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Michael DeJong Headshot

I Do Solemnly Swear...

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It's said that public speaking is one of the most common fears people have. We've all fumbled through a speech or lecture at some point (even if it was a First Grade book report in front of the class)...myself included. In my case, I consider it part of my heritage. For instance, my Dutch-born parents stammered through their wedding vows when they married here shortly after immigrating, because neither of them was able to speak English fluently. And my older brother, John, did the same thing at his wedding, too. Not because he couldn't understand or speak in clear, audible English, but because -- out of paralyzing fear and nervous misgivings -- he was literally choking.

Not so for President Obama. He wasn't retching while attempting to repeat the words offered to him by Chief Justice John Roberts (So cut the guy some slack -- it was his first Presidential Inauguration!) Obama actually knew exactly what he was supposed to repeat -- the approximately 35-word constitutionally prescribed oath of office is easy to repeat back if the words are given in the order they were originally written. But because of Robert's verbal detour, things didn't quite go as planned.

While being the first President-elect to hold the same Bible that Abraham Lincoln used the day he was sworn in as President, the oath was stated. "Blah, blah, blah -- 'that I will execute faithfully -- oops -- faithfully execute the office of president of the United States -- yadda, yadda, yadda -- so help me God."

In spite of the fact that Roberts was an official in Republican administrations long before snagging his position as an appeals court judge, Obama voted against his confirmation to the Supreme Court in 2005 for questions about his ideological jurisprudence. Ironically for Obama, it was the first time one of the Supremes (No - not the Doo-wop girl-group from Detroit.) swore in a President who voted against him...sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but...! Presidential historians will have a field day with that kerfuffle for decades.

Seemingly un-perplexed and unperturbed, what followed this metaphoric "foot-in-the-aisle" trip-up was Obama's groundbreaking inaugural address. Although I expected something a bit more impassioned, stirring, and "show-y" -- to my surprise he calmly detailed his plans to tackle the most pressing issues of the day: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the miserable state of the economy, the need for reliable clean energy sources, the growing threat of global warming, and restoring real science to its rightful place in government policy-making.

Big or small, with bravery, valor and daring, our new President's ideas promoted the mindset that free men and women can accomplish just about anything if we hang together. With shared thoughts coupled with a universal goal, his speech became a mandate to all Americans to unite in a new era of accountability and transparency.

What a stark contrast to the exiting bumbler's bumbler. We'll never again have to hear the man with his finger on the nuclear button mispronounce "new-clear" as "new-que-lar." Obama is clearly a man who understands and is willing to admit to the entire world, the harsh challenges that lay before us, and to me, he actually feels like our country's first 21st Century President. He has already begun to speak to all of us as one community, and organize us to contribute and sacrifice for the common good. In his inaugural address, and in front of his predecessor, he openly challenged the status quo of almost everything cringe-making from the former administration -- everything from secret energy meetings to the war in Iraq to closing Gitmo.

But for me, his putting the environment, climate change and global warming front and center as not only major problems but also his presenting them as opportunities for economic growth and societal change was almost revolutionary. (Did anyone else hear the fat-asses of Big Oil tycoons hit the ground while he was pulling the rugs out from under them, or was it just me?)

Of course, the Obama administration is only a week old, and as the saying goes, "Money talks...bulls%#t walks," so we'll soon start to see how much the new "mavericks" in DC can do. But in the meanwhile, at least we now have a President who is willing to use his words -- momentarily botched or not -- and his immeasurable oratory gifts to reassure the Doubting Thomas (or Roberts) in us all.

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