Tuesday, January 22, 2013

President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address

President Obama's Second Inauguration ceremony began while I was still in bed, and I didn’t see his speech live. Thank goodness for the White House YouTube Channel!

I liked the speech—a lot (the White House has posted a transcript). The part I liked best, not surprisingly, was when the first African American president, who is also the first president to endorse marriage equality, name-checked Stonewall and mentioned the struggle for LGBT rights and marriage equality. In fact, I liked that whole section of the speech:
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law—for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

That is our generation’s task—to make these words, these rights, these values—of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time—but it does require us to act in our time.

For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, we must act knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.
I like that section because it expresses my own attitude toward politics and social justice. And, of course, because he’s absolutely right.

The White House posted quotes from the speech, including the GLBT passage, to Barack Obama’s Twitter feed and also graphics to the White House Twitter feed as well as to their Facebook Page. The picture at right was posted to Twitter and to Facebook. We can be sure that if the other guy had won the election, such words would never have even been said, much less shared.

I remain as optimistic as ever about the possibility for progress in the US, but as wary as ever of the dark forces working hard to prevent that from happening (there are far too many examples to list). But that’s a topic for another post.

Right now, I just liked President Obama’s speech very much.


Roger Owen Green said...

Ah, Seneca Falls - in upstate NY; Selma - took place on my 12th birthday; Stonewall - in NYC. Great line, great speech. Better than the one four years ago.

Arthur Schenck said...

I thought this year's was better, too. I thought that particular part—"Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall"—was downright poetic, especially as it symbolically linked three civil rights movements together. Yep, definitely more inspiring this year.