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January 23, 2013

Obama's speech carried echoes from the past

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The Daily Star

---- — To be sure, President Barack Obama’s second-term Inaugural address Monday was an affirmation of the progressive values he professed during the recent campaign … and those for which a majority of the American public voted.

But we could not help but hear the echoes of the second inaugural speeches of some of his predecessors.

For instance, Franklin D. Roosevelt said this in 1937 amid the Depression:

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much,” he said. “It is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

Obama: “... We, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.”

In 1873, Ulysses S. Grant said: “The effects of the late civil strife have been to free the slave and make him a citizen. Yet he is not possessed of the civil rights which citizenship should carry. … This is wrong, and should be corrected. To this correction I stand committed.”

Obama, making a reference to Martin Luther King Jr., said: “We the people declare today that the most evident of truth that all of us are created equal ... to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.”

FDR again: “Our progress out of the Depression is obvious ... . We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.”

Obama: “We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work, when the wages of honest labor will liberate families from the brink of hardship.”

In 1957, Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against conflict in a nuclear age.

“We seek peace, now, as in no other age ... because we have been warned, by the power of modern weapons, that peace may be the only climate possible for human life itself.”

Obama: “We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”

From Richard Nixon, as the Vietnam War wound down in 1973: “As America’s longest and most difficult war comes to an end, let us again learn to debate our differences with civility and decency.”

Obama: “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.”

Just as Obama followed the words of some of his fellow presidents, his second term will succeed or fail on how well he can get the country to follow his.