President Barack Obama’s Second Inaugural Address: the Feel-good, Anti-JFK Inaugural

–Richard E. Vatz

     President Obama’s second Inaugural Address was the antithesis of the last great conservative Democratic President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

     Whereas JFK said, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,”  President Barack Obama  said in his ode to collectivism that the American people cannot “meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone…”

     It was an elongated speech born from the defining Obama philosophy, “You didn’t build that.”

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     Of course there were in the President’s address the platitudes that the late historian Arthur Schlesinger predicted for all inaugurals: “”America’s possibilities are limitless…My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it as long as we seize it together.”

     Any economic philosophy of class warfare worth articulating is worth reiterating: “For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.”

     And there were the disingenuous phrases as well: “We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.”

     After that remark, there was not a word about reducing entitlements or the national debt.  In fact in the same paragraph there was undiluted praise for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, for which our children and grandchildren will pay.  Not a word about penny-wise and pound-foolish government spending.

     Foreign policy?  Any warning to nuclear-acquisitive Iran or Syria or Russia?  No, because “We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully.”

     There was a mention – a mention – of supporting democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere, but no Kennedyesque “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

     Welcome to President Barack Obama’s America, where no economic sacrifice is too small, and we shall lead the world politically by example; if you disagree, well, that is a bad choice, but one we respect.
Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion, (Kendall Hunt, 2012, 2013)

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