The Inaugural Speech President Obama Should Have Made

“I know you’re scared and angry. Many of you have lost your jobs, your homes, your hope. This was a disaster, but it was not a natural disaster. It was made by Wall Street gamblers who speculated with your lives and futures. It was made by conservative extremists who told us that if we just eliminated regulations and rewarded greed and recklessness, it would all work out. But it didn’t work out. And it didn’t work out 80 years ago, when the same people sold our grandparents the same bill of goods, with the same results. But we learned something from our grandparents about how to fix it, and we will draw on their wisdom. We will restore business confidence the old-fashioned way: by putting money back in the pockets of working Americans by putting them back to work, and by restoring integrity to our financial markets and demanding it of those who want to run them. I can’t promise that we won’t make mistakes along the way. But I can promise you that they will be honest mistakes, and that your government has your back again.” ~~NYT 8/7/11

The New Fireside Chat

Franklin Roosevelt used radio, the prevailing medium of the day, to communicate directly with the American people and to reassure them during the dark days of the Great Depression.

President Obama, appearing on Jay Leno's show this week, is attempting to do the same kind of thing, using the prevailing medium of this day (if in fact there is only one).

Time will tell if this approach will be effective, but a whole lot more people were watching and responding to his engaging style than had it been a "Presidential Address."

"Town hall meetings and West Wing news conferences do not convey the notion that the president is one of us. Making jokes on a talk show and drawing simple analogies for complicated issues -- which he did with great skill as a candidate – were a way to reassure and befriend viewers. The White House tapped Mr. Leno because he is viewed as the voice of the average Joe. At times, Mr. Obama managed to out-everyman Mr. Leno. “I do think in Washington it’s a little bit like `American Idol," Mr. Obama said with a grin. “Except everybody is Simon Cowell.” (New York Times)

Another Look At The Inaugural Speech

I'm not a regular viewer of "The Daily Show," so thanks to my friend Donna for sending this video, and snapping me back to reality (wait a second or two for it to load).

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose?


"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

"Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils 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 that we are ready to lead once more."

"We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

(Click here for the full text of the Inaugural Address)

Obama's BlackBerry

From today's New York Times:

"Of all the fights facing Mr. Obama as he prepares for the White House, one of the most maddening for him is the prospect of losing the BlackBerry that has been attached to his belt for years.

"It is, he has vigorously argued, an essential link to keeping him apprised of events outside his ever-tightening cocoon."

I love my BlackBerry too, and would miss it. But I'm guessing that many people interpret this as missing the ability to read emails, or to text friends on-demand.

But those are not the primary reasons.

I would hate to lose access to my personal calendar and contacts, and to all of the instant connections I have to media, sports, and other things I'm interested in, through the various BB apps I've installed.

That's the stuff I'd really miss. And I think he will miss them, too.

Governing The Other 56,255,297

My Manager approved my request for a vacation day on January 20. I’m not going to Washington that day, but I am looking forward to President Obama’s Inauguration speech.

I was impressed with his election-night speech in Chicago, after it was clear that he’d won the election.

I think Maureen Dowd really captured that moment in her column the next day in the New York Times:

“His somber speech in the dark Chicago night was stark and simple and showed that he sees what he’s up against. There was a heaviness in his demeanor, as if he already had taken on the isolation and “splendid misery,” as Jefferson called it, of the office he’d won only moments before. Americans all over the place were jumping for joy, including the block I had been on in front of the White House, where they were singing: “Na, na, na, na. Hey, hey, hey. Goodbye.”

“He rejected the Democratic kumbaya moment of having your broad coalition on stage with you, as he talked about how everyone would have to pull together and “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.”

“Promising to also be president for those who opposed him, Obama quoted Lincoln, his political idol and the man who ended slavery: “We are not enemies, but friends — though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.”

As I wrote in my post just after the election, 56,255,297 Americans voted for McCain/Palin, and many more didn’t vote at all.

