The speech is also devoid of any exuberant linguistic flourishes. Of all the public addresses that a President delivers during his tenure, the inaugural one is deemed the most significant, in that it sets the short and long term vision for his Administration. The inaugural addresses were also of interest to students of history and political science as instances of oratorical excellence and eloquence. Seen in this light, Barack Obama’s address will not be remembered the same way as some of other landmark inaugural addresses in American history. For example, President Franklin Roosevelt’s first inaugural address was unique in the way it inspired and united an erstwhile polarized citizenry. The same could not be said of the Obama address, although the similarities in the economic realm of the early 1930s and 2009 are very striking.
President Obama’s attempt to unite the polarized electorate is evident from his religious references. For instance, he said that “we remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.” Irrespective of the Democrats’ liberal stand on the issue of abortion, the President has tried hard to convince his detractors that his mandate is to represent all Americans. The use of words such as ‘scripture’, ‘god’, etc hold an emotional appeal to conservative Americans, whose trust and confidence the new President is trying to win over. It is in the same spirit of unity that he uttered the following words in support of the liberal agenda: “What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.” What is to be appreciated here is the new President’s calm and collected application of rational argument in support of the Democratic Party’s view of public administration and governance. Given the overwhelming majority with which he won the elections, he could have easily gotten carried away and overstated the case. It is a testimony to Obama’s balance of mind that the inaugural address was delivered in an understated yet clear tone.
In sum, President Barack Obama’s inaugural address has more merits than flaws. While it may not stand out as the most inspiring Presidential address in recent years, its underlying tone of reconciliation with history and its endeavor to pull together a nation of diverse peoples is undeniable. In this context, it would be apt to conclude this critique by quoting this message of conciliation and moderation from the new President: “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.”