Tuesday, January 20, 2009

He can talk, can't he?

Watched the Inauguration. Funny how they practice everything, cover every angle but the actual oath is not properly rehearsed. Anyway, he got through it. One of his qualities is he never looks embarrassed. I thought the speech was very good. Not as a piece of rhetoric but he delivered it like he meant it. And this was the best bit.
Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the fainthearted -- for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again, these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

The "for us" repetition works really well and obeys the power of three. And I love the reference to "standing pat" which happens to be in my favourite song lyric, Louis Armstrong's "St James Infirmary". Which goes:

Oh, when I die, please bury me
In my ten dollar Stetson hat;
Put a twenty-dollar gold piece on my watch chain
So my friends'll know I died standin' pat.


  1. Anonymous6:06 pm

    great choice of lyric. Armstrong's version is the best

  2. In William Safire's excellent analysis of the speech in the NY Times (, he mentions:

    "I once wrote a line for Nixon, “America cannot stand pat,” which got a glare from the First Lady — we never used that phrase again."