Archive - Jan 21, 2013

The Inauguration

The light snow was enough to turn the the minimal Martin Luther King Day evening commute into a traffic jam, so I sat in the car listening to reports of inauguration day. At lunch time, I watched President Obama's speech with coworkers who spend a lot of time focused on effective communications. It seemed like the pundits had heard a different speech, but perhaps that reflects the different frameworks we heard it from.

On the news, people talked about the speech in terms of the political conflicts of the day. Did President Obama extend enough of an olive branch to get us past the next debt ceiling deliberation or fiscal cliff folly? Will he be able to make headway on the legislative agenda implied in his speech? It all seemed so transactional, so petty, so caught in the moment.

I listened to it from a broader perspective, where did it fit on the arc of history, from the Gettysburg Address and Emancipation Proclamation to Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech? I've often bewailed the lack of great speeches in modern day politics. Perhaps it is because of the focus on the soundbite and the immediate win. This speech did not have those flaws, or, as it seems some modern day pundits believe, those essential elements.

It fit well with the inauguration poem; 'One Today'. The poem, like the inaugural address was not part of some transactional moment, but instead took its appropriate place on the arc of history. As I watched Richard Blanco and thought of Chief Justice Roberts, I thought that Blanco had the loftier seat. Inauguration poems are something to remember, to savor, much more than so many of the Supreme Court decisions.

I remember the inauguration of a college president I attended. The inaugural poet was Denise Levertov, and her words have stuck with me for decades. I remember reading a story about about a farmwife heading to the county fair, and only seeing the quilts. For me, I'll remember the wordcraft. Later, I shall spend time reading Blanco's poems. Bu now, bedtime approaches. I'm tired, but still I must pause to practice putting words together and praise those who have do so, so eloquently.

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