The Grey Chronicles

2009.January.22

The Audacity of Obama


On 20 January 2009 [21 January, Philippine Time], the United States of America inagurated its first African-American President. I waited and watched every pre-inaguration show on different TV channels, and even read several articles, reports, and write-ups on Obama’s ascendance.

I was also fortunate to view the Australian TV’s feature: “Dreams of Obama,” which chronicled Obama’s humble beginnings to his rise to the most powerful seat in the known world. I would later find out that the same was to be shown as a special feature of a local TV station, Studio 23, twelve hours later.

I also read Obama’s unauthorized biography by one Webster Griffin Tarpley (2008), which took off from Obama’s own Dreams of My Father, to news articles, blogs, and wikis regarding his doubtful birthright, his connections to shady figures, and many parallels between Obama and the young Mussolini. Thus, by the time the Inauguration was started, I was pumped up to listen very carefully on what the man has to say.

Obama\'s Inaugural Address

Obama's Inaugural Address

Obama’s inaugural speech was better than what GMA gave last 20 January 2001 as the 14th President of the Republic of the Philippines. GMA’s concern was “both trepidation and a sense of awe”. Obama’s was of crises and challenges. [Ah. . different circumstances, of course!] The next day, former president’s speechwriters would claim that the speech had “no memorable theme” (William Safire, a speechwriter for President Richard Nixon), “was well written, structured and paced” (Jeff Shesol, a deputy chief speechwriter to President Bill Clinton), “giving no offense” (Gordon Stewart, a speechwriter to President Jimmy Carter) and “left us all wanting more” (Mary Kate Cary, a speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush) (New York Times, 2009).

In the blogworld, however, the speech sounded like from a pastor not a president or bloggers wanted a more rousing speech more like Obama’s 2004 convention speech, A More Perfect Union, or his Grant Park victory speech.

What I liked about Obama’s speech was his first words: “My fellow citizens” which meant to exclude non-citizens. [This is reminiscent of GMA’s inaugural greeting: mga kapatid ko dito sa EDSA at sa buong Pilipinas, translated into my siblings in EDSA and the whole of Philippines, which unfortunately left out millions of Filipinos ekeing a living on foreign shores]. Other notable snippets of the speech were:

“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met.”

Annotations : They will be met through what? A Billion-dollar loan to the banks, the industry and others? Lucky Americans, at least they have billions to spare! Woe to us, FIlipinos have billions only in debt!

“But in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”

Annotations : If Obama is a practicing Muslim, as his detractors claim him to be, then is he quoting the Holy Bible here, or the Qu’ran? Also, the phrase: the time has come to set aside childish things, would generate 106,000 pages in Google search.

“This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week, or last month, or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.” [emphasis mine]

Annotations : Unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed, is like throwing stones to GW Bush! In the last statement, Obama categorically said that Americans fell and from that fall to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again. Simply, Poetic!

“As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man — a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience sake.”

Annotations : Again, GW Bush’s choice between safety and ideals?

“And so, to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born, know that America is a friend of each nation, and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity. And we are ready to lead once more. ”

Annotations : Finally, a U.S. President with cajones brave enough to admit that the U.S. had not been leading the free world as it used to lead decades back.

“We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken — you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.” [emphasis mine]

Annotations : An allusion to the events of 9/11’s destruction of the World Trade Center?

“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.”

Annotations : This sentence was used by political opponents of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to criticize her administration.

At the end of the program, Rev. Joseph Lowery gave the benediction, and found this line interesting:

“ Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around . . . when yellow will be mellow . . . when the red man can get ahead, man . . . and when white will embrace what is right.”

Annotations : This line was a rephrasing of a very old and very terrible rhyme that is widely-known in the Black community as quoted by gad-fly.


Notes:

Tarpley, Webster Griffin (2008), Barack H. Obama: The Unauthorized Biography. California: Progressive Press, September 2008. 440pp. back to text

New York Times (2009) ‘The Speech’: The Experts’ Critique. New York: New York Times, 20 January 2009. back to text

Disclaimer : The posts on this site are my own and doesn’t necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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