Rick Warren’s invocation was noteworthy for the line asking forgiveness for failures to give respect to all people. Was that a note of penitence?
I lovvvved Aretha Franklin’s rendition of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” Not a song whose words I ever liked before — but she jettisoned all its God talk!! And, thank-you likewise to President Obama for pointedly including nonbelievers among America’s religious groupings, in his inaugural address.
Yo-yo Ma seemed to be having a really good time in his musical performance. But Aaron Copland should have been credited as the composer of the original melody.
Shame on Chief Justice Roberts. C’mon, the presidential oath is not that long, you’d think he’d have practiced a bit and gotten it right. You could see Obama knew Roberts had it wrong, but when his stopping still failed to elicit the correct version, he was gracious in going along with Roberts’s mangled one. Still, the bumbling detracted from the majesty of the moment.
President Obama’s speech was good, though not great. For my taste, it was too full of stock phrases, cliches, and banalities; and short on interesting, arresting, or striking tropes. The main theme was not expressed powerfully enough. I did appreciate (of course) his knock against “declinism;” his vaunting “the risk takers, the doers, the makers of things;” and his talk of the false choice between safety and ideals. His words to the Muslim world, though brief, were to the point and well said. I very much liked his statement that America is the friend of every nation, and of every person, everywhere, who strives for peace and dignity. (That was lifted straight out of my own putative inaugural address, never given.)
His peroration invoked December 1776 — a key totem of my own mythologizing (as seen in my last book — and my next one). Obama’s quotation was well chosen. But unfortunately he left the impression that the words were Washington’s. They were Tom Paine’s, in The American Crisis.
Elizabeth Alexander’s poem, I thought, started off with a nice spare simplicity, but lost its way and became a mishmash that ultimately did not hang together.
But none of this is what really matters. Present on the inaugural platform was Congressman John Lewis, who was beaten nearly to death for trying to ride on a bus. That Freedom Riders’ bus has travelled an awfully long distance in four decades.