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Opinion

January 23, 2013

Obama's speech carried echoes from the past

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.

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