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Thursday, January 20, 2005
The 55th Inaugural

By Steven Taylor @ 5:41 pm

I did not see any of the inauguration today, as I had an appointment I had to keep at almost the exact same time as the festivities. I did, however, make it to the car in time to hear the swearing in and the inaugural address. I have seen/heard/read very, very little analysis or discussion of the event (I am fighting the flu, so ended up taking a nap) so these reactions are the result of just hearing the speech.

The first thing I noted is that the Rehnquist really sounded substantially weaker than he did in 2001. This was not a surprise, but the change in his voice was quite stark if one had recently heard the 2001 sound clips (which I had as early as yesterday).

I thought Bush’s speech itself was quite good, although it started to peter out towards the latter half/third. The first portion was poetic at times and well written, and I, would argue, well delivered. The degree to which it even has a chance of being of historical significance, however, depends on what happens over time in Iraq and Afghanistan and the degree to which the US truly seeks to promote democracy and freedom as a core part of our foreign policy.

Of course, there is also the simple fact that even if we are dedicated to these goals, it is difficult to be the propagators of democracy all by ourselves. And while I do believe that US national security is enhanced by any increase of global democracy, it is also true that there are often pragmatic choices that have to be made, such as allying with non-democratic regimes, such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

To the speech itself, I think the passage that impressed me the most was the following:

For a half century, America defended our own freedom by standing watch on distant borders. After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical - and then there came a day of fire.

We have seen our vulnerability - and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny - prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder - violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

From both a rhetorical/literary point-of-view, as well as simply an excellent description, I very much like the phrases “shipwreck of communism,” “years of sabbatical,” and “day of fire.”

And while there is poetry and high ideals in the following passage, I have to wonder as to the actually practicality of it all:

Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world:

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.

Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country.
The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.”

It reflects the way I would like the world to work, but I wonder as to whether US foreign policy can actually work they way.

More, no doubt, on this topic later…

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1 Comment»

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  1. Since you are an academic, Steven, I can understand why you were impressed with the “years of sabbatical” phrase!

    Comment by kappiy — Friday, January 21, 2005 @ 11:26 am

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