Obama: not a dry eye in the house
Deaglán de Bréadún
Hardboiled journo sheds tear – shock! There really wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Barack Obama took that oath of office yesterday. I have to admit that I teared-up, quite unexpectedly, as I watched it on television.
It’s a momentous day in the history of human liberation when an African-American is addressed as “Mr President”. Not just for his own community but for us all. It means the struggle for fairness, equality and justice is not in vain, at least not always.
It looked like every black family in the US had turned out in D.C. And so they should. This is a massive step forward. It doesn’t mean the end of prejudice and discrimination but it’s a huge setback for those who would hold someone back because of the colour of his or her skin.
You have to hand it to the USA at a time like this. The New World, the American Dream, it still retains that special magic that no other country can match. Yes, the good ole USA, the land so many profess to hate yet practically all want to go and live there, or so it seems.
Obama’s speech after the swearing-in was disappointingly flat. Nevertheless the bar in Buswell’s Hotel, opposite Leinster House, was hushed into silence as everyone watched it on TV. At the end there was applause. That (very nice) bar is more usually a place for politicos to hold hushed conversations, not a nerve-centre of idealism.
But the new President failed to reach the soaring heights of rhetoric attained by John F. Kennedy whose memorable phrases still ring in the world’s ears: “Let the word go forth from this time and place that the torch has been passed to a new generation … Ask not what your country can do for you; but what you can do for your country”.
That’s without checking the original but I bet I’ve got it almost word-perfect, not because I have a super-memory but because it made such an impression on my generation. I gather Enda Kenny does JFK speeches as a party piece. While I’m at it, his own “spake” at the 90th Anniversary ceremony for the First Dáil wasn’t bad at all yesterday. He stepped up to the plate for once.
Now I’m waiting for Obama to take some hard decisions. He has made a preliminary move on Guantanamo already. Let’s hope it keeps fine for him … and for us all.