January 26, 2009 in Opinion

Outside Voices: First impressions

Inaugural address hints at how president will lead
 

About this column

Outside Voices is a weekly roundup of excerpts from recent editorials published in newspapers around the nation. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board of The Spokesman-Review.

Dallas Morning News, Jan. 23: How will “The Daily Show” survive without George W. Bush to kick around? We got a preview Tuesday night, when Comedy Central’s popular satirical news program had fun with its Inaugural Day report, comparing and contrasting lines from Barack Obama’s speech with phrases from the much-mocked Bush speeches.

Funny thing was, some of the new president’s sentiments, and even word usage, sounded a lot like the old president’s – especially when they both spoke about the sacrosanct American way of life, of the democratic imperative abroad and their plans for defending America. “The Daily Show” jokesters cracked that they hope Obama doesn’t really mean it.

In fact, for better or worse, he almost certainly does.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 22: In the afterglow of the inauguration of President Barack Obama has come the suggestion that his ascendancy marks the onset of a “post-racial” society, one in which Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream has been fulfilled and race no longer is a barrier.

Indeed, his election and inauguration are mileposts in the progress of a nation. The ascension of a man of color to the most powerful position in the world is a landmark for the ages.

But “post-racial” is a bridge too far. Strained race relations have not been relegated to the past, nor will they be just because a black family occupies the White House.

Race, nationality and economic class will continue as barriers throughout the Obama administration and afterward. The insidious effects of prejudice and discrimination have not been eradicated, nor are they likely to be at any point in the next four, or even eight, years.

Obama’s elevation has set the table. But priorities and tough choices are getting only harder.

Obama made an optimistic plea to heal America. And our nation, indeed, has many wounds that need cleansing and medicine. America is not post-racial; but as a new era begins, some stubborn vestiges may begin to dissolve into the American melting pot.

Chicago Tribune, Jan. 21: An inaugural address, Theodore Sorensen says, “stamps a brand on a new president that can last for years, both nationally and globally, as either a warrior or a peacemaker, a bore or a source of inspiration, as first-rate or mediocre.”

No pressure there.

History may decide differently, but at first blush there was no phrase in this speech that will be timeless. No “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” No “ask not what your country can do for you. …”

But in tone and substance, Obama delivered what the country needed to hear from its new president. A promise of accountability. A call for a new era of responsibility. A recognition of duty. A deep sense of the nation’s traditions and its once and future greatness.

Every inauguration of a new president is momentous, a wondrous reminder that we live in the most enduring democracy and freest society on Earth.

And yet this one was different, for no inauguration has prompted such a swelling of personal pride, such great, huge sobs of joy, as the inauguration of this first African-American president, this man from Illinois. We’ve sent our very best to Washington. President Barack Obama.

Kansas City Star, Jan. 21: Barack Obama’s inauguration, made spectacular by the joyful sea of humanity that witnessed it, provided a welcome respite from the pessimism that has gripped the nation of late.

People of all races, ages and incomes stood shoulder-to-shoulder on Washington’s National Mall to watch the swearing-in of America’s first African-American president, who has said that “in no other country on earth is my story even possible.”

It was a muscular speech, delivered by a president who clearly understands the seriousness of the problems confronting him and the nation – and who is ready to get to work on them.

Expectations for the 44th president are high – perhaps too high.

Washington is a town strewn with traps, wired to trip up whatever administration is in power.

But the public has displayed a rare appreciation and warmth for Obama and his young family as they move into the White House. In his first address as president, Obama has given notice that he intends to lead with inspiration and strength.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Jan. 21: Barack Obama made clear in his first official words as the 44th president of the United States that it is not his responsibility alone to navigate the nation through the turbulent waters ahead.

It will take the investment of brainpower and energy and determination on the part of all Americans to overcome the challenges that face the country.

And, we would add, patience. Lots of patience.

“The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works,” Obama said in a move away from the traditional liberal versus conservative comparison of government.

Considering there is nothing to harder to kill than a government program, it will take more than a sound bite to make this a reality. It will take sacrifices on the part of every citizen.


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