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History in the makingPosted Tuesday, January 20, 2009, at 4:07 PM
Many elements of Barack Obama's inauguration have been compaired to that of Abraham Lincoln, who was also faced with a difficult time in history. The 16th president had to be smuggled into the city on an all-night train ride for his inauguration in 1861, because of fears of assassination.
This era is also being compared to that of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who held the office for four terms and died shortly after his fourth inauguration in 1945. Roosevelt is credited by many with leading the country out of the Great Depression of the 30's.
The account of Andrew Jackson's inauguration in 1829 are pretty wild: He opened the doors of the White House and his supporters came charging in, pushing and shoving, wolfing down the food and drink and standing in the chairs with muddy boots.
The 1985 inauguration of Ronald Reagan was so cold that the inaugural parade was cancelled. The outcome was far better than that of William Henry Harrison in March, 1841, when the 68-year-old Harrison gave a 90-minute speech in an ice storm without a hat or overcoat. He caught cold and died a month later of pneumonia.
John Adams was on such poor terms with his successor, Thomas Jefferson, that he didn't even stay for the oath of office, instead riding back home to Massachusetts right away.
Of all the inaugural addresses given throughout the years, the most memoral seem to be those of four presidents:
* George Washington, who spoke of "the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty."
* Abraham Lincoln, who said, "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
* Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose words were "...let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
* John F. Kennedy: "The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it-and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."
Today Obama gave his own Inauguration speech, lasting about 18 minutes. As usual, the phrasing was balanced with that beautiful parallel sentence structure: "I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors."
The sentences are characterized by a balance that fits Obama's speaking style. The most important part of the sentence lies in the end. There's a rhythm, somewhat like the King James version of the Bible: "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." There's a kind of poetic quality.
Most of the sentences are short: "This is the journey we continue today." " Our capacity remains undiminished." As he delivers the speech, there's a deliberateness that gives the audience time to hear and digest each word.
The speech is full of visual imagery: "America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."
I give the speech a thumbs up. It wasn't as flamboyant as early speeches, but I think the intent was to be serious and sober, to urge Americans to think, to persevere, and to be patient.
The day is winding down to a close on this Inauguration Day, 2009. I'm sure we'll hear analysis after analysis of the speech, the parade, the ten inaugural balls, Michelle Obama's wardrobe, and every minute detail of the events. Later today, we'll hear whether Ted Kennedy is okay, after he had to be taken from the dinner in an ambulance.
Amazing, amazing day!!! At least twice I held my breath as the Obamas got out of the limosine and walked along the parade route; however, the security seems to have been up to the challenge.
From remote Tillman, Missouri, this is your rural reporter Madeline, signing off on a historical day.
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.