Obama: This could be the start of something big
Change has come to America, and if you don't believe it, you weren't watching the last five days' worth of inauguration coverage. Oh, some things remain the same:
Tuesday certainly had more than a few hallmarks of a standard American media fest --
But no amount of commentary could either diminish or embellish upon the incomparable size and energy level of the crowd smashed against each other along the National Mall in Washington. An inauguration is always an event, but this one was a spectacle.
It was an astonishing 20 minutes, not just politically but theatrically. Much was expected of this speech, with commentators and pundits eager for the "nothing to fear" or "ask not what your country can do for you" moment. And in the hour or so after, more than a few expressed disappointment that a "West Wing"-like sound bite did not immediately emerge. Of course, the Gettysburg Address got terrible day-after reviews, so it's hard to know. Certainly there were more than a few choice phrases. With phases such as that we "reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals" and the warning that "people will judge you on what you build, not what you destroy," the speech offered as much poetry as it did policy.
But more significant than any handy quotation was the overall tone, the utter lack of showmanship involved. Just as Obama entered the final round of debates with an obvious resolve to choose calm and clear over heated or snappy, so he uttered his first speech as president. Never before has a politician been handed such a rock-star moment, and never before has a politician steadfastly refused to accept it. Taking the podium with nary a smile, Obama got right to the point.
"We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things," he said during the vibrating silence that hung over Washington's Mall. "Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the fainthearted -- for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame."
Not an easy message, nor one Americans are used to hearing. Change is something we mostly want other people to do; our new president has made it very clear that there are no "other" people anymore. That "we are one" refers to more than just a Springsteen- and
The flags waved, the people cheered and, for a while anyway, it was hard not to believe that something big was about to begin.
(Photo courtesy Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)