herald

Thursday 27 November 2014

Where was soaring rhetoric we expected and craved?

Where was the phrase? The Martin Luther Kings "I have a dream" phrase? The inaugural speech phrase that future generations will always remember Obama for?

We expected a great phrase from the man who likes to read and memorise great phrases.

We wanted a Franklin Roosevelt ("the only thing we have to fear is fear itself") or John F Kennedy ("ask not what your country can do for you").

We would have made do with the equivalent of the "yes we can" from election night.

Barak Obama didn't give us any of this. Instead he gave us something more mundane, the speech we are more used to hearing from everyone else nowadays, about gloom and hardship and the casting off of somebody else's legacy to get over an immediate problem.



EPITAPH

Joe the plumber or Dr Joe the future historian. Apparently he decided he couldn't do both.

He came close. The arrival of "an era of responsibility" will be used by biographers and secondary school debating societies as the epitaph of the Obama generation.

He may be judged by that one phrase, and his declaration of duties "to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly".

But we expected more for his 2,572 words.

After all oratory is what won Obama the presidency. Yesterday he produced one jewel, which if not exactly quotable, will be used to sum up the inauguration's place in history..

"A man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath."

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