Here comes Obama - the new Messiah
“YES we can” - Barack Obama will be inaugurated 44th President of the United States today with the world hoping “yes he will” make a difference. Political Editor Graham Dines previews the momentous events about to unfold in Washington DCFORTY-EIGHT years ago, as the chilly winds swept through Washington DC, John F.
“YES we can” - Barack Obama will be inaugurated 44th President of the United States today with the world hoping “yes he will” make a difference. Political Editor Graham Dines previews the momentous events about to unfold in Washington DC
FORTY-EIGHT years ago, as the chilly winds swept through Washington DC, John F. Kennedy made his inauguration speech, ending with the clarion call: “Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.”
Yet another passage of this remarkable piece of rhetoric is just as relevant to the hopes of the United States and the world at the looming presidency of Barrack Obama.
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“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans - born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage - and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.”
Events did not give Kennedy the opportunity to be a great president. His support for the disastrous invasion of Cuba at the infamous Bay of Pigs and his decision to send the first troops into Vietnam on a foolhardy mission to stem the surge of communism tarnished his presidency.
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Only his handling of the Cuban missile crisis saved his reputation.
Today, Barack Obama will be inaugurated the 44th President of the United States. It's probably fair to say that just about any American-born politician would be considered as a better occupant of the White House than George W. Bush.
But since his election, Obama has been elevated to almost messianic status. Nobody will admit to having voted Republican and the nation is prepared to relight the candles lit at the Kennedy inauguration, to embrace their new president, and to trust him to lead the nation out of recession and back into its rightful place as the greatest power the world has ever seen.
America today is a country full of optimism, even though the festering sore of the Iraq war hangs over communities everywhere, mourning sons and daughters who went off into the desert to defeat a tyrant and never returned.
But despite record job losses, a crippling collapse of the housing market and a projected budget deficit of a trillion dollars, the nation brims with anticipation.
If the economy of the United States had not been in recession, Obama may not have beaten John McCain. The nation blamed the incumbent Republicans and opted to put the first mixed race man into the White House.
“We did it” scream the posters all across the 50 states. Such euphoria would have greeted neither McCain nor Obama's beaten rival for the Democrat nomination Hillary Clinton, who even in her wildest imagination could never have captured such universal support.
Up until now, the President-elect has said little of substance. Nobody knows his policies to deal with a financial and manufacturing crisis which threatens to bring down the mighty dollar.
His policies won't even be set out today at noon Washington time (5pm GMT), when the handover of power is finally completed and George W. Bush heads back to Texas.
His speech will be full of fine words. The substance of how he intends to overcome the events he has inherited will unfold in the days to come.
And so newspapers and the television networks have had little to report on, which is why there has been such interest in the Obama family's choice of pet.
In the Bush presidency, the Internet adventures of his dogs Barney and Miss Beazley as they scampered around the White House captivated the nation.
Now Americans obsess about which breed of dog Mr and Mrs Obama will buy for their daughters. This, it seems, is now down to a choice between two: a Portuguese Water Dog and a Labradoodle, the only breeds that will not set off the children's allergies.
“We're closing in on it,” jokes Obama. “This has been tougher than finding a commerce secretary.”
Much has been made of the new President's obsession with the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, whose inauguration addresses in 1861 and 1865 are widely acknowledged as being among the finest in American history.
Even if ordinary Americans in their trailer park homes do not, surely Obama must realise the irony of his Lincoln obsession.
True they both lived in Illinois, that great mid-western state which spreads out from Chicago and Lake Michigan.
Lincoln was a Republican, who fought a civil war against the plantation owners and slave masters of the Deep South - and Democrat to the core.
It took Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan to turn the old confederacy Republican and at the same time, the Democrats became the hope of the liberal elite in the populated north eastern states which had been once so pro Republican.
Obama is sure to hit the ground running. The recession and the Middle East crisis will be top of his agenda,
As the American Christmas carol, written by Rector Phillips of Philadelphia, says:
“The hopes and fears of all the years
“Are met in thee tonight.”
We can only pray that 300 million US citizens and billions around the planet won't be disappointed in President Barack Hussein Obama, born in Hawaii and raised in Illinois, the son of a Kenya-born Harvard-educated economist and a Caucasian anthropologist.