PRESIDENT Obama's inaugural speech yesterday was forceful and to the point.
If it lacked some of the memorable phrases that have come down in history from earlier speeches made on this day it nonetheless contained a great deal of substance and even a surprising a number of direct criticisms of the status quo. His comment that it would be necessary “to confront our collective failure to make hard choices” would not have been appreciated by former President Bush who has made a point in his farewell statements of boasting about the hard choices that he has made. Mr Obama's insistence that America must “reject the false choice between our safety and our ideals” was another direct hit on the Bush regime and its willingness to make that false choice, for instance at Guantanamo Bay.

If there was one phrase that caught the imagination it was this: “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin the work of remaking America.” This was part of a stirring section on the “serious and many challenges” facing America at home which ended with this pledge: “But know this, America. The challenges will be met.”

The references to foreign policy, which perhaps were most eagerly awaited, were couched in cautious language that gave no hostage to fortune. There was no reference to the spread of democracy but rather to peoples' wish to live in peace and dignity. And there was no mistaking the message contained in the statement: “We are ready to lead once more.” This was the speech of a man full of confidence and absolutely clear about the road he must take.


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