Riding on his eyes,” Ricki Lee Jones, “Juke Box Fury”
It’s hard not to gag at the excess of hype and attention preceeding today's inauguration. My throat reflex moment came when someone on Sports Center compared Barack Obama’s run for the presidency with the Cardinal’s run for the Super Bowl. Enough already.
No more coins, either. Please.
I have to consciously dig through the rubble of praise and opportunism to get down to the truths that propel this excess. This is an extraordinary moment. The fortuitous coincidence that Martin Luther King Day immediately precedes this inauguration has underscored just how historic the election of Obama is. It has also had the fortunate side effect of making MLK Day a true memorial to King. Tributes that seem dutiful in most years have a far greater resonance in this year. The fulfillment of one dream seems a bit closer today.
Now Obama has to make a speech. Some people are expecting a cross between John Kennedy’s “Ask Not” with Abraham Lincoln’s “Better Angels and Franklin Roosevelt’s rejection of fear. Those are tough acts to follow. He has shown the skill to equal them, but whether his words ring down in history will not depend on the eloquence and truth in those words.
The success of this speech and of his presidency will hinge on the nation’s economy and on his handling of crises both known and unforeseen. It will hinge on the intelligence of his advisors and even more on his capacity to weigh their strengths and weaknesses. It will hinge on the spirit of the populace and Obama's capacity to touch what is good in it. It will hinge on luck, always remembering that luck favors the prepared, but not by much.
Still, despite the the wall-to-wall hype and the outsized expectations, I look forward to this moment. I look forward to it for the good that his election has already accomplished and in the hope that his administration helps America to listen to the “better angels of our nature.” I also hope that Americans (including myself) remember over the next few years that all any person can do is act “with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right." May we remember in humility and mercy that the vision of no human is perfect but that, despite our limitations, we still have the obligation to do what good that we can.