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Ilene Angel Headshot

The Audacity to Still Have Hope

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Much will be said about the president's second inaugural address today, what points were touched on, the tone, the delivery, how many times he used the word "together."

Going into it, I didn't envy his job. Would he be centrist enough for the right, liberal enough for the left? Whom do you try and please, and what do you consider when drafting a speech of this magnitude that not only will be heard by this country, but the world at large, and which the world will take their cues from?

In the end, I think the president took seriously the task of leading and inspiring a nation divided. And I think he took seriously the task of letting us know what weighs on both his mind and heart, whether it be the safety of school children, caring for the elderly, the rights of all our citizens to love and marry whom they choose, or equal pay for an equal job done. He made plain the direction he would like us to go by what he gave his attention to, and he did it with a tone equal parts optimism and resolve.

An inauguration day like this one is our chance to stop, recognize, and celebrate many of the unique things we take for granted in our democracy, particularly non-violent elections and a peaceful transference of power. It does not take much to see that many parts of the world do not enjoy these things. And for that reason alone, we should take the moment to honor the greatness of this tradition, regardless of party or platform.

Pundits have made mention of the amount of time devoted to talk of climate change, as if it was a pipe dream not worthy of our biggest efforts. I don't know how many more miles of our nation's land must be submerged under water, or suffer from drought, or burnt to a crisp for our us to take seriously the catastrophic nature and rate of this change, but God love the president for trying to shine a light in that direction.

For my money, I appreciated a line in particular among the many great ones, that I have not heard receive a lot of mention by commentators:

"We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war."

There is an entire generation of children in this country who have not known America to be in any other state but that of war. What does that say to them about resolution of conflict or the potential for peace? How can they see that as an option when they haven't known it as a reality?

So I think President Obama today did what he does best -- harness the audacity of hope, quench our thirst for a belief that "America's possibilities are limitless," because we have "an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention."

In the midst of our incessant rush to judgment and perpetual condemnation and cynicism, I think we need to hear a leader, our leader, say, "We are made for this moment."

I think it lifts us as a nation to hear words like "dignity" and to have a president remind us that we, as citizens, "have the obligation to shape the debates of our time -- not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals."

Words stir emotions. And President Obama wields the power of his words effectively to stir up hope and a call to action. It is a noble pursuit he undertakes when doing this. How we choose to use the momentum of this moment to propel us forward to better days ahead is the privileged opportunity this moment provides us as Americans. So I say, "Job well done, Mr. President." Now it's up to all of us.