Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama's speech

Very interesting. Some commentary felt that it wasn't as impressive as the event itself, with all the crowds shouting for Obama and the intensely felt passion of the onlookers.

I disagree. First, Obama had a number of things he had to do. First, inspire confidence. Second, tell the hard truth about the tough economic circumstances we're in. Third, strike a clear chord with foreign nations about the intent of the nation internationally from this moment forward.

I thought he did all three, and did them well.

And, if you listened carefully, there were shades of Reagan, JFK, and FDR.

JFK--all call to service.

Reagan--candor about economic problems and an acknowledgment that while tough, Americans can get through this.

FDR--shaming the money lenders.

What was different, strikingly to this listener, was Obama's solution. Reagan, of course, felt that the economic ills were afflicted by government and that government was not the solution. FDR blamed Wall Street. Obama--well, he tried to craft a new path. Government is not always the solution, but it is not always the devil, either. It was interesting that he said we'll do what works and scrap what doesn't--very technocratic, and very Jimmy Carter. Pragmatism was the solution that was being peddled.

The question is, of course, if Obama can be the reconstructive president that Reagan and FDR were. If he can make good on his promise to change the tone in Washington, to get us to grow up, as it were, then perhaps. But the solution that is neither anti- nor pro-governmental strikes me as very Clinton and very pre-emptive. These presidents are successful in their own right, but do not establish long lasting legacies.

I'll keep watching and listening.

1 comment:

Matthew N. Paine said...

Dr. Parker,
Of course the pundits are disappointed. They are used to an Obama who inspires to greatness and leaves no doubt about the inevitability of success and change. When you have elevated a politician to rock star status, and all of a sudden you are asked to participate in the solution, to be a true "citizen", people get upset. Realism maybe the most valuable virtue on the part of a president. Accepting reality is most certainly the people's biggest weakness. If we stopped asking our government to be a panacea, and participated more in moving our country forward, maybe people would remember that speech more favorably. Obama's speech, to me, was eloquent and inspiring.