Our accomplishment — the peaceful transfer of power — is something so rare that it should give all of us hope that we can and will surmount our current problems.
First, to the really important matter: the menu at the post-inaugural lunch. I was under the impression that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii (sorry, The Donald) and lives in Illinois. So what was the deal with all the food and drink (except South Dakota bison) from New York?
True, every politician from Bobby Kennedy to Pat Moynihan (born in NYC) to Hillary eventually runs for something as a sudden Empire Stater, but Barack? And Teddy Roosevelt of Oyster Bay, N.Y. (ancestral home of many Long Island ducks) spent a lot time in the Dakotas. My beef with Chuck Schumer has nothing to do with his dissing ducks. I am outraged that he omitted the to-die-for 7-layer cake from the Russian bakery a few doors down from his old congressional district headquarters in the Waldbaum Plaza in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach.
I never heard of the sonorous Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir or knew that the Mormons had relocated from Salt Lake City. Mitt still can’t get any respect.
Richard Blanco delivered the finest, most moving inaugural poem since Robert Frost in 1960. A wordsmith to watch.
I loved the reference in the President’s speech to Seneca Falls. That must have put a smile on the stone faces of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Amelia Bloomer on Statuary Walk in the Falls. The alliteration with Selma and Stonewall wasn’t bad, either. Inaugural addresses need some lyricism and soaring rhetoric.
Obama’s speech had its moments, but like most inaugural addresses, did not rise to the oratorical level of Jack Kennedy or Abraham Lincoln. It was also the most ideological such speech since Ronald Reagan’s 1981 address, but in a good and positive, right-side-of-history way.
The President achieved a nice balance somewhere between George Washington’s 137-word long second inaugural address and William Henry Harrison’s three-hour harangue in a driving snow storm in 1841, after which he rode back to the White House, went to bed and died a month later. I always suspected that John Tyler must have written Harrison’s speech.
The first time I noticed what first ladies were wearing was 1993, when my cousin Lucy provided the material for Hillary’s inaugural ball gown. Since then, I pull myself away from sports box scores only long enough to voice my couturier opinion to my wife, who invariably disagrees. I wonder how much money Jason Wu contributed to the Obama campaign? I predict a very nice return on investment. How come nobody ever comments on the clothes worn by the main attraction?
I question whether Obama is the first Black president to win a second term. What about Bill Clinton? The Obamas went to St. John’s Episcopal and the National Cathedral for their inaugural prayer events. For his inaugurals, Bill went to one of Washington’s AME churches.
Page 2 of 2 - If Yo-Yo Ma can finger-synch his cello, so what if Beyonce does likewise? For my money, she can stand there completely mute during the national anthem … as long as she stands there.
Every four years, I suspend my inside-the-Beltway cynicism for one day. With few exceptions, I have watched every presidential inauguration since John F. Kennedy’s with a feeling of pride, patriotism and wonder. I marvel at the ritual that defines a nation that has managed what for almost all of the rest of the world has been the impossible — peacefully and routinely transferring power between fierce partisans for more than 220 years. This is a phenomenon almost unique to the remarkable political creation that is the United States. For one day at least, I feel a sense of awe at what we take for granted, but which the rest of the world from the dawn of recorded history until the present has had enormous difficulty achieving.
Our accomplishment — the peaceful transfer of power — is something so rare that it should give all of us hope that we can and will surmount our current problems. While we do not transfer power from one party or one individual to another every time we inaugurate a president, the majestic ritual that the ceremony represents reminds us where American exceptionalism really resides.
“Rants” is a series of political and social observations written by part-time Canandaigua resident and Canandaigua Academy graduate Richard Hermann. Email him care of Messenger Post Media at email@example.com.