Jewish World Review Feb. 5, 2013/ 25 Shevat, 5773
The Great Divider
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Dear Critic,
It was wholly a pleasure to hear from you about our president's Second Inaugural address, which you found uplifting, eloquent, enthralling ... while I felt safe in asserting that, well, it wasn't Lincoln's. Surely that fact is beyond dispute.
I do thank you for writing; I learn most from my critics. Sometimes, like you, they pose a good question, as you did.
You noted that I quoted from the great inaugural addresses of the past -- Jefferson's and Lincoln's and FDR's -- in contrast to
In a word, yes.
Consider an inaugural address delivered
In his second inaugural,
"Four years ago, I spoke to you of a new beginning and we have accomplished that. But in another sense, our new beginning is a continuation of that beginning created two centuries ago when, for the first time in history, government, the people said, was not our master, it is our servant; its only power that which we the people allow it to have.
"That system has never failed us, but, for a time, we failed the system. We asked things of government that government was not equipped to give. We yielded authority to the national government that properly belonged to states or to local governments or to the people themselves. We allowed taxes and inflation to rob us of our earnings and savings and watched the great industrial machine that had made us the most productive people on Earth slow down and the number of unemployed increase.
"By 1980, we knew it was time to renew our faith, to strive with all our strength toward the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with an orderly society.
"We believed then and now there are no limits to growth and human progress when men and women are free to follow their dreams.
"And we were right to believe that. Tax rates have been reduced, inflation cut dramatically, and more people are employed than ever before in our history."
Here is the most prescient passage of
"These will be years when Americans have restored their confidence and tradition of progress; when our values of faith, family, work and neighborhood were restated for a modern age; when our economy was finally freed from government's grip; when we made sincere efforts at meaningful arms reduction, rebuilding our defenses, our economy and developing new technologies, and helped preserve peace in a troubled world; when Americans courageously supported the struggle for liberty, self-government and free enterprise throughout the world, and turned the tide of history away from totalitarian darkness and into the warm sunlight of human freedom."
In words dreams begin, and the result of
As the Carter Years and the Carter administration wound down, American decline was almost taken for granted. It was inevitable. There was nothing to be done about it. The spirit of the times came to be summed up in a single word: malaise.
How did his second inaugural dddress differ from the one we heard this past Inaugural Day?
In spirit mainly, and spirit can be all. There was a joy about Reagan's second inaugural -- a zest, a pride, a sense of adventure and delight that were absent in this president's.
This president's tone was almost resigned, grimly determined rather than joyous. When he did appeal to American pride and American values -- "hard work and individual initiative" -- he seemed to do it almost grudgingly, as a kind of afterthought, a mandatory gesture. His mind and heart seemed elsewhere: on grievance after grievance and their collection.
It was the kind of speech that divides, not unites. Its principal connection to the American past seemed to be one of hurt, not pride -- less
A great president needs to be more than "transformative" -- the nation he leads should ask: What is he transforming us into?
I n between the layers of boilerplate that made up the bulk of this president's second inaugural ("sustainable energy sources") there were indeed some phrases that caught the attention -- like a cinder in the eye. For example, his mention of "peace in our time," a reminder that Churchill's bust is out of the Oval Office and
What will they call
Forgive me, Dear Critic, for quoting a past president at such length in response to your question. But, well, you asked.
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