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About the Address



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A home run, very different in its emphases from The Audacity of Hope;  much graver, more sober, and (in a good way) backward-looking. A speech like this should be, as the new president said, about “who we are” as Americans and how it is incumbent upon us to be “keepers of the legacy.”  I was struck by the allusiveness of the address, the degree to which he worked with what he called “founding documents.”  There were allusions to the great inaugural addresses of the past:  his invocation a “new generation” echoed President Kennedy’s;  the glow from Kennedy’s fire “still lights” the world of President Obama;  his “all this we can do . . .” reworked Kennedy’s “this much we pledge and more . . .”  The new President’s emphasis on America’s ability to rise to its challenges recalled the spirit of the closing line of President Reagan’s first inaugural address:  “After all—we are Americans.”  Lincoln’s (and Seward’s) “better angels of our natures” found an echo in President Obama’s exhortation to “chase our better history.”  Washington, Jefferson, and St. Paul were all quoted (or paraphrased) to good purpose.  There were, as one would expect, a few lines at which a conservative would cavil;  but on the whole I was impressed by the new President’s tone, by his précis of the American tradition, by the tribute he paid to our forebears and to those “guardians of our liberty” who are making sacrifices today, and by my sense that he himself is acutely conscious of the preciousness of the legacy with which he has been entrusted.



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