Inaugural Address Failed to Inspire

No new president has had a grander stage on Inauguration Day upon which to imprint his vision for America than Barack Obama. The crowds were astonishingly large -- certainly more than a million and some estimates were closer to two million.

The dignitaries arrived to varying degrees of enthusiasm. Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were warmly welcomed while the elder President Bush and Barbara received tepid applause. Republican lawmakers were openly booed when announced, but this was to be expected. I would imagine Democrats outnumbered Republicans in the crowd by about 5,000 to 1. The Democrats had been out of power for eight years and they were bound and determined to have a good time -- especially if it came at the expense of the GOP.

It was also to be expected that when President Bush arrived at the platform, there would be a demonstration of why President Obama's grand plans for transforming American politics will probably fall flat on its keister. The boos, catcalls, and hissing that greeted the outgoing president may be considered disrespectful by some and definitely not in keeping with the spirit of the day. But Obama was to prove a little later that his supporters weren't the only ones who seemed to forget that the campaign was over and he had won.

Rick Warren gave an impassioned but overly long invocation. This part made me think it was written by Obama's people:

When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us. And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches and civility in our attitudes -- even when we differ.

"Civility in our attitudes" was something lacking in the classless bunch who had just welcomed President Bush to the stage. It wasn't the entire crowd that sang "Hey, Hey, goodbye" in a mocking tone. But claiming to be Obama supporters while disrespecting the office he was about to enter made for a rather jarring addition to the festivities.

After Aretha Franklin serenaded the crowd with "My Country 'Tis of Thee" in her soulful style, Vice President Biden took his oath (a ripple of amusement ran through the crowd when he said his middle name -- Robinette). This was followed by one of the most talented groups of musicians ever assembled; Itzhak Perlman on violin, Yo Yo Ma on cello, Garbriela Montero on piano, and Anthony McGill on clarinet played what, to my mind, was an uninspired arrangement by composer/conductor John Williams of a piece by Aaron Copeland. It was flawlessly performed but strangely flat and unemotional for such a grand occasion.