A few of my favorites from the long, long list of gushing and fawning yesterday.
1. The Beating the “Literally” Dead Horse Award
The great leaders in the US weren’t the cheerleaders who promised morning in America. They were the ones that forced us to look in the mirror. Since Reagan there has been this tradition, which has become a cliche, of promising morning in America, this fake optimism, we’re the best, the city on the hill.
2. The 12-year-old Schoolgirl Thrill Award
It is, however, mere moments before footage of the crowd – that amazing, breathtaking crowd – makes me giddy with anticipation and disinclined to look backward, no matter how thrilled to see the back of Bush I am.
And oh how thrilled I am.
Barack Hussein Obama gives his first speech as our president, and its every word and every beautiful turn of phrase appeals to our better natures. It implores us to service, to sacrifice, to shared responsibility. It asks for our imagination and our participation. It says, in each idea, each exhortation, each question, each sentence: I am a uniter, not a divider.
3. The I Can Name The Most Dead Guys In One Paragraph Award
Mr. Obama talked, with echoes of Churchill, of the challenges of taking command of a nation beset by what he called “gathering clouds and raging storms.” As a student of past Inaugural Addresses, he knew what he needed to accomplish. He had to evoke the clarion call for national unity that Lincoln made the centerpiece of his second Inaugural Address, in 1865, married with Franklin Roosevelt’s warning that the market had been allowed to go haywire thanks to the “stubbornness” and “incompetence” of business leaders. And he needed to recall the combination of national inspiration and resoluteness against new enemies that John F. Kennedy delivered in his Inaugural Address, just over six months before Mr. Obama was born.
4. The Of Course My Expectations Aren’t Too High Award
Kenya – From The Times of London
“This man is Jesus,” shouted one man, spilling his Guinness as Barack Obama began his inaugural address. “When will he come to Kenya to save us?” If Barack Obama’s spin doctors have been trying to lower expectations since his election victory, the message clearly has not reached the land of his father.
“Now he is president we will get food and jobs,” said Ben Ochieng, as he danced to the traditional music that replaced the planned show.
“It is right that when people get power they look after their family, so we know that Obama will build lots of good things for us, like schools and roads and clinics,” said George Opiyo as he left the theatre.
5. The How Can I Impress The Importance of This On You Any More Award
Few public utterances can have been more keenly anticipated by more people in more places than the inaugural address of President – President, now, how does that sound? – Barack Obama.
(And we need to be aware that this includes things like The Sermon on the Mount, Moses and the 10 Commandments, and any address by the Pope – me)
6. The Undeniable Force Tin Foil Hat Trophy
But Barack Obama is our new leader, our new son of freedom. He is at once at the center of a force and the force itself. That he is the right person for this job can not be denied, indeed there must be no more Orwellian denials of the sort the outgoing administration engaged in daily, hourly.
7. The Economic Idiot of 2009 Award
As the president gave his campaign cry of “yes we can!” the reality of an exuberant walk up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, cynical men and women eyeing their assets with that very greed the new President had condemned in his inaugural speech were whining “no we can’t.”
As the country rose to heights the most hopeful could scarcely imagine, these cynics were pushing the stock market down to new depths — more than 300 points down, below 8000. This knee-jerk vote of non-confidence in the economy in the face of the most impressive vote of confidence in democracy the country has ever seen reveals a dangerous schism. It sets how we think as investors against how we act as citizens. It makes Wall Street more important than Constitution Avenue.
(We swear in a proud “wealth spreader” and you are surprised people want to take the money and run?)
8. The Death to Conservatives and Neocons and Especially BUSH!!!!!!!!! Award
For all the immensity of the symbolism, though, yesterday was about something more tangible and practical. It was a day of change as well as a day of ceremony, and Mr Obama made clear, in his hugely anticipated inaugural address, that this moment in Washington marked the death and burial not just of the George Bush presidency, but also of the neoconservative approach to foreign policy, the hands-off-the-markets approach to the economy and to what Mr Obama called the era of “petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas” in public life which underpinned the past eight years.