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Published January 21 2009

Our opinion: Obama’s price, promise

President Barack Obama’s eloquent inauguration speech Tuesday was an inspiring affirmation of the American character and a pragmatic challenge. He spoke of the nation’s enduring promise, but cautioned that tough times ahead will exact a price from every American.

The power of his words derived from his understanding of and obvious reverence for what he described as the “old values” that make this nation unique. He called Americans to rejuvenate and apply those values to today’s challenges. “We will meet the demands of the new age,” he said. “We must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America.”

The president was not specific, but inaugural addresses are supposed to sound broad and noble themes. In that regard, Obama’s was a home run. His words reflected his own saga: a life defined by faith in the nation he now leads. His address revealed a historian’s insight into the nation’s past and a new president’s sincere expression of hope for the future.

On the domestic front, the president again stressed the recurring mantra that petty partisanship will have no place in his administration. He quoted Scripture regarding the setting aside of childish things.

His foreign policy message to the world was a clear signal of change from the previous eight years, but a reiteration that the United States will not coddle enemies. “Know that America is a friend to each nation,” he said – a subtle rebuke of the policies of the Bush administration. The nation will apply “the tempering qualities of humility and restraint” in foreign policy – another rebuke of the Bush years. But know also, the president said, that nations who meet America’s open hand with “the closed fist” will find a prepared adversary in the United States. “We will defeat you,” he declared.

The latest public opinion surveys put Americans in Obama’s camp. He has 83 percent approval for the way he’s managed the transition from president-elect to president. He enters the Oval Office at an especially treacherous time: as a war president and the leader of a nation in economic crisis. But he also commands a reservoir of goodwill. The nation is buoyed by a deeply felt desire – even among his political opponents – that he succeed. His Tuesday address confirmed that President Obama is not minimizing the nation’s problems, but rather is calling Americans to unite to solve them. Like the best inauguration speeches, Obama’s appealed to the best in the American character. It’s up to us to respond.


Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.