Obama Will Not Disappoint Us on Monday

by Jamison Koehler on January 19, 2013

Four years ago on Monday, at 11:50 am, I was standing in a courtroom in Philadelphia – I think it was in front of Judge Kosinski, always one of my favorite judges there – when the judge unexpectedly broke for recess. Be back at 1:00 pm, he instructed the courtroom.

I rushed down to the 4th floor of the building. There, crammed into the conference room of the public defender’s satellite office at the Criminal Justice Center, I watched Barack Obama’s swearing-in ceremony on a small black-and-white television with bad reception. There were four or five of us in the room, and although people were normally pretty discreet when it came to politics at the PD’s office, the sense of excitement was palpable.

With all the preparations underway for Obama’s second inauguration on Monday, I was thinking back to this while driving into the District yesterday morning. According to the Associated Press, 600,000 to 800,000 people are expected to show up on the Mall on Monday. This is down from the 1.8 million who attended four years ago.

Although people have bemoaned the lack of excitement associated with this inauguration, it is only natural that the second term of an administration is going to generate less interest. Many people – even ardent supporters – have been disappointed by the lack of progress on their pet issues over the past four years. You can only take on so much at once, and reality trumps principle every time. And, because we already know what we will be dealing with, there is not that awed sense of endless possibility as we project our hopes onto the newly elected leader.

I myself find the lack of interest oddly re-assuring:  It is a positive sign for this country that the presidential inauguration of an African-American man with “Hussein” for a middle name has now become ho-hum news.  Sometimes a lack of newsworthiness is a good thing.

Obama will not disappoint us. Although Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy are recognized as among the best presidential speechmakers over the last 100 years, and their words were often inspirational, there was also something sophomoric – a certain hokiness – about some of their rhetorical techniques.  The use of parallel phrasing in “There is a nothing to fear but fear itself” and “Ask not what you country can do for you…” is a cute technique.  But it also makes the speeches appear somewhat dated.  People just don’t make speeches like that anymore.

A certain plain-spokenness did much to enhance George W. Bush’s speeches. The address he gave to the nation to justify the invasion of Iraq was, I think, a masterpiece. I remember being spell-bound. For his part, Obama seems able to combine the plain-spokenness of a George W. Bush with the inspiration and cadence of a John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King, Jr.  And he does it without the gimmicks. Or the lies.

By the accounts I have seen, Obama does not have a Ted Sorensen or a Peggy Noonan.  He does not turn over his speechwriting to a committee.  Instead, he relies on the smartest man in the room – himself.  And that man also turns out to be a pretty good speechwriter.

As for where I will be during this second inauguration, I am sure I will be too busy to watch Obama’s address. Unlike four years ago, I certainly won’t hurry out of court to watch it. But this is a good thing. It is comforting to know that I can watch his speech later on the Internet with the knowledge that whatever he says, it will be the right thing.  It is also re-assuring to think that, now that we have passed the milestone of electing an African-American as president, the emphasis this time will be where it should be:  We will focus not on who Obama is but on where he plans to take us.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Jay McConnell January 19, 2013 at 7:20 am

thanks Jamie,

You are right to point this out. Even with all of the political shenanigans we have been subjected to over the past 4 years, and it continues, for me there is a calmness as our president, with his calm, steady hand takes the oath again and continues to do the job with the intellect, and wisdom I expect from any commander in chief. He is a great man! History will bear this out.

Jamison Koehler January 19, 2013 at 7:23 am

Hello Jay. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

James C. Morant January 19, 2013 at 7:34 am

Jamie – Your richest statement is noted in the last sentence, “We will focus not on who Obama is but on where he plans to take us”. To me, that means we will actually consider the content of his character and not the color of his skin. He has been given every negative moniker imaginable, including the recent FOX news slip-up, calling it the N***Inaugural. So, we shall see if your statement bears fruit. I sure hope so…I STILL have a dream….

Jamison Koehler January 19, 2013 at 7:45 am

James: I hadn’t heard about the Fox thing. It is easier to understand when coming from an insecure and ignorant idiot. But a major TV network? Very scary. Very scary indeed.

