Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Obama Inaguration: In Praise Of Simple Gifts

I’m still feeling stoked by Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday. While I didn’t think it was as rousing as it might have been, it still set a new, higher standard of conduct for the US to live up to. It was prose, not poetry, austere, not flamboyant and rooted in a plainspoken vernacular rather than coated in sugary platitudes. The John Williams piece, "Air And Simple Graces," performed by Iztak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma, is based on an old Shaker song called "Simple Gifts":
'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.
This seems to me an appropriate tone for the task of reclamation at hand. Highlights:

Aretha Franklin digging deep on "My Country Tis Of Thee" (and her hat!):

A pre-recorded Perlman & Yo-Yo smokin’ on “Air and Simple Gifts”:

Rahm Emanuel hamming it up:

Chief Justice John Roberts fudging the oath!

My favourite section of Obama’s speech:

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's sake.

And so, to all 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.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.

They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy, guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations.

For those words to be realized, Obama must pursue the Bush administration's war crimes:

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