ANALYSIS: Obama calls for sacrifice in inaugural address

Tuesday, January 20, 2009 | 4:16 p.m. CST; updated 10:39 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 20, 2009

WASHINGTON — In the inaugural address launching his presidency, Barack Obama drew on his sense of history and the needs of the moment — the same strengths that shaped the speeches that propelled him from obscurity to the White House in four years.

In his very first sentence, Obama cited "the sacrifices borne by our ancestors" and said the confidence he feels in the face of two wars and the worst economic crisis in three-quarters of a century rests on Americans remaining "faithful to the ideals of our forebearers and ... our founding documents."

More than most politicians, Obama has relied on his formal speeches to power his ambitious career. Tuesday's address — much of which he wrote himself — signaled a sharp break with the domestic and national security policies of the Bush administration and a reaffirmation of Obama's main campaign themes.

As in his keynote address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the speech that lifted the young Illinois state senator from obscurity, and in the Iowa Jefferson-Jackson Dinner speech that launched his first national campaign, Obama said he and his nation had "chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord."

Watch Obama's 2004 DNC speech:

Watch Obama's speech at the Iowa Jefferson-Jackson Dinner:

Those words — hope and unity — have been the consistent keynotes of his political rhetoric. They will now be tested in the toughest of crucibles, as he confronts a deeply anxious nation that has attached its hopes strongly to him.

In turn, Obama was at pains in this somber inaugural to turn the burden back to them. "For as much as government can do and must do," Obama said, "it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies."

"What is demanded," he said, is a return to the old virtues and values — "hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism."

In the few substantive passages in the speech, Obama signaled a change from the Bush administration. Referring to the almost-trillion-dollar stimulus package he outlined to Congress even before he took the oath, he called for "bold and swift" action to stop the slide in jobs, manufacturing and housing. He also alluded to new initiatives, not yet specified, in energy, education, health care and technology.

Turning to national security, Obama rejected Bush's contention that the terrorist threat necessitated some sacrifice of privacy and civil liberties, saying, "We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals . ... Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake."

The biggest and most obvious change that Obama represents went almost unmentioned by him: the fact that he is the first African-American or mixed race man ever elected president. He noted the uniqueness of the fact that "a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath."

But as was the case in his campaign, Obama did not identify himself as "the black candidate for president" and he cast his appeal broadly, not toward a targeted audience.

In the one major speech of that campaign devoted to race, a March 18 address in Philadelphia designed to get him safely past the controversy stirred by the angry words of his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, Obama asserted "a firm conviction ... that, working together, we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds and that, in fact, we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union."

He told his minority constituents that "it also means binding our particular grievances, for better health care and better schools and better jobs, to the larger aspirations of all Americans — the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man who's been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family."

Obama never has lost sight of that larger constituency, which is why he was able to establish his candidacy in the unlikely locus of overwhelmingly white and largely rural Iowa. In the Jefferson-Jackson speech that keyed his victory there, he made not one reference to his own race.

In Philadelphia, Obama also addressed the theme of personal responsibility that he returned to for the inauguration. Then he said that "taking full responsibility for our own lives (means) demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism, they must always believe."

Echoing not only his own earlier words but a major theme of President George W. Bush's inauguration, he called Tuesday for "a new era of responsibility."

For his peroration, Obama turned back to the first president, George Washington, who had Thomas Paine's inspiring words read to the troops at Valley Forge, when "nothing but hope and virtue could survive."

"With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come," he said. It was the bookend to the closing words in Boston more than four years ago, when he invoked "Hope — hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope."

What speeches can accomplish, they have delivered handsomely for Barack Obama. Now, it will depend on his deeds.



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Charles Dudley Jr January 20, 2009 | 5:46 p.m.

>>> Now, it will depend on his deeds. <<<

It depends on the American Citizens over all willingness to stand up and volunteer,take a leading role and willing to help their neighbor as they help themselves.

It is all about reaching out to others and offering a hand up and not a slap down.

This country was build on volunteerism and as such volunteers are still alot of the back bone of this country in the little things they do for others that allow the whole to flourish.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 21, 2009 | 6:50 a.m.

Is this the same Obama who criticized America for its treatment of "the least of these," yet doesn't give even a basic 10 percent tithe?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 21, 2009 | 7:37 a.m.

Well I think now and in the next four years and possibly even more he will be giving his "Tithe" not just ten times over but ten times ten times and then some.

He has the toughest job ahead trying to help clean up all of the mess left to him from past Presidencies.

What people forget that all of our leaders need is the power of positive thinking and positive prayer for their guidance and wisdom in all that they do.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 21, 2009 | 7:51 a.m.

Why now? What's changed that suddenly makes it easier for him to put his money -- not someone else's, not other taxpayers' -- where his mouth is?

For the record, between 2000 and 2004, the Obama's gave less than 1 percent to charity ($10,772 total on joint earnings of $1.2 million). In 2005-2006, they gave 5 percent ($137,622 on $2.6 million). Strange -- or maybe not -- that few, if any, in the mainstream press bothered to ask them why they don't lead by example.

(Report Comment)
KEN GERINGER January 21, 2009 | 8:23 a.m.

Hey, ann ray charles, why don't you get a new hobby?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 21, 2009 | 8:33 a.m.

KEN GERINGER why don't you contribute something educational to the issue presented instead of crying about those who do.

Ayn Rand paying your "Tithe" does not have to be of a monetary value as you are presenting here. It can be volunteering physically,or organizing,being the chairman or so many other things.