I once saw the head of the American Nazi party and the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan being interviewed together on some talk show. The Nazi guy was in full uniform and exactly as you would have expected him to be. But what was so scary was that the Klan guy — I think it may have been David Duke — was well-educated and very articulate.

Steve Crowley January 19, 2013 at 7:57 am

What evidence is there that Fox called it the “N***Inaugural?”

Monica Ojeda January 19, 2013 at 9:54 am

Hello Mr. Jamison. I am sure mine will not be the popular opinion here but I wanted to say that when Obama gave his first Acceptance speech over 4 years ago, I was touched, impressed and so hopeful for the future of this country. But words are not enough to carry a nation into a better state. The actions, the decisions and, most importantly, the statistics are what show if some one is doing the right thing . I do not support Obama because based on the statistics, his decisions have not improved our country. I am referring the rise in crime, rise in unemployment, rise in illiteracy, rise in the number of people on welfare, shall I go on?

Ray Koehler January 19, 2013 at 10:27 am

I enjoyed this blog entry. And that is saying something because I have a fundamentally opposing view as to what is happening. I would like to express it without sounding alarmist or supporting any of the extremist movements out there. This blog says that now as we enter the President’s second term, it’s pretty much business (or life) as usual for us here in the good ole U.S. of A. In fact, so much so that you, Jamie, may be too busy to catch the inauguration live (I’ll believe that only if I see it). And so, with all our attention on other “more important” things, the basic undermining of our basic liberties can continue. I will cite one example of how easily our attention and positive energies can be misdirected. While the media and many others get all worked up about gun control, I signed a petition to the White House asking for an investigation into the link between school violence and psychiatric drugs. The petition was closed with a message “Thank you for you interest in gun control.” We had to reopen another petition and try again. My point is no “solution” will solve anything if one does not get to the REAL causes of things. No government can give freedom and rights to a people. The people have to insist on those things. I don’t fear the people. If I were to fear anything, it would be this government and the attitude of a populace that says “carry on as before.”

Geneva Yelle January 19, 2013 at 10:54 am

Well said Jamie. I love Obama . . .

Jamison Koehler January 19, 2013 at 11:08 am

Ray:

I fear certain groups of people far more than I fear the “government.” Left unregulated and unchecked, these groups pose far greater threats to our well-being and security than this amorphous “government” we keep hearing about. These groups are why we have environmental and consumer protection, civil rights, criminal, and other types of laws. In other words, they are why we have government. And if we don’t like the governments we have, at the local, state and federal levels, then we can change them.

I go about my business because I CAN go about my business, secure in the belief that our federal government is in good hands with Obama at the helm. As for the statistics, the challenges we face today are despite President Obama, not because of him. Finally, as for these “other more important” things that supposedly distract us from the threats of this sinister and conspiratorial government, I think everyone would be better off if we all tended to our own garden just a little bit more.

Jamison Koehler January 19, 2013 at 11:31 am

P.S. to Blog Script: Unless she is pulling my leg, my very learned sister Geneva informs me that FDR’s phrase “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” is an example of “syntagmatic isolexism.” JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you . . .” is an “antimetabole.”

George January 19, 2013 at 7:44 pm

We are FAR better off than we were before Obama took office. The idea that we have higher crime, higher illiteracy, etc. is pure fiction. It smacks of racism to me, and I’m sick of it. I am so proud that our country has had the good sense to elect Obama, not once, but twice!

Joan January 20, 2013 at 8:08 am

The fact that so many thoughtful people can disagree – and with such verbal eloquence – says a lot about the country in which we live. I, for one, would rather look to the future where “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”!

Jamison Koehler January 20, 2013 at 9:03 am

Hello Joan! Thank you for that syntagmatic isolexism.

Monica Ojeda January 20, 2013 at 9:26 am

I like Joan! And George, you should open you eyes.

Sage Brush January 20, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Jamison – If you end up not having time to watch Obama’s second inauguration tomorrow, check out today’s swearing in at your leisure. I think you will find it short and, in the truest sense of the word, sweet. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/closeread/2013/01/the-third-inaugural-obamas-quiet-ceremony.html

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