A Review of the Inaugural Address: Where Do We Go from Here?

Yesterday at 12:01 PM, President Barack H. Obama was sworn in. He then gave a 20-minute inaugural address. Like most speeches of its kind, it was large on grand phrases and hope, but a little light on solid promises. However, it did present a good picture of the direction we can expect our country to go during the next four years. It also held some promises for the economy. Read the full text online for yourself.

“Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.”

He’s laid our problems bare, and hinted that his focus for the first year will be on finding solutions to these three primary issues: the financial collapse, healthcare, and renewable energy. Repairing all three will improve our economy within the next few years. It will also put us on a more solid footing for the coming decades. As he said, we can’t wait to act any longer. If there’s one silver lining to this economic collapse it’s this: People don’t want to change when the economy is sailing along, even if it’s sailing on imaginary money. Only when we face a crisis are the people willing to risk and even embrace dramatic change. We need dramatic change to right our course.

“…we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.”

He will work across both party lines to find the best ideas to restore our economy and the world’s faith in our nation. He won’t let partisan tomfoolery derail his plans or delay the changes that must be made. I hope he’s able to keep this promise.

“Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed.”

In my view, it means he’s not focused on his own political aspirations or on making choices that will guarantee his re-election. He’s focused on fixing our nation’s many problems promptly, even if they cause controversy or short-term difficulties.

“The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.”

This is an outline of his economic recovery plan in much prettier words than a formal government proposal. He’s not thinking of the quick fixes that Congress usually relies on to bring money to their districts and hold onto their offices. He’s thinking in terms of the grand plans that transformed our nation. A new New Deal if you will. Like the New Deal, he will have opponents, but hopefully he’ll stand firm against them.

“The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.”

Again, you can see some real promises in here. Yes, programs will be cut, but they’re not working now anyways. Other systems will have to be reformed. There will be no more pork and no more government giveaways to corporations that fail to report back on their progress.

“What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility…”

I hope this translates into new regulations that will prevent our financial system from running amuck again. I also hope it translates into programs or policies (even if just from a PR standpoint) that will encourage saving and frugality again.

I’m not so pie-eyed as to think that Obama will fix everything right away. I don’t think he’ll get all of his plans through. Politics will always get in the way, and some of his ideas may not even be best for the country. I do believe however that he is ready to make the hard choices that are right for the nation, even where they’re opposed to his personal ideology. I do believe that he’s the right President for right now.

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