Barack Hussein Obama’s 2400 word inaugural address was more than three times longer than the 701 word speech that Abraham Lincoln delivered when he was sworn in for his second term in 1865. But some themes were similar. Both men spoke at a time of great national division and self-doubt. Both urged us to conjure up our nobler instincts to prevail as a nation.
Obama’s historic address did not dwell on the obvious — the inauguration of America’s first black, or in his case, truly African-American president. His first theme was remembrance: an appeal for us not to forget who we are, a “patchwork”of peoples who have forged a common destiny. Then came a call for reconciliation — among Americans of different parties, ideolgies, and faiths, and to the Muslim world, an offer to to forge a “new wayforward” based on “mutual interest and mutual respect.” To corrupt leaders who oppress their people and destroy rather than build, he would “extend a hand” if they “unclench” their fists.
Finally there was reaffirmation. We would neither “apologize for our way of life” nor “waver in its defense.” Our spirit, he declared, “cannot be broken.” To those who use terror to slaughter innocents, “we will defeat you.” And then, an inspirational appeal to us to use our collective strength and creativity to reassert our confidence at home and our leadership abroad. Today his campaign pledge of “yes we can” became a promise of “yes we will.”