Monday, January 19, 2009

January 19, 2009

    We haven't had very many presidents.  George W. Bush is only our forty-third. 
    A lot of the inaugural addresses we have had were ordinary.  Some were not.  Those can teach us lessons we, and George W. Bush, may have forgotten over the last eight years. 
George Washington, 1789:  "And since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people."
Thomas Jefferson, 1801:  "...and may that Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe lead our councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity."
Andrew Jackson, 1829:  "In administering the laws of Congress I shall keep steadily in view the limitations as well as the extent of the Executive power, trusting thereby to discharge the functions of my office without transcending its authority.  With foreign nations it will be my study to preserve peace and to cultivate friendship on fair and honorable terms, and in the adjustment of any differences that may exist or arise to exhibit the forbearance becoming a powerful nation..."  (No W, he.)
Woodrow Wilson, 1913:  "The scales of heedlessness have fallen from our eyes.  We have made up the standards we so proudly set up at the beginning and have always carried at our hearts.  Our work is a work of restoration."
Franklin Roosevelt, 1933:  "This is preeminently the time to speak the truth the whole truth, frankly and boldly.  Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today.  This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.  So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance....
    "The people of the United States have not failed  In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action.  They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership.  They have made me the present instrument of their wishes.  In the spirit of the gift I take it."
    Barack Obama, soon our 44th President can clearly say as John Kennedy did in 1961,  "We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom--symbolizing an end as well as a beginning--signifying renewal as well as change....the torch has been passed to a new generation..."
    But he might find himself most at home, as he often seems, with Abraham Lincoln  who in 1865 had to deal with an afflicted population at home--poverty and racial division and veterans of two armies returning home:  "...let us strive on to finish the work we are in;  to bind up the nation's wounds;  to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."
We don't know, Mr. President, what words you will use in your speech tomorrow or what hopes you will inspire.  Your listeners are ready for big changes.  We want, I think, what you've used as your inaugural theme, what Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address:   "A New Birth of Freedom."  We need one.

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