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A Very Good Speech

11:54 AM, Jan 20, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Having just listened to the speech, I think there was a lot to like there for those whose greatest concern is that Obama is soft -- that he doesn't appreciate the role violence has played in forging our democracy. Dianne Feinstein opened the ceremony by talking about how the ballot is more powerful than the bullet, how non-violence has made this day possible. It's a bizarre revision of American history that focuses on Martin Luther King rather than William Tecumseh Sherman or George Washington. It was the violence inflicted against British, Confederate, and German troops that made possible the inauguration of an African-American. Obama's speech acknowledged as much:

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn. Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life.

Obama closed by conjuring the image of Washington crossing the Delaware:

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]."

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.

Obama also spoke of leaving Iraq 'responsibly,' which would necessarily dictate leaving a stable and democratic government in place. But, true to form, Obama would not allow the word victory to pass his lips when talking about the wars in which this country is currently engaged. In Afghanistan, Obama spoke of achieving "a hard-earned peace." Can we really have peace with our enemies in Afghanistan, or is victory a prerequisite for any real peace?

All in all though, a fine speech.