Inauguration Review

     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.

4 Responses to “Inauguration Review”

  1. Therese (Frank's wife) Says:

    Frank–So it was the chief justice at fault, not Barack Obama? While watching, I assumed Barack Obama was so nervous that his memory failed him and he couldn’t remember each of the entire phrases that the chief justice fed to him in sequence. As you know, I’m away at a poetry festival, so I don’t have too much access to the news, so I haven’t heard the post-inaugural pundits and talking heads discuss the mishap.

    [FSR reply: Obama is never nervous. The correct oath: “I _____ do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitition of the United States.” Roberts misplaced the word “faithfully”.]

    Did Aaron Copland (Copeland?) compose “Tis a Gift to be Simple”? Wasn’t that one of the musical themes?

    [FSR reply: Yes, and yes. But the composer was given as John Williams, who re-arranged the melody. No mention was made of Copland.]

    Did Aretha Franklin really fiddle with the words of the iconic song? And leave out all mention of God? (I came late to the televised version of the inaugural, so I missed the beginning).

    [FSR reply: Yes, she did! When the first “God” came up, she sang “mmmm;” and when it came to “Great God our king,” she sang “la la la la.” Et cetera. No God at all in her rendition. It could not have been other than intentional. By the end, I was laughing my head off.]

    Yes, it was broad-minded of Obama to include “non-believers” in his speech. Bravo.

    [FSR reply: This may be presumptuous, but I strongly suspect our President (like many before him) is a closet atheist. His mention of nonbelievers in the speech was not casual, he stressed it. Quite a contrast to George H.W. Bush who once said atheists shouldn’t even be considered citizens.
    As Obama said — quoting the Bible — the time has come to put childish things aside. With regard to religion itself, certainly a very childish thing, the time may not be here yet. But it is coming, it is coming. I have seen the promised land.]

    See you soon, husband. [FSR: looking forward to it, wife.]

  2. Catherine Says:

    Aretha was having a grand old time singing any old words she wanted to any old way.

    I thought Barack misremembered how the justice was saying the words, knowing they were wrong but not wanting to embarrass the justice by correcting him. Gracious.

    I also loved the nonbelievers line. Shows he has the “pulse” of a changing society. The only false note was the “childish things” reference. It was too much, not quite in line with things a young country does. Maybe a little too scolding.

    You can’t help but like the guy.

  3. John Denune Says:

    I wish I had made Obama souvenirs to sell to that mob. Such excitment about this rock star, so how come the stock market went down? Seeing my 8th cousin twice removed take the oath made me wonder if there could be a place for me in Washington. It is noteworthy that in Obama’s book, Dreams of My Father, he stopped a generation short of our common ancestor, Maureen Duvall. I suggest it was because Duvall was a slave owner. Obamas guest list of celebrity civil rights folk played the race card big time. Maybe now, “…white can do right.” Obama has no American slave ancestry, and because his father was not a citizen, by the old standard, he does not qualify to serve as president. Frank, I enjoyed seeing your picture.

  4. John Denune Says:

    PS I should have put this at the very end.
    2 words – Grecian Formula, and if that doesn’t work, try the generic Parthian knock off

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