Thursday, 22 January 2009

Reflections on The Speech

Looking back on the Big Speech, a couple of days after the event, I'd probably agree with Michael Tomasky's verdict that it was 'mildly underwhelming'. The new president may have calculated that celebratory oratory would be out of keeping with the seriousness of the times. Nevertheless, the thousands of people who had waited for hours in the cold deserved their moment of poetry and jubilation. However, Tomasky adds:

There were many times during the campaign when I, and other political junkies of my acquaintance, thought Obama was screwing something up. A week or a month later, we almost invariably saw that maybe he was right after all. So maybe he thought, let's put the poetry on the shelf. It's time now to get to work. He's got a lot of that ahead of him, so it's understandable I suppose if that, not rhetoric, is what is foremost in his mind.

As if to support Tomasky's point, Obama's words are still being avidly dissected all over media, and nuggets of poetry (I'm thinking particularly of the bits I quoted the other day, which formed the emotional heart of the speech) are beginning to emerge from the layers of prose. Norm obviously thought it was a good performance, and I recommend his line-by-line analysis.

For British republicans (in the lower-case sense), the echoes of Tom Paine in the speech (discussed by Ben MacIntyre here) were particularly welcome, reminding us once again that this great Englishman is a prophet more honoured abroad than in his own country. And at the risk of sounding unpatriotic - wasn't it great to hear the tune that we know as 'God Save The Queen' used to praise the 'sweet land of liberty', rather than an unelected monarch? Let freedom ring indeed...

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