Once again Nancy and I were on the road to Yosemite during the inauguration. It meant we heard most of it on the radio and missed the visuals. That’s OK: the oratory was more than enough. Even the president’s strongest opponents must admit he’s a brilliant and articulate speaker.
Some of the highlights for me:
- The fact that he was reelected. The Republican Party and several incredibly wealthy people spent obscene amounts of money to defeat him, and yet our votes could not be bought or intimidated.
- While the crowds were not nearly as large as they were four years ago it speaks volumes that nearly a million people showed up.
- And now for some quotes: “[W]e, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.”
- “The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative. They strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers. They free us to take the risks that make this country great.”
- “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.”
- The elegant symmetry that we celebrated this on the day we celebrate Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The part of his speech that I found the most moving and surprising was his words on our gay brothers and sisters. He and I have both been prodded in our support of gay marriage by brave gay men and women who cared about us enough to challenge our prejudices. Now we both support for them what we have been blessed to take for granted for us.
Though not quoted directly in this speech, President Obama has often quoted Dr. King’s “fierce urgency of now.” Dr. King used it initially in his opposition to the war in Vietnam but it’s a quote for the ages. It counters the argument that while what you want may be valid, we’re not ready for it. If it’s right, it’s right now. It is that time for full gay equality.
The Republican response was as expected as it was tiresome. They claim that he did not reach out to those who did not vote for the president. This after their candidate claimed it was not his job to care about people who don’t support him. This after his predecessor George W. Bush famously said on his reelection: “I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style.”
My advice to the president is this: Take off the gloves. The Republicans took the gloves off the day you announced you were running for president and all your attempts to negotiate with them were fruitless because they never intended to negotiate with you. The debt ceiling, gun control, the promises we’ve made to our veterans and the elderly: they never had any intention of working for a solution. All they ever wanted was your defeat and they failed at that. In the last 20 years there have been 6 presidential elections and they received the majority of the votes in one of them.