried his address as partisan and socialist. But, in fact, the best word to characterize the speech is simply “American.” It was a straightforward restatement of the grassroots principles that the founders first articulated. It’s no accident that his most-used phrase (five times) was “We the people” – the opening words of the remarkably-progressive preamble to our nation’s founding document.
“We the people still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity,” Obama reminded us. “We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few… The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”
At this difficult juncture in America’s long and uncertain journey toward egalitarianism, when powerful forces of elitism are trying to push our society down the dark alley of plutocracy, this was the speech we needed.
Read it for yourself at www.whitehouse.gov/blog/inaugural-address/.