The political speech I best remember is George Walker Bush’s first inaugural address on January 20, 2001. The absolute best part of the speech was this:
“We are not this story’s author, who fills time and eternity with his purpose. Yet his purpose is achieved in our duty; and our duty is fulfilled in service to one another. Never tiring, never yielding, never finishing, we renew that purpose today: to make our country more just and generous; to affirm the dignity of our lives and every life. This work continues. This story goes on. And an angel still rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm.”
I can’t even properly articulate why I like it so much, I just know that those lines in particular have adhered well to my brain in the ten years following the speech. My least favorite speech, meanwhile, is also a George W. Bush gem. As I’m sure most of the planet remembers, he used his 2002 State of the Union to express his “Axis of Evil” theory.. My visceral distaste for that particular speech might have a lot to do with the fact that I was living in Korea and terrified that my family would be uprooted but yet another Bush War (or maybe it had something to do with the fact that he was a loose cannon). These two speeches are neither here nor there, really, but they should give you a good impression of the place from which I approached President Obama’s State of the Union Address tuesday night.
To be fair, it’s probably going to take me a few more days of quiet reflection to really formulate any strong opinions on the true substance of the speech, but I will say – from a rhetorical standpoint – it wasn’t that earth shattering. The only part of the speech that had me even remotely close to tears (and I have been known to get teary eyed over CSPAN if the moment is right) was the opening bit:
“But there’s a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passions and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater – something more consequential than party or political preference.
We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.”
As for the rest of the speech? Well, I was mostly confused. Especially with his “Winning the Future” theme. By the fourth time he said it, I really really wanted to know what the prize was. Is my prize for “winning the future” going to be a job in the state of Michigan? Probably not. Will my prize be a job anywhere? Time will tell. But how are you “winning the future” and what are you winning?
The rest of the speech was what it was. Which is to say that it was a State of the Union address delivered in Obama’s typical style. The policies he put forth were a little all over the place, but he did focus on innovation, which was a nice touch.
As for the Republican response? Well, let’s just say that Paul Ryan should have used some Visine before he went on camera.
But really, what did you all think?