It appears at this point that President-elect Obama understands this reality; I hope so, because we really need a President who can govern in the best interest of all Americans.

The Right Answer

A colleague emailed me this morning:

"I read this article in the paper this morning about a survey of how many high school students cheat and lie.

It’s depressing enough, but then the principal of Andover High (MA) was quoted (and he’s very supportive of today’s students) as saying, 'We need to create classrooms where learning takes on more importance than having the right answer.'

WTF? That says it all, doesn’t it?

What is learning for if not 'the right answer'?

I hope my doctor and airline pilot have the right answer and I don’t care if they don’t know all kinds of 'strategies for learning.' Good god."

I've ranted before on the Freeway about the dreadful state of American public education, and how far behind other countries we have fallen, in terms of being able to compete in the global marketplace.

I don't think many school-age daughters of immigrant parents are wearing tee shirts with anti-math messages. Many of them seem to have a grasp of the skills it takes to succeed these days. But the shirt continues to be a big seller.

I'm constantly astonished at the general lack of curiosity and the inability to hold two opposing ideas at the same time in our culture. So reading this story about how it's okay to lie and cheat to get ahead is really disheartening.

The "right answer" is to fix our broken education system.

The Ruling Class

From David Brooks:

"Jan. 20, 2009, will be a historic day. Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard Law) will take the oath of office as his wife, Michelle (Princeton, Harvard Law), looks on proudly. Nearby, his foreign policy advisers will stand beaming, including perhaps Hillary Clinton (Wellesley, Yale Law), Jim Steinberg (Harvard, Yale Law) and Susan Rice (Stanford, Oxford D. Phil.).

The domestic policy team will be there, too, including Jason Furman (Harvard, Harvard Ph.D.), Austan Goolsbee (Yale, M.I.T. Ph.D.), Blair Levin (Yale, Yale Law), Peter Orszag (Princeton, London School of Economics Ph.D.) and, of course, the White House Counsel Greg Craig (Harvard, Yale Law).

This truly will be an administration that looks like America, or at least that slice of America that got double 800s on their SATs. Even more than past administrations, this will be a valedictocracy — rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes. If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we’re screwed."

More On The Obama School Search

Some cogent observations about school choice from Sandra Tsing Loh in today's New York Times:

"Now that we’ve made history by electing our first African-American president, what has changed? On first blush, not much, especially when it comes to our schools. Indeed, as the spiraling United States economy takes precedence, education is moving to the back burner, though sadly it was never really on the front burner during the campaign. Meanwhile Washington high society is swooning as chatty lifestyle stories document the courtship of Barack Obama’s daughters by a bevy of exclusive private schools. Am I the only one who is outraged here?"

"Sarah Palin was taken tirelessly to the mat for every detail of her personal life — her mothering skills, hunting proclivities, reading habits (such as they were), the wacky names of her children, her pricey outfits and even the height of her heels.

By contrast, the Obama family’s move from toney Chicago private school (chosen before presidential security was an issue) to toney Washington private school draws little national commentary.

Why? Because for the ruling American political and professional class, not to mention the news media, sending one’s child to public school is unthinkable; and has nothing to do with public education policy. (Love that Teach for America, though! And universal preschool — it’s great! Computers! Innovation! Stimulation! Richard Branson! Aspen Technology Conference! Blah, blah blah.)"

Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job

WASHINGTON—African-American man Barack Obama, 47, was given the least-desirable job in the entire country Tuesday when he was elected president of the United States of America.

In his new high-stress, low-reward position, Obama will be charged with such tasks as completely overhauling the nation's broken-down economy, repairing the crumbling infrastructure, and generally having to please more than 300 million Americans and cater to their every whim on a daily basis.

As part of his duties, the black man will have to spend four to eight years cleaning up the messes other people left behind.

Said scholar and activist Mark L. Denton, "It just goes to show you that, in this country, a black man still can't catch a break."

(From The Onion)