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Obama's Inaugural Speech Gets a B+

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This has been bugging me ever since I got back from Washington, but everyone's been on such a high since the Big Day that I felt like a killjoy muttering that our new president's speech failed to sufficiently move me. I blamed it on the cold, I blamed it on my lack of sleep (because once I got into the HuffPost ball it would take a SWAT team to pry me out of that place before dawn). However watching the speech later, and watching the world watch it, realizing that there was not a corner of the globe that wasn't listening, I think it is fair to have expected more.

Yes we're in a crisis, yes we need straight talk, but we've also never needed something else more. Something that had been our new president's trademark:

Hope.

I was there, in the cheap seats by the Washington Monument with my young children, crushing and re-crushing my handwarmers to squeeze out the last bits of heat. We were all a vast, happy, raucous party and when he began to speak, we the millions there held our collective breath.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace.

It began so beautifully. The poetry of the, "Rising tide of prosperity, still waters of peace," was the perfect note. Reminding us of the depth of the crisis, the hard work ahead was wonderfully handled.

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

The allusion to the happy anthem, "Pick Yourself Up," made famous by Nat King Cole ("Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again...") I just loved.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

As a Zen Buddhist/Taoist I would probably have to check the box "non-believer" and I was shocked that our new President mentioned us at all and will be eternally grateful (O.K., for that alone I'll raise his grade to an A-). This is perhaps my favorite passage and the speech's first real serving of hope for a brighter future after the crisis has passed.

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

The most memorable passage and music to my ears. The magnanimity in the above passage is breathtaking.

However it is with the end of the speech that I have a problem. Not with the great Washington quote but with the final chunk:

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.

He returns here to the hard work theme that he's already hammered home. Worse yet, he tells us that the best we can hope for is to "endure what storms may come." What else are we supposed to do? Until they colonize Mars we're stuck here. You lose your job and your health insurance and you endure it. Getting your old job back is not an option.

Mr. President, this is your finale? The entire world is listening and this is how you close? I think you should have launched our imaginations past this storm, giving us a glimpse of the reward for all our hard work. I would have loved to have heard something like this at the close:

In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people: "Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it).

And meet it we shall. EVERY color, EVERY belief, from the most wealthy to the most low, together, all of us. We will not only weather this storm, but as one, on the other side, we will CELEBRATE our collective victory over fear and greed and we will proclaim to world: "We made it! Indivisibly! THIS is what HOPE and hard work can do."

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.