Why does it always have to be about money? What was done before money became the main focus in everybody's life? People traded labor or personal time to each other on a daily basis to trade or to get what they needed. It is called the "Barter System". Lots of people still do it today in fact all over the world.

Nobody ever said paying your "Tithe" must be in monetary currency ever.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 21, 2009 | 9:07 a.m.

Chuck, one reason is because money is required to fund Social Security, Medicaid, bailouts of irresponsible consumers and businesses, roads, broadband . . . the list goes on.

Another way that Obama could have led by example is by making the inauguration a low-key affair: Just televise his oath inside the White House. No ceremonies, thereby freeing Maryland and Virginia -- more precisely, the taxpaying-residents of those states -- from the $75 million they estimated for security and other inauguration-related things. The feds -- that is, we taxpayers -- also would have saved $49 million. All of that could have been used instead to pay down our enormous state and federal debts. In fact, that's another example of why money sometimes is more important than volunteering. You can't pay cops overtime by offering to paint their homes.

He also could have requested that Steve Ballmer, Steven Spielberg and everyone else who gave $50,000 for the inauguration instead donate that to charity.

Speaking of sacrifice, can we expect Bono to announce that all profits from No Line on the Horizon and the tour will be donated to charity?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 21, 2009 | 9:30 a.m.

Ayn Rand the over all inauguration was not about him alone it was about all of America as a whole.

It was a first in history event as well which made it very special to all of us who care. Could it have been alot simpler? Sure but why being it was a first of a kind event in our history to happen after over coming so much diversity,prejudices and more.

So far the only people I have seen complaining anywhere online or in the media are the radical right wing nutz who have nothing better to do in their lives,only care about themselves and their elitists rich friends and are still having fits that the Repubs are not the "flavor of the month" anymore.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 21, 2009 | 11:20 a.m.

Chuck, all of America was not being sworn into office. It was one man. And that one man could have led by example by not only eschewing the expensive pomp and circumstance, but explaining why. Imagine the national discussion that would have prompted.

Do you really believe that this historic event would have been tarnished if it had been limited to a simple swearing-in in the White House on national TV? For the answer, try asking the roughly 300 million Americans who didn't trek to DC.

If the events were such a critical, fundamental part of this historic moment, why didn't you go? If you did, you wouldn't have gotten VIP seats for many of the events. Those went to people who made five-figure donations. So much for this being about all of America as a whole.

By the way, I wonder how many people who criticized the carmaker CEOs for flying private jets to ask for a bailout themselves flew private jets to the inauguration.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 21, 2009 | 11:57 a.m.

All of your ranting here Ayn Rand is so m00t in nature it is amazing.

You are here crying over a national if not a world wide celebration of a great importance around the world of a nation just over two centuries in age having a massive celebration to recognize our over coming of extreme prejudice,racism,back stabbing,slavery and so much more and all you can do is to criticize and piss and moan about it?

Do you even realize how important that moment was after all of the mentioned above this nation has been through?

Maybe it is best that you do not use your real name so you do not get lynched.

It never ceases to amaze me the idiotic blabbering that spews out onto this and all forums and blogs from the radical right wingnutz in this community.

So far the only people I have seen complaining anywhere online or in the media are the radical right wing nutz who have nothing better to do in their lives,only care about themselves and their elitists rich friends and are still having fits that the Repubs are not the "flavor of the month" anymore nor hopefully ever will be in the future.

Eight years was eight years to the second too do dam many!

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 21, 2009 | 12:38 p.m.

I'm not ranting, Chuck. Again, imagine the leadership and national discussion if Obama had said: "Instead of having a lavish, daylong celebration, I ask that Americans instead stay home and volunteer, or donate the money they otherwise would have spent traveling to the inauguration, all to begin making the changes that will benefit this great country as a whole and each of us individually." Imagine how many hungry children that could have fed, or how much smaller the nation's carbon footprint would have been this past week.

And again, if the events were such a critical, fundamental part of this historic moment, why didn't you go?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 21, 2009 | 1:03 p.m.

Get over yourself already and move on as so many others are doing.

Ayn Rand FYI I was invited to go and all I had to do was pay the $200.00 fee and I had my bus ticket and all provided. I chose not to go because I knew I could watch it at home and I had other obligations and I've done cross country trips by bus and they are a royal pain in the rear.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 21, 2009 | 1:27 p.m.

Ah, so not attending the inauguration did not diminish the significance of this event in your eyes. Thank you for making my point. You would think the same of Obama if you had watched a 15-minute swearing-in than hours and hours of speeches and song.

Like you, lots of other local folks went untouched by the pomp and circumstance: More than 1,000 miles away, it had a minor impact on their lives and view of Obama compared to local celebrations.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 21, 2009 | 1:48 p.m.

Ayn Rand now you are trying to put words into my posts that are not there.

What next will you claim it was all a radical left conspiracy by the Nation of Islam as a way to launder money out of the country?

I thought I saw some of those black whirlybirds out there near your home area early this morning too dropping alot of Tin Foil in and around your neighborhood.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 21, 2009 | 2:03 p.m.

I wish you would just give up and go away, like you did when you got schooled in the thread about energy savings at MU.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 21, 2009 | 3:05 p.m.

I wish you would use your real name so we all know who to laugh at with all of this radical right wingnutz propaganda you spew out here daily.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 21, 2009 | 5:14 p.m.

LOL. That's one of two stock responses you use when you've painted yourself into a corner. The other is to rant that the other poster is "uneducated" and "not presenting the true facts as they really are."

John Schultz said it best ( ): "Arguing about who 'they' really are doesn't get very far in disputing their comments."

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 21, 2009 | 5:23 p.m.

You just proved my point again. Thank you.

(Report Comment)

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