Listening to Barrack Obama’s inaugural speech, even in optimistic mood, could not fail to impress. He may have disappointed some journalists by not delivering oratorical flourishes that make nice sound bites and write their own headlines, but they would almost certainly have been empty anyway.
The role of this speech was to offer a direction, define scope and set an agenda for the next eight years. It was impressive for the distance it placed between Obama and what has gone before.
The Obama administration is to be internationalist; engaged with the world not because a spectacular terrorist attack on a major city has forced it to be, but because it understands globalisation and accepts a moral duty to care about those beyond its borders. Obama understands that whatever the effects of the current economic crisis, America remains a rich and powerful nation and that with riches and power comes responsibility. Responsibility to preserve and enhance the environment was accepted and damage already done acknowledged more than once.
He attacked conservative ideology, pledging to replace their small state dogma with a belief in society and the state’s role in promoting the common good. He recognised that ideals mean nothing if they are not upheld when it is hardest to do so.
Informed by warm-hearted values, Obama’s message was that with rights come responsibilities, that with hard work current challenges will be met and a better, stronger, fairer society will be